Black At FIU Law

Riquan King/Guest Columnist

Having finished over 90% of my law school journey, I now look back on my journey through law school as a black man.

The first thing that comes to mind is the huge amount of privilege that comes with not just making it to law school, but being on the verge of graduating and being a licensed attorney. I don’t know the numbers, but I imagine this puts me in the top 10%, if not 1%, of black men who have achieved this level of education.

It was in recognizing my educational privilege (and socio-economic privilege that made it easier for me to get to this point) that I knew I had a duty to pay it forward. 

But in recognizing this privilege, I can’t help reflect on the burdens that come with it. I am, after all, the only black man in my entire 100+ third-year class. (There was one other black man that enrolled my same year who did not continue and one part-time fourth-year student graduating with me.)

Being one of so few, I’ve come across a variety of assumptions based on the policing of blackness. 

I found out halfway through my first year of law school that some of the upperclassmen thought, because of my slightly lighter skin tone, I was going to be someone who would deny, or at the very least, barely acknowledge my blackness. Everyone once in a while, I still get the “he’s only half-black” jokes (which is funny because all of my great-grandparents are African American).

I have received my fair share of criticism and advice from various black alumni. Some of it is about how I dressed, or should have dressed, some of it about how I acted, or should have been acting, and some of it about the classes that I needed to take or networking events that I needed to go to. But almost none of it came after asking what I planned to do with my law degree.

And, I’ve been asked about my sexual orientation on numerous occasions by colleagues and sometimes superiors. These questions have, in large part, come because of my exuberant and sometimes flamboyant mannerisms and style. But I know who I am, so I’ve always been comfortable with assuaging the curiosity of others. 

So, when I look back on my journey as a black male student at FIU Law, I can’t help but reflect on these burdens I have carried. Not because they were heavy or difficult to bear, but because they allude to a bigger issue when being the minority.

When you are one of a few, if not the only one, of your group, it becomes less about who you are and more about who you represent. In part, that is why I choose to be exuberant, loud, flamboyant and unabashed. Because I can be me, and be happy, and be successful. 

Riquan King is a third-year law student pursuing a Juris Doctorate degree.

Featured photo by FIU on Flickr.


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