Kovel Law begins its journey as a law firm during a very significant time for New York City and me personally. George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery (among many other Black people) have been horrifically killed by police and former police in our country. New York City is protesting, grieving and mourning a relentless loss of Black life due to racism and police brutality. One of the many results of the protests and outpouring of grief is that many New Yorkers have begun the uncomfortable and difficult process of better understanding the effect that the daily exercise of their own privilege (itself a form of racism) has had on marginalized communities in our City.
I am one of those New Yorkers.
I admit that I have recently spent a significant amount of time in an internal debate about what my actions say about me. Does a career spent in public service, then advocating for the benefit of affordable housing and the rights of victims of discrimination and retaliation count for something? I know immediately that even if it does, it is not enough. As a White, straight, cis-gender male and non-disabled person, my privileges have played a critical role in obtaining essential food, health care and education without threat of violence or scarcity.
I have been insulated and supported by other White people with even greater privilege and access. I sought out this insulation and support. It is expected that I seek out these connections.
I now clearly understand that my White privilege has made success less difficult to achieve, including becoming an attorney and being able to start this law firm. I understand that by exercising these privileges, I have denied access and resources to others, including the Black, Indigenous and People of Color communities. The butterfly effect of my privilege opening the door of opportunity for me is that the opportunity was not there for someone else. Most likely a person of color. That person may have very well been more qualified than me and could have done more with the opportunity I received. My seat in the undergraduate and law schools I attended were filled by me. The position at the law firm who hired me was occupied and no longer available. In that way, could I have played a role in preventing or stalling the career of the next Thurgood Marshall? I surely hope not, but I will never know.
The problem is compounded by the sinking feeling that I could have done more to advocate for Black people along the way. I did not do enough to reopen the door of opportunity for those communities. Instead I focused on my own professional development. I identify all of these realities as major problems that I intend to address.
So I begin the process of finding a way forward by taking stock in myself and Kovel Law. As such, from the inception of Kovel Law, I humbly affirm and take responsibility to listen, learn and receive continued education in BIPOC legal and workplace issues. I intend to better understand the needs of other marginalized communities, including communities of other non-White races, non-American national origins, the LGBTQ+ community, the disabled community, women and pregnant women, the community of our older and more experienced workforce, and all other marginalized communities that I intend to serve. This is just a start, and I know that education and listening alone will not be good enough. As a member of the Bars of the State and Federal Courts of New York City, I also recognize my responsibility to advocate for these underrepresented communities. My firm will humbly seek out ways to do so, with or without compensation. Let me know if you have ideas about how I and Kovel Law can better serve these communities.
In short, I will not just say sorry once for the effect my white privilege has had on others. I endeavor to use it to create positive change for marginalized freelancers, solo-entrepreneurs and employees in New York City.
Daniel H. Kovel, Esq.