Shared language is vital to advancing anti-racism lawyering. The material in this section helps practitioners identify and interrupt racially biased and non-humanizing language and interactions and reframes them to interactions which preserves and amplifies the client’s voice, dignity and humanity. This section includes:

  • Scripts
  • Examples of Anti-racist language
  • Tips and examples for disrupting typical and unhelpful ways of speaking with clients, colleagues, the courts.
  • Ways to promote the clients’ “agency” and decision-making at all phases of the court process.
  • Understanding and respecting the power differential and privileges between clients and legal practitioners.
  • Identify biased practices and statements in real-time and respond thoughtfully and carefully.

​FJI has collected several guides and documents that can assist advocates when representing their clients.

Language continues to evolve, and FJI will review, revise, and update the links and guides below on a regular basis.

  • Beginning the Conversation Guide, a resource guide to reframe court interactions, was created to help defenders interrupt racially biased and non-humanizing court interactions and reframe them from an interaction which preserves and amplifies their client’s dignity and humanity. We hope that you will use this Section to guide your thinking in daily court interactions and experiences and instead of allowing the system actors to continue using demeaning language and assumptions, STAND UP and INTERRUPT! An example of this is labeling clients based on roles (ie. Mother, Father, or Child) when each client has a name and should be referred to by name (Ms. Williams, Mr. Smith, or nine-year old Alison).
  • This Is Not Ok, is a document that provides real-life scenarios where clients, professionals, and everyday citizens experience racism, stereotypes, micro and macroaggressions. Whether it is inside or outside the courtroom, you, as a practitioner and professional have a duty to act on behalf of your clients, validate and humanize their experiences and start to have conversations about race be that with the agency, community collaborations, colleagues and even within legal proceedings. Take a moment and digest this scenario and ask yourself, if this was my client how would I address the issue of racism:

“He slowly went to reach for his phone from his pocket and one of the cops went for his gun. Mr. J. was walking down the street with Miss L., who was also walking, when two cops stopped him for no reason and began asking him if Miss L. was his daughter – challenging whether she was. He slowly went to reach for his phone from his pocket and one of the cops went for his gun. He said, “Whoa, whoa, you asked me if this is my daughter and I am just getting my phone so I can show you a copy of her birth certificate as well as her mother’s death certificate if you don’t believe me, you need to relax with that gun!” He actually likes the pandemic because it keeps him inside where he does not have to deal with “crazy people who have no business being police officers.” Mr. J. is a Black man. His daughter is as cute and chatty as can be. Hopefully she is still young enough that she will remember none of what transpired.

  • Rise’s Harmful Language Glossary “is designed to help all stakeholders better understand the importance of language, and the impact that different words and phrases can have. It is designed to: encourage discussion and exploration of some terms frequently used in child welfare; support greater understanding of how those words or phrases may affect individuals directly impacted by the system; and advance considerations of the ways in which the current terminology could change to ensure all youth and families feel respected, valued, and supported”