Editors’ Note: This month, in celebration of the pioneers who paved ─ and continue to pave ─ the way for civil rights and equality in America, we are featuring a Q&A miniseries with MoFo attorneys of color to discuss what Black History Month means to them.
Christin J. Hill is of counsel in Morrison & Foerster’s San Francisco office and a member of the Securities Litigation, Enforcement, and White-Collar Defense Group.
What does Black History Month mean to you?
Black History Month is a time for all Americans to honor the contributions and sacrifices of Black Americans to our country. Reflecting on the dark, often uncomfortable events of our past, can help us avoid repeating the mistakes of old, and motivates us to progress in a positive direction. During this time, we also celebrate the bright history, like the Harlem Renaissance and the legacy of Black oratorical brilliance, which instills pride in all Americans and empowers the next generation. I’m deeply proud that our country sets aside this month to acknowledge Black history. At the same time, I look forward to the day when our history is so engrained into American consciousness that we no longer need to set aside a month for this purpose.
If you could have dinner with someone who was a pioneer for civil rights, who would it be and why? What would you ask him/her?
If I had a time machine, I would love to have dinner with Barbara Jordan, a Congresswoman from Texas, a great orator, and a contributor to the legacy of Black oratorical brilliance. She is best known for a televised speech that she gave in 1974 during the impeachment hearing against President Nixon. I’ve watched the speech many times, and each time I am blown away by her conviction and gravitas as she forcefully explains why Nixon’s conduct violated the Constitution. I would love to know what she was feeling when she made that great speech, and how she navigated the Halls of Congress as a Black woman in the 1970s.
What words of wisdom do you have for the next generation of aspiring Black lawyers?
For words of wisdom, I will borrow from Michelle Obama. As a re-occurring theme in her new book, Becoming, she often asks herself, “Am I good enough?” And she answers, “Yes, I am.” Many people of color (myself included) suffer from “imposter syndrome” – the sense that we are not good enough to occupy this space. The incredibly high standards that pervade the legal industry make this profession feel even less accessible for people of color. The lack of diversity in the profession only reinforces the narrative that we don’t belong here. But we do belong here, we are good enough. Although our numbers may be small, we are present and accounted for and there is plenty of room for more. So you – aspiring lawyer – must drown out your self-doubt and answer your own call and response: Am I good enough? Yes, I am.