You’re in BLSA? But . . . You’re White

Jeremy Lofthouse '18
Guest Columnist

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked this question in the last year and a half. From job interviews to family get-togethers to casual conversations in ScoCo. I usually give a brief, but truthful response: “When I started Law School, I decided I wanted to invest myself in a group that was very different from my background.” Other questions follow. Invariably, I am asked whether I have been welcomed into BLSA (answer: YES!) and what I have learned (answer: MUCH!). If we ever meet, feel free to ask me these questions and more, but, for now, I’ll give you a teaser. 

Why Did I Join BLSA? (and why you should too!)

My motivation for joining BLSA was multifaceted, but it can probably be summed up by one fact about me: I’ve lived a fairly monochromatic life. I grew up in Utah, where Mormons make up around 60% of the population (I’m Mormon) and nearly 90% of the population is white (I’m white too, in case you missed that!). I understand the desire of many students to seek out groups in law school that share your background, values, and experiences. I knew I would be able to find strong, valuable groups here at UVa Law that reflected my background, but I’d spent my whole life so far within those groups. I decided to leave my comfort zone and enter a new world of experience. 

Lessons Learned from Being the White Guy in BLSA

Being the white guy in BLSA should not be considered abnormal for any reason besides statistics. Being black is clearly not a requirement for membership. I joined for the selfish reason listed above (i.e., diversifying MY life), but also because I believe in racial equality, and that your skin color should not determine the breadth and depth of your experience in life. While the other members of BLSA and I don’t share the same skin pigmentation, we share this value. That shouldn’t be a particularly shocking or difficult-to-maintain value in this world, hence why I don’t believe being a white man in BLSA should be considered abnormal. BLSA gives me a means to define and utilize this value. And I thank my friends for including me in the dialogue. 

So, here’s the lesson: people of different skin colors coming together to connect and work toward greater equality can (and should) be the new normal at UVa Law (and elsewhere!). One way to move in that direction? Join BLSA! Or APALSA! Or JLSA! Or LALO! Or LAMBDA! Or Women of Color! Or SALSA! Or FLF! The list could go on!

One last bit of advice. Don’t overwhelm yourself with feelings of inadequacy when it comes it your allyship. The fear of offending stops many from defending. I have had missteps (and you will too), but rely on your friends to offer you correction and guidance. In this endeavor of allyship, perfection is a direction, not a destination. 

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jsl2hc@virginia.edu