Racism and the legal profession

A reading list

'What Does It Mean to Be Anti-Racist in a Profession Full of Privileged People?'
Professor Leslie Thomas QC (Master of the Bench)
Reader's Lecture, 15 February 2021

"The legal system has an outsize impact on the lives of the most marginalised. Every day, courts decide whether to send people to prison; whether to evict people from their homes; whether to separate children from their parents; and whether to block deportation, extradition or removal. In our racially unequal society, people of colour are disproportionately impacted by these decisions. Yet the judges and advocates involved in these critical decisions are overwhelmingly white and from privileged backgrounds. As a Black barrister in a predominantly white legal system, I have witnessed endemic racism in the courts - and I have seen how easy it is for legal professionals to lose sight of the human beings whose lives depend on our work. In this lecture I will talk about how barristers can challenge institutionalised racism and work towards a genuinely anti-racist legal practice."

Professor Leslie Thomas QC, is a human rights/civil liberties barrister and former Joint Head of Garden Court Chambers. He has an international practice and has appeared in many leading civil and human rights cases, (Azelle Rodney, Mark Duggan, Christopher Alder and Sean Rigg). Awards include 2012 and 2016 LALY (Legal Aid Lawyer of the Year). In 2020 he received the award for Outstanding Contribution to D&I in the UK Chambers Bar Awards. In 2020 he became Professor of Law at Gresham College and visiting Professor of Law at Goldsmiths Law School. He is currently representing many Grenfell Fire survivors and victims. Professor Thomas sits on the Equality Diversity and Inclusion sub-committee for the Inner Temple and is a member of the Bar Standards Board and its Race Equality Taskforce.

Works referenced

'10 Examples That Prove White Privilege Exists in Every Aspect Imaginable' (Yes, 24 July 2017) <https://www.yesmagazine.org/social-justice/2017/07/24/10-examples-that-prove-white-privilege-exists-in-every-aspect-imaginable/> accessed 10 February 2021

Akala Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire (Two Roads, 2019)

Baldwin, J. 'As Much Truth as One Can Bear' (New York Times, 14 January 1962) <https://timesmachine.nytimes.com/timesmachine/1962/01/14/118438007.pdf?pdf_redirect=true&ip=0> accessed 10 February 2021

Baldwin, J. If Beale Street Could Talk (Dial Press, 1974)

Baldwin, J. Notes of a Native Son (Beacon Press, 1965)

Baldwin, J. The Price of the Ticket (St. Martin's Press, 1985)

Bar Standards Board Income at the Bar - by Gender and Ethnicity: Research Report (BSB, November 2020) <https://www.barstandardsboard.org.uk/uploads/assets/1ee64764-cd34-4817-80174ca6304f1ac0/Income-at-the-Bar-by-Gender-and-Ethnicity-Final.pdf> accessed 15 February 2021

Bobb-Semple, C. Race, Jail v Bail (CreateSpace, 2012)

Carmichael, S. Black Power: The Politics of Liberation (Vintage, 1967)

'Court Service Apologises After Black Barrister Assumed to be Defendant' (The Guardian, 19 December 2020) <https://www.theguardian.com/law/2020/dec/19/court-service-apologises-after-black-barrister-assumed-to-be-defendant> accessed 10 February 2021

'Essex Black Barrister Mistaken for Defendant to Meet Courts Boss' (BBC, 27 October 2020) <https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-essex-54694167> accessed 10 February 2021

Kendi, I. X. How to Be an Antiracist (Vintage, 2019)

'Labour MP Dawn Butler Stopped by Police in London' (The Guardian, 9 August 2020) <https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/aug/09/labour-mp-dawn-butler-stopped-by-police-in-london> accessed 10 February 2021

Lammy, D. The Lammy Review: An independent review into the treatment of, and outcomes for, Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic individuals in the Criminal Justice System (Ministry of Justice, 2017) <https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/643001/lammy-review-final-report.pdf> accessed 15 February 2021

Lawal, E. The Clapback: Your Guide to Calling Out Racist Stereotypes (Hodder & Stoughton, 2019)

McGregor-Smith, R. Race in the Workplace: The McGregor-Smith Review (Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, 2017)
<https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/594336/race-in-workplace-mcgregor-smith-review.pdf> accessed 15 February 2021

McIntosh, P. White Privilege and Male Privilege (Wellesley Centres for Women, originally published 1988; date of uploading unknown) <https://www.wcwonline.org/images/pdf/White_Privilege_and_Male_Privilege_Personal_Account-Peggy_McIntosh.pdf> accessed 15 February 2021

Narayan, R. Black England: A Reply to Enoch Powell (Doscarla Publications, 1977)

'Police Who Stopped Black Athletes' Car and Put Baby on Database Investigated For Misconduct' (The Independent, 8 October 2020) <https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/bianca-williams-police-athlete-baby-database-investigation-racism-b887977.html> accessed 10 February 2021

Sills, P. 'Embracing Diversity: Celebrate Our Differences' (Legalwise, 19 March 2020) <https://legalwiseseminars.com.au/nz/insights/embracing-diversity-part-3-celebrate-our-differences/> accessed 15 February 2021

'Understanding White Privilege: 20 Everyday Examples' (Harper's Bazaar, 7 January 2021) <https://www.harpersbazaar.com/uk/culture/a32752175/white-privilege-everyday-examples/> accessed 10 February 2021

‘Why Do People Have a Racial Chip on Their Shoulder?’ (The Student Room, n.d.) <https://www.thestudentroom.co.uk/showthread.php?t=3473279> accessed 10 February 2021


Artesi, D. '#CallitOut: Why are BME Barristers More Likely to Be Pursued by the BSB?' (Counsel, June 2018) <https://www.counselmagazine.co.uk/articles/callitout-why-are-bme-barristers-more-likely-be-pursued-the-bsb> accessed 14 July 2020

Avery, L. 'Britain’s Baggage: The "Least Racist" Is Still Racist' (Thomson Reuters Foundation News, 5 June 2020) <https://news.trust.org/item/20200605102712-km2vc> accessed 19 June 2020

Baksi, C. 'Leslie Thomas: "If You Can’t See There’s a Problem, You’re Part of It"' (The Times, 18 June 2020) <https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/leslie-thomas-qc-if-you-cant-see-theres-a-problem-youre-part-of-it-2rmh0xrbw> accessed 19 June 2020 [Paywall]

'BAME Representation at the Bar' (UK Human Rights Blog, 5 August 2020) <https://ukhumanrightsblog.com/2020/08/05/bame-representation-at-the-bar/> accessed 6 August 2020

Braidwood, E. 'Black Lawyers on Working in the UK's Criminal Justice System' (EachOther, 9 June 2020) <https://eachother.org.uk/black-lawyers-working-in-the-uks-criminal-justice-system/> accessed 19 June 2020

Burke, J. 'One Black British Lawyer's Take on UK Racism and “Elitist” Law’ (Law.Com International, 15 June 2020) <https://www.law.com/international-edition/2020/06/15/one-black-british-lawyers-take-on-uk-racism-and-elitist-law/> accessed 14 July 2020

Gonella, S. 'BLM and the Legal Profession: Tackling Racism and Increasing Cultural Diversity (The Student Lawyer, 2020) <https://thestudentlawyer.com/2020/06/22/blm-and-the-legal-profession-tackling-racism-and-increasing-cultural-diversity/> accessed 14 July 2020

Hammad, M. 'Where Are My Black Sisters? The Intersection of Religion, Race and Gender in the AAP Legal Community' (Garden Court North Chambers, 15 June 2020) <https://gcnchambers.co.uk/where-are-my-black-sisters/> accessed 19 June 2020

Holroyd, J. 'Implicit Racial Bias and the Anatomy of Institutional Racism' (Criminal Justice Matters, 2015) <https://www.crimeandjustice.org.uk/publications/cjm/article/implicit-racial-bias-and-anatomy-institutional-racism> accessed 10 July 2020

Ibrahim, S. 'The Bar & Anti-Racism' (Counsel, April 2020) <https://www.counselmagazine.co.uk/articles/the-bar-anti-racism> accessed 3 July 2020

Johnson, A. 'Bringing Anti-Racism into the Courtroom' (Legal Action Group, June 2020) <https://www.lag.org.uk/article/208523/bringing-anti-racism-into-the-courtroom> accessed 14 July 2020

Johnson, A. 'We Must Challenge Racism in the Courtroom' (EachOther, 8 August 2020) <https://eachother.org.uk/courtroom-racism-how-we-must-challenge-it-in-the-uk/> accessed 10 August 2020

Johnson, A. 'What It's Like Being a Black Lawyer Working In the UK's Criminal Justice System in 2020' (Elle, 5 June 2020) <https://www.elle.com/uk/life-and-culture/a32767594/black-lawyer-criminal-justice-system-uk/> accessed 19 June 2020

Kankiya, U. 'Experiencing Systemic Racism in the Legal Profession' (Law Society Gazette, 17 June 2020) <https://www.lawgazette.co.uk/commentary-and-opinion/experiencing-systemic-racism-in-the-legal-profession/5104644.article> accessed 19 June 2020

Kotak, R. 'Let's Talk About: Racism & the Bar' (Counsel, January 2020) <https://www.counselmagazine.co.uk/articles/racism-the-bar> accessed 19 June 2020

McLean, J. 'What Do Judges Look Like?' (Counsel, February 2018) <https://www.counselmagazine.co.uk/articles/what-do-judges-look> accessed 14 July 2020

Mehta, A. 'BAME Diversity at the Top Commercial Barristers’ Chambers' (The Lawyer, 8 April 2020) <https://www.thelawyer.com/the-commercial-bar-has-a-bame-problem/> accessed 2 July 2020

'"Nobody thinks black people can be barristers"' (BBC, 3 October 2020) <https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-54297993> accessed 8. February 2021

Popat, A. 'No place for systemic racism' (Counsel, December 2020) <https://www.counselmagazine.co.uk/articles/no-place-for-systemic-racism> accessed 8 February 2021

Rhone-Adrien, P. 'The UK Justice System: Is it Racist?' (Lawyer Monthly, 8 June 2020) <https://www.lawyer-monthly.com/2020/06/the-uk-justice-system-is-it-racist/> accessed 19 June 2020

Robinson, R. 'The Three Barriers Preventing Law from Finding and Nurturing Black Talent (Law.Com International, 25 June 2020) <https://www.law.com/international-edition/2020/06/25/the-three-barriers-preventing-law-from-finding-and-nurturing-black-talent/> accessed 14 July 2020

Scotland, M. 'Black Lives Matter: In Society, in Justice and at the Bar… But what about at the Family Bar?' (5sah.co.uk, 18 August 2020) <https://www.5sah.co.uk/news-and-events/articles/2020-08-18/black-lives-matter-in-society-in-justice-and-at-the-bar-but-what-about-at-the-family-bar> accessed 28 August 2020

Sidhu, J. 'Diversity at the Bar: Where Do We Go from Here?' (Counsel, September 2020) <https://www.counselmagazine.co.uk/articles/diversity-at-the-bar-where-do-we-go-from-here- > accessed 22 September 2020

'Talent Is Everywhere, But Opportunity Is Not': The Barriers of Being Black In Britain' (The Telegraph, 5 June 2020) <https://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/life/talent-everywhere-opportunity-not-barriers-black-britain/> accessed 19 June 2020 [Paywall]

Thomas, L. 'Racial Diversity at the Bar Matters' (Counsel, July 2020) <https://www.counselmagazine.co.uk/articles/racial-diversity-at-the-bar-matters> accessed 19 June 2020

Thomas, L. 'We need to talk about race: a mid-term report' (Counsel, November 2020) <https://www.counselmagazine.co.uk/articles/we-need-to-talk-about-race-a-mid-term-report> accessed 8 February 2021

Thompson, I. 'Black Lives Matter UK: For Lasting Change, We Need “Movement Lawyers”’ (EachOther, 3 August 2020) <https://eachother.org.uk/black-lives-matter-uk-for-lasting-change-we-need-movement-lawyers/> accessed 5 August 2020

Tsang, L. 'Pupil’s Success Story Is Still Rare' (The Times, 21 May 2020) <https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/pupils-success-story-is-still-rare-jkp53rkhj> accessed 29 July 2020 [Paywall]

Ward, A. 'Barrister Alexandra Wilson: “I’ve Often Been Mistaken for a Defendant”’ (The Times, 2 August 2020) <https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/barrister-alexandra-wilson-ive-often-been-mistaken-for-a-defendant-872wm3kqc> accessed 3 August 2020 [Paywall]

Winter, L. '"The British courts look at a black person and see a criminal", Barrister Alexandra Wilson shares her eye-opening experience as a young black barristers in today's legal justice system' (Glamour, 2 October 2020) <https://www.glamourmagazine.co.uk/article/alexandra-wilson-barrister-racism> accessed 8 February 2021

Younge, G. 'Making It Stick: Diversity & Inclusion at the Bar' (Counsel, September 2018) <https://www.counselmagazine.co.uk/articles/making-it-stick-diversity-inclusion-the-bar> accessed 14 July 2020

Zagnat, O. 'Racism Is Only a US Problem, Right? No, Says This Leading Black UK Lawyer' (Platform, 8 June 2020) <https://www.platformmagazine.co.uk/news/we-cant-hide-it-anymore-leading-black-female-barrister-reveals-the-truth-about-racism-in-the-uk/> accessed 19 June 2020


Eddo-Lodge, R. Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race (Bloomsbury, 2018)

Kendi, I. X. How to Be an Antiracist (Vintage, 2019)

Saad, L. F. Me and White Supremacy: How to Recognise Your Privilege, Combat Racism and Change the World (Quercus, 2020)

Williams, S. Anti-Racist Ally: An Introduction to Action and Activism (Harper Collins, 2020)

Wilson, A. In Black and White: A Young Barrister's Story of Race and Class in a Broken Justice System (Endeavour, 2020)

Video & audio

'Black Lives Matter: A Challenge to the Law' (Vimeo, uploaded by International Bar Association, 2020) <https://vimeo.com/429916976> accessed 19 June 2020

'Black Lives Matter, COVID-19 and the Way Forward' (YouTube, uploaded by Nexus Chambers, 2020) <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q2RO5WLbJto&feature=youtu.be> accessed 10 July 2020

'BLM and Racial Injustice Webinar' (MTC Solicitors, 2020) <https://www.mtcsolicitors.co.uk/post/blm-and-racial-injustice-webinar-video-available> accessed 15 July 2020

'Catalyst for change, with Dr Tunde Okewale MBE' (Chambers Diversity and Inclusion, 2021) <https://diversity.chambers.com/articles-media/catalysts-for-change-with-dr-tunde-okewale-mbe/> accessed 8 February 2021

'Covid-19 and the US Criminal Justice System' (YouTube, uploaded by Goldsmiths Law, 2020) <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MZEFvoBH5YI> accessed 14 July 2020

'Dialogue & Debate: Black Lives Matter - Race & Justice' (Cumberland Lodge, 2020) <https://www.cumberlandlodge.ac.uk/read-watch-listen/dialogue-debate-black-lives-matter-race-justice> accessed 10 July 2020

‘EP 117: Systemic Racial Inequality - Windrush and the Bar - Martin Forde QC' (Law Pod UK, 2020) <https://audioboom.com/posts/7616472-ep-117-systemic-racial-inequality-windrush-and-the-bar-martin-forde-qc> accessed 26 June 2020

'Panorama: I Can't Breathe: Black and Dead in Custody' (BBC iPlayer, uploaded 18 January 2021) <https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m000r6z2/panorama-i-cant-breathe-black-and-dead-in-custody> accessed 15 February 2021

‘In Conversation: The Black Lives Matter Takeover’ (YouTube, uploaded by EachOther, 28 August 2020) <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Kyfsi6d9F8&feature=youtu.be> accessed 3 September 2020

‘In Conversation with: BAME Women In Criminal Law' (YouTube, uploaded by Women in Criminal Law, 2020) <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DtYZU9vMXhU&t=16s> accessed 9 July 2020

‘Joint Enterprise: A Relic of the British Empire & How the #Blacklivesmatter Movement Presents an Opportunity to Revisit the Substantial Injustice Test.' (YouTube, uploaded by Garden Court Chambers, 28 July 2020) <https://youtu.be/A0Nk4pW8DzU> accessed 6 August 2020

'The Killing of George Floyd: "Race", Racism And Racialised Justice in the US and the UK' (YouTube, uploaded by Cambridge Criminology, 2020) <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_2Z2qu6vpAY&feature=youtu.be> accessed 31 July 2020

‘Lincoln's Inn Panel Discussion: “Bar, BAME and COVID-19: A Conversation that Needs to Be Had' (YouTube, uploaded by Lincoln's Inn, 2020) <https://youtu.be/ycBvTwj5K2o> accessed 1 July 2020

'Race and Policing in the United States and the United Kingdom' (YouTube, uploaded by Goldsmiths Law, 2020) <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y02ukWXvSjc> accessed 3 July 2020

'Racism Wants Your Silence: It’s Time to Speak Out (YouTube, uploaded by TedxExeter, 2020) <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DrAaHpoaLIc> accessed 30 June 2020

'The Right to #Blacklivesmatter' (YouTube, uploaded by Doughty Street Chambers, 2020) <https://youtu.be/_7ax-1gZOqo> accessed 31 July 2020


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