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Race Equity Project & Community Lawyering

At the beginning of 2019 South Carolina Legal Services created the Cultural Humility Unit.  The Cultural Humility Unit is a team of South Carolina Legal Services (SCLS) staff dedicated to aiding and empowering communities impacted by systemic inequity.  Work of this unit includes but is not limited to: Race equity issues; access and equity for individuals with disabilities; the needs of individuals with limited English proficiency (those with visual/hearing impairments, individuals who cannot read and/or write, and individuals who primarily speak or write a language other than English); and the needs of LGBTQ+ community members.

In the Spring of 2019 four members of SCLS, Tiffney Love, Susan Ingles, Shinead James, and Whitney Stout, were accepted in the Shriver Center on Poverty Law’s Racial Justice Institute.  This competitive program included weekly and biweekly training sessions from May 2019 through October 2019.  The program also included a week of in-person training in Chicago in June during which the team was able to network with other Legal Aid and Legal Services organizations around the country also prioritizing equity work and obtain feedback on the Race Equity Project they would ultimately implement at SCLS.  

The proposed Race Equity Project includes implicit bias training for our staff, training on community lawyering, and the implementation of de-biasing interventions.  The project will also mobilize the Cultural Humility Unit team members to assist in examining the internal policies, procedures, and practices within the law firm to ensure the community is served and the firm aligned with the values of cultural humility and equity.

With the support of the SCLS Executive Director and Board the first step of the race equity project began with the Cultural Humility Unit receiving training on implicit bias and the steps of implementing a de-biasing protocol.  At the October 2019 Annual SCLS Statewide Training, the Unit made a presentation to all staff on cognitive bias, how patterns of behavior create structures and systems, how these systems create inequity, and how the decisions we each make in our roles at SCLS could perpetuate cycles of bias.

Cultural Humility is the process of identifying how everyone’s unique cultural identity affects the needs and challenges faced by each individual.  Going forward the Cultural Humility Unit will continue with the Race Equity Project and will also adapt the strategies learned at the Racial Justice Institute to expand our trainings to include topics related to other communities and groups experiencing systemic inequities.  Following the Statewide Conference, the Cultural Humility Unit met for an introductory training to Community Lawyering.  The Unit will use Community Lawyering tools to form relationships with community groups and leaders to ensure that we are informed of the needs and goals of our communities and are offering trainings to prepare our staff to assist with empowering our clients and communities.  Some initial community outreach plans include expanding our attendance at LGBTQ+ Pride and Latinx Community Events.

If you are interested in SCLS attending your event or providing information or training to your community, please contact Whitney Stout at whitneystout@sclegal.org.    

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