Pupil barrister opens up about racism in viral Twitter thread

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Lola-Rose Avery speaks out after the death of African-American George Floyd

Lola-Rose Avery

A pupil barrister has opened up about her personal experiences with racism in a viral Twitter thread.

Lola-Rose Avery, a family pupil barrister at Guildford Chambers, recalled her experiences with racism as a child growing up to her time in law school, in a thread which has received 2,500 retweets and 7,000 likes on Twitter.

Avery’s revelation comes after the death of African-American George Floyd in US police custody, which has sparked protests in the US and beyond. She begins the thread by expressing her disappointment in the “resounding silence from ‘Legal Twitter'”, adding: “It didn’t feel right to not speak up more.”

She begins to recall her earliest memories of racism, starting at nursery.

She then moves on to her time at primary school, where she recalls being subject to racist name-calling.

It appears that Avery’s early encounters with racism also occurred out of school. In the thread she reveals that she experienced physical abuse and racist name-calling from older kids near her council estate.

The racism continues as Avery begins university. A fall-out with some former friends leads to a “hate” page being created about her on Facebook.

Avery then goes on to take the Bar Professional Training Course, and recalls being described as “aggressive” by a classmate during a negotiations exercise.

It was at this point that Avery’s tutor lent her support.

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In another instance during her time in bar school, Avery remembers being called “ghetto” by another student when they got into a disagreement.

Now working in the legal profession, Avery, a former chartered accountant, describes her experience as a black woman in law.

Avery stresses that the Twitter thread is only a snapshot of her encounters with racism and observes that her experience isn’t unique.

Avery’s candid thread has received extensive praise on Twitter, with prominent legal voices thanking the pupil barrister for sharing her story.

In response to the praise her Twitter thread has received, Avery tells Legal Cheek:

“I am encouraged by the many positive responses. Many people, including a significant number of legal professionals, have addressed me both publicly and privately. These people are saying that my comments challenged them and they are confronting their own actions and inactions in order to change for the better and do more to be actively anti-racist. I hope this continues.”

Avery appeared on BBC News yesterday evening to give her take on the Black Lives Matter movement in response to Floyd’s death. She explored how we can tackle systemic racism:

“Racism isn’t just such overt acts, as we’ve seen in America with George Floyd — saying racist things, telling racist jokes. We here in the UK, as well as in the US, have systemic racism. It’s a kind of racism that permeates pretty much every conceivable aspect of our society and life. And the only way to challenge that is for people to be very honest with themselves about how they’re perpetuating racial bias and about how they are calling it out when they are seeing it. So, it’s not just simple as being quietly non-racist, it requires being actively anti-racist.”

Also appearing on the Beebs, but this time on BBC Breakfast, was Paul Olubayo, a Keele University law graduate who has just finished his masters in human rights law and international justice at the University of Minnesota. Speaking from the US this morning on how we can challenge systemic racism, Olubayo said:

“It starts on the interpersonal level. When we see these issues of racism, discrimination, are we speaking up about them? Are we holding our close friends, our family members, to account or are we allowing that to fester, are we allowing it to be something that someone exhibits in their teenage years and by the time they hit 60 or 70 we’re saying, ‘well that’s just who he is, he’s stuck in his ways’. We can’t allow that to continue.”

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