by Dennis Crouch
Although many of us will retreat to our families for this week’s thanksgiving holiday – the American tradition is to use the time to build cross cultural ties with our neighbors.
I am a great admirer of WilmerHale’s top IP Litigator Bill Lee. Lee is an amazing lawyer and delivers for his clients while maintaining the highest ethical standards for himself and his co-counsel. This past week’s AmLaw Daily helps bring home to me the disturbing American cultural and racial trends that are directed more at division than unity. Susan Beck writes:
On a Tuesday night in August, Lee stopped at a gas station near his home outside Boston in Wellesley, Massachusetts, to fill up his Mercedes-Benz SUV. Lee—a graduate of Harvard College and one of the nation’s most accomplished intellectual property litigators—was wearing a suit and tie, having finished a long day at work.
As Lee tells it, a man wearing a “Wellesley Hockey Parent” shirt walked up to him.
“Where does a guy like you get a car like that?” the man said to Lee, looking at the litigator’s vehicle.
Lee, whose parents came to this country from China in 1948, tried to defuse the situation. “From Herb Chambers,” he said, referring to a local car dealer.
“Why don’t you go back to your own country,” the man said, according to Lee.
“I don’t understand you,” Lee said.
“You mean, you don’t understand English,” the man said.
“I don’t understand ignorance,” Lee replied.
The Wilmer partner drove away, but the man followed in his car. When Lee pulled into a nearby police station, the man vanished.
“In the bluest of Blue States, Massachusetts, a mile from Wellesley College, if someone tells you to go back to your own country, this can happen anywhere,” Lee said. “If this can happen to the managing partner of an Am Law 200 firm, what’s happening to the rest of the country?”
Lee said he hadn’t heard a comment like this for 40 years. He attributes the encounter to the political environment that has encouraged hostility to immigrants. “He felt he could say it,” Lee said. . . . “I grew up in the fifties when we were the only Chinese family in our school district,” Lee recalled. “It was not a great time to be Asian. In many ways this brought back things that I thought we had put behind us.”
As leading lawyers we obviously play an important role in ensuring that racism and some kind of white-nationalism does not again become acceptable and normal. One of my friends who is openly gay here in Missouri was leaving his house last week and a passenger in a passing vehicle yelled-out “faggot” and targeted him with an open soda bottle. As with Bill Lee, T____ noted that he had not experienced this type of open vitriol for decades. These incidents are These incidents are not supposed to happen here, but they are happening. As Dan Rather writes “now is a time when none of us can afford to remain seated or silent. We must all stand up to be counted. . . . I believe there is a vast majority who wants to see this nation continue in tolerance and freedom. But it will require speaking.”