Friday, February 6, 2009

Soul in Las Vegas

I'm a Southern chick and haven't spent much time here in Nevada. So far as I can see, it consists of dust, rock, hoover dam, Las Vegas and people who smoke. Oh, and white people. I saw one black dude yesterday touring the Hoover Dam. We offered to take his and his boyfriend's picture together and they freaked out. Like they weren't as obviously gay as Cher's club music and size 19 heels. Sigh.

Specifically, I'm in Las Vegas, the craptacular center of the universe. I'm here as a trial team coach from my old law school, a historically black university that trust me, does more with less. We get shit for grants, no post-school loan support, an administration I don't even want to talk about and the local whitey schools stick their noses up at us. Know what? We virtually staff the state's courtrooms and have turned out some of the state's finest defense attorneys and prosecutors. So there, whitey 85 hour a week drink too much never see your fancy house fucked up kids lousy marriage potbelly corporate law spent 3 years in a corner writing memos monkey. Roll your high cholesterol ass up in the courtroom and try to make a hearsay objection. I dare you.

I figured since this was a national competition, we'd see the nation represented. Nope. We went to registration last night and stuck out like muffins in a toolbox. Every coach and student in the room was white and straight. My team is four black chicks with a gay white coach. Know what? I think we got it. My team rolled in all suited up and ready to impress. We were behind two guys that looked like they just rolled in from a drunk. If you don't have the sense to shower and put on a clean shirt before you meet the opposing team, how much are you really thinking?

I see who we are as a strength, though. We're people with the strength to break the molds and be who we wanted to be, not who society told us we should be. However, it took a while to convince my students. Law is a potbellied white male profession and sitting around reading case law does not help one find one's true voice. It helps one find a lot of dust and question the existence of a soul.

We only had a month to practice but after two weeks I suddenly realized these girls were trying to cram themselves into molds that don't fit and losing everything that makes them special. Black women, at least southern black women,have this incredible ability to put you and your silly ass who I KNOW didn't just say that up in my house in your place in two seconds flat. And black oratory is a fine, soul rocking, inspirational thing. Ever seen a sweating black dude stomping around a stage telling you about Jesus while the audience says "amen!"? I don't know if there was a heaven before black preachers, but their sermons have probably built one.

My students had lost that. Finally, I told them to put their notes up and tell me why I should let this sorry ass piece of crap defendant live, or, on the other side, how I could sleep at night after letting the state kill this idiot who never had a chance. It was like watching Neo wake up from the pod in the Matrix. The goop started wearing off as they talked about how they really felt. "Now that is a closing argument." I told them and beat their notes out of their hands.

Regardless of how we do, I'm proud. I've seen four women start to find themselves. They stand a little straighter, speak a little stronger, smile a littler wider. Maybe we win the competition and maybe we don't. But I feel pretty sure we have stood up against the stuffy old establishment and struck a blow for the soul.

1 comment:

Anne O'Nymous said...

That they even remember to ask about the existence of a soul puts them several steps ahead, in my world.

And sheeeeeit, but I love your writing. "We stuck out like muffins in a toolbox?" Gorgeous simile!

The Cher reference cracked me up, too.