Who We Are: A Chronicle of Racism in America – Program Recap

A video recording of this event is available for City Bar members here.

On November 23, 2020, the Compliance Committee, through its Diversity & Inclusion subcommittee, presented Jeffery Robinson, the Director of the ACLU’s Trone Center for Justice and Equality, who spoke for three hours on a NYC Bar Association webcast about the history of racism in our country.  The title of his presentation was: “Who We Are: A Chronicle of Racism in America.”

Mr. Robinson, a nationally recognized trial lawyer and groundbreaking speaker on racial inequality, has stated: “telling the truth is a necessary first step to reckoning with the legacy of slavery in America.”

In his presentation, Mr. Robinson took over 130 attendees through that first step, and many more as he discussed the true history of racial oppression in this country – from the historical connection of slave patrols to local police departments, through the massacres of communities of freed slaves, to the fact that the essential elements of the practice of modern day slavery continue long after the Civil War.  Mr. Robinson’s use of source documents, historical images, and audio and video clips immersed his audience in this all-but-forgotten past. He illustrated this by quoting the Southern writer William Faulkner: “the past is never dead; it’s not even past.”
He challenged participants to think about where we started as a country, where we are now, and how we can create a better country in our lifetimes, with an obligation and commitment to do something about it.  “People aren’t just one thing,” Mr. Robinson, said, to illustrate the reality that people (and countries) aren’t all good or all bad, especially historical figures throughout the span of U.S. history, like former presidents who owned enslaved people.

Mr. Robinson’s program, which also covered unconscious racism and implicit bias, was so riveting that it left its attendees, who ranged from judges, to college students, to solo practitioners, to JD/LLM students, law firms, corporate entities, and public service personnel, engulfed in thought and eager to learn more.  Comments from attendees included that Mr. Robinson’s presentation was “remarkable,” “extremely well done,” and “tremendously informative,” and that it “should be mandatory watching for all Americans.”  One attendee commented that Mr. Robinson’s presentation was like a “journey through history with a different lens” and that “this the type of education should be taught more throughout schools, because so many people will never receive this type of knowledge.”

Tellingly, the most frequently asked question we received from program participants was how one could see this provocative and thoughtful presentation again.  Mr. Robinson’s presentation will be made available to City Bar members via its members’ portal. You may also learn more about the Who We Are Project and the upcoming documentary at

Compliance Committee & Diversity & Inclusion Subcommittee
New York City Bar Association

Special thanks to the Co-sponsoring Committees:
•    Civil Rights
•    Corrections & Community
•    Criminal Courts
•    Criminal Justice Operations
•    Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
•    Minorities in the Courts
•    Minorities in the Profession
•    Pro Bono and Legal Services
•    Small Law Firm