Writing about something I know little about that might upset attorneys seems like a recipe for disaster.
However, I think it would be fair to say only Birmingham attorneys would be able to explain the following.
The daughter of a friend of mine is studying abroad. A fellow student discovered on the Internet that Birmingham has a separate bar association for black attorneys…and asked her why. She e-mailed her father for an answer.
Knowing that I write about Birmingham, my friend, who is not an attorney, called me.
Since I’m also not an attorney and wasn’t even aware we had a separate black and white bar, I asked a couple of white Birmingham attorneys.
One seemed genuinely embarrassed that we still had separate organizations and the other explained there were good solid reasons.
So I went to the Internet to see what the student had seen that provoked her question.
The African-American Bar is called the Magic City Bar Association.
The other is the Birmingham Bar Association.
The Magic City Bar explains on its website that…
“The MCBA was founded in 1984 primarily in response to a need to promote the professional advancement of African-American attorneys at a time when the Birmingham Bar Association was not responsive to needs of minority attorneys…”
Birmingham already has a reputation for poor race relations—so quite frankly, this was a bit unsettling.
Please note that Anthony Joseph, an African-American attorney, who practices with Maynard Cooper & Gale in Birmingham, is the current president of the Alabama State Bar and was president of the Birmingham Bar a few years back.
I have no idea if other cities have separate black and white bars, but I don’t think Birmingham has separate professional associations for accountants, physicians or other professionals?
But this article is not about what I know or think. I’m certainly not accusing any attorney of being racially biased. But if I stumbled across a student who interpreted two bars as negative for Birmingham, how many others have come to the same conclusion?
Why in 2013 is there a need for a separate bar for attorneys? And what is the reason for the comments by the Magic City Bar on its web site?
As I stated earlier, I am not an attorney and I don’t know the history or justification–so I’m not qualified to judge.
But even if there are good reasons, it’s hard to believe in 2013—this is the message we’re spreading to the world.
Attorneys, black or white, please feel free to comment. I would certainly like to understand.
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David Sher is the publisher of ComebackTown, a co-founder of Buzz12 Advertising and co-CEO of AmSher Collection Agency. He’s past Chairman of the Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce (BBA), Operation New Birmingham (REV Birmingham)), and the City Action Partnership (CAP).