You may have heard about the unnamed Yale 2L who got in trouble for inviting people to a shindig at their “Trap House.” It had all of the accoutrements you’d expect of a person attending the best law school in the nation: outdated AAVE, Popeye’s chicken, and FedSoc — all laced with dog-whistled phrases and plausible deniability. The double speak and feigned confusion with how “miscommunications” take place is the type of gaslighting FedSoc is known for even at the highest levels, re: Amy Coney Barrett sharing her heartfelt concern that the Supreme Court is being mistaken for being partisan… at Mitch McConnell’s side. If you’d like the angle that looks at this from a race and liberty perspective, you can find it here.
I am way more interested in Yale’s handling of this common occurrence. After the 2L was called out by Yale’s Black Law Student Association, the school’s director of diversity, equity, and inclusion, Yaseen Eldik, reached out in an attempt to get the 2L to apologize so this could all blow over. The student decided not to apologize, instead opting to have a conversation with whomever may have been offended. Eldik again asked for them to apologize and provided a cookie cutter, heartfelt apology addressed to the Black student leaders, concluding with the lines, “I know I must learn more and grow … [a]nd I will actively educate myself so I can do better.”
Am I the only one that considers this to be a worse offense than the original trap party invitation? Doesn’t that last line sound very familiar? It’s the “I feared for my life” defense that every person in a public-facing role rolls out when they get caught in Blackface or a culturally insensitive Halloween costume. Racially tinged events are so common that even Yale, towering legal bastion that it is, occasionally has to write up apologies that its cream-of-the-crop students don’t have a damn enough to give! When the infrastructure of these prestigious institutions goes out of its way to shield its students from accountability, is it really a surprise that saying openly racist things is not enough of a deterrent to get clerkships with prominent judges? If we are going to be outraged with people who do hurtful things, we should share that outrage with the institutions that support them. And where better to start than #1?
Chris Williams became a social media manager and assistant editor for Above the Law in June 2021. Prior to joining the staff, he moonlighted as a minor Memelord™ in the Facebook group Law School Memes for Edgy T14s. Before that, he wrote columns for an online magazine named The Muse Collaborative under the pen name Knehmo. He endured the great state of Missouri long enough to graduate from Washington University in St. Louis School of Law. He is a former boatbuilder who cannot swim, a published author on critical race theory, philosophy, and humor, and has a love for cycling that occasionally annoys his peers. You can reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org and by tweet at @WritesForRent.