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The Ordeals of a Big Law Trump Supporter

Vivia Chen

January 28, 2017

Barbara-Smith-Article-201701271840

I know it's been tough going this past year for Trump fans in elite law firms where liberalism prevails. But now that The Donald has been officially anointed, his supporters are popping out of the ground like worms after a spring dousing and basking in glory.

One Big Law supporter who's come out is Bryan Cave associate Barbara Smith (above) who recently penned an op-ed ("Trump Foes Egged Me On to Support Him") in Wall Street Journal. And she means that literally. Here's how she describes how she was attacked on her way to the inaugural ball:

As I passed an apartment building, someone started yelling—really yelling—out an open window: “Go back to where you came from!” And then I found myself covered in raw egg.

The snap of eggshells breaking stunned me. Slimy, sticky yolk covered my face, dripped down my hair, and saturated my dress.

A former Justice Samuel Alito clerk, Smith writes that she "yelled back," adding, "I had spent six years living here, I shouted, and Washington was as much my city as the place I now call home. But then I, too, began to crack, and the egg yolk on my face mixed with tears."

I don't doubt the attack was upsetting for Smith, but as an Asian American, I can't even count how many times I've been told to "Go back to where you came from!" More often than not, I was called "Jap," "Chink" or "VC" (Viet Cong) in the same breath. And yes, I've had things thrown at me too. From fourth through seventh grade in Houston, a boy named David Bynum terrorized me after school, often pelting me with rocks while chanting racist epithets as I rode my bicycle home. And even when I was at Williams College, a liberal enclave, a classmate said to me, "We wouldn't allow you in my country club in Dallas."

I'd like to say that Smith and I, along with others who've experienced prejudice, shared the same trauma, but I don't think so. Telling a white woman in an elegant evening dress in a gentrified part of D.C. to "Go back to where you came from!" is ironic, even funny, but hardly menacing. It's like saying, "Go back to the suburbs where you belong!" Maybe that's not nice, but it's quite different from the slings of racism directed at minorities. (I've asked Smith to comment, but so far no response. The invitation is still open.) 

Look, I know what Smith was getting at—that's it's unfair to stereotype people. I get that she's straining for a more nuanced view of Trump supporters. She writes that she had been "a lukewarm and silent Trump supporter" who transformed into a "committed" one after the attack:

I don’t expect to agree with all of his administration’s policies or even the rhetoric that Mr. Trump employs to make his case. But being assaulted based on an assumption that I supported him had a way of breaking through my reservations.

I choose to stand with the ridiculed, the insulted, the belittled. I stand with those who voted for something new and different and a little scary. I stand with people who are tarred as bigots and misogynists—or even egged—simply because of their views on taxes, health-care reform or government entitlements."

I'm not sure where Smith is going with all this. Is she saying that anti-Trumpers pushed her, against her better instincts, into being an ardent Donald supporter? Is she disavowing responsibility about what might happen to this country? I'm intrigued that she admits that Trump is "a little scary." (Query: Just a "little" scary?)

At the end of her op-ed, Smith talks again about the diverse attendees at Trump's ball, noting that "our worldviews were as diverse as the colors of our dresses." She ends it with a plea: "I silently prayed that none of my friends would be pelted with eggs—or insults—on their way home."

Maybe I'm thick, but I am genuinely befuddled by the message that Smith is trying to convey. There's a tone of victimization and righteousness in her piece, though there are sprinkles of self-parody too (I think).

Let's give her a benefit of a doubt and say she was reaching for irony.

 vchen@alm.com

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The Careerist takes an inside look at how lawyers shape their careers and manage their lives. The blog aims to dissect developments in the profession, provide useful information and advice, and give lawyers a platform to voice their views. The goal is to provide a fresh, provocative take on the state of lawyering.

About Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen, The Careerist's chief blogger, has been covering the business and culture of law firms for a decade. A former corporate lawyer, Chen is fascinated by those who thrive (as well as those who don't) in the legal profession. Her take: Success in the law (and life) doesn't always travel a linear path. If you have topics you'd like to discuss or information to share, contact her: VChen@alm.com

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