“Aissa Olivarez first absorbed the Tony Robinson news after she had settled her baby girl back down after her regular 4 a.m. feeding. In the dim, morning hours of March 6, 2015, as she was scrolling tiredly through the predawn news, there it was: another unarmed, 19-year-old African- American man — somebody’s baby — shot by a police officer. Only this time it wasn’t in Ferguson, or Baltimore, or Los Angeles; it was right here in Madison, Wisconsin, where Texas-native Olivarez was a second-year law student.”
UW-Madison Law School Responds to Tony Robinson Shooting
After the Shooting: UW Law Students Help the Community Heal
Gargoyle Magazine cover story, Fall 2015
I got a call from Gargoyle, the magazine of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Law School, after the editor read my Madison Magazine piece on mothers of Black sons reacting to the Tony Robinson police shooting. It turns out Law School students were involved in a number of efforts helping others process these events, including producing a 14-minute educational video called Understanding Police Use of Deadly Force. These students are minorities themselves, leaders of the Latino Law Students Association and the Black Law Students Association, and already seem well-versed in public service work with disadvantaged communities. I was really taken with the idea that lawyers, by necessity, must approach every situation with an open, questioning, fair and balanced mind—just like journalists. And they must move rationally within stories that often challenge them on an emotional, human level—just like journalists. Each of these students processed this event first as a human being, then as law students—then they got to work. As their advisor, veteran attorney and adjunct professor Stan Davis put it, “Our profession is in good shape if these are the people who are coming into it, and this is how they already view their responsibility to the profession and to the public.”
I’m inclined to agree.
—Maggie Ginsberg is an award-winning freelance writer in Madison, Wisconsin