Leader profile: DeLorean Forbes, University of Arizona Law, Class of 2021

Editor’s note: With the Black Lives Matter movement sweeping across the world, law students are at the forefront, using their passion and skills to fight for equality. The National Jurist is profiling some of these leaders. We invite you to tell us about other law students who are making a difference.  

DeLorean Forbes is a law student in at The University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law and he knows all too well how cruel the world can be to black people. 

“I have experienced racism throughout my life, some of it subtle and some of it overt,” Forbes said. “I have been followed around in stores by management and called slurs by classmates. Unfortunately, I have experienced some of the most poignant examples of racism during the course of my education.”

His first memory of experiencing being treated different was in 2nd grade when his teacher would discipline him different and often call his character in question in front of the entire class. In 7th grade it happened again. He was telling a classmate how excited he was that a black senator was running for president. His teacher started yelling at him, in front of everyone, that he was making way too big of a deal out of the election.

“She then openly challenged me, a 13-year old, to publicly defend my position that voter suppression could cost then-Senator Obama the election,” Forbes said. “In that moment, I felt inadequate, humiliated, and powerless. I never want to feel like that again.”

Long before the death of George Floyd, Forbes has been supporting the Black Lives Matter Movement has worked extensively to support racial justice initiatives in general.

“I think that education is a critical starting point. People should take active steps to become informed about racism, both historical and current, in order to provide context and orientation in the fight for racial justice,” Forbes said. “Even simple acts like supporting local black businesses can go a long way toward helping the black community.”

In addition to being a full-time student, Forbes serves as the Editor-in-Chief of the Arizona Journal of International & Comparative Law, President of the Black Law Students Association (BLSA) and has been classified as a Distinguished Scholar in the Arizona Law Distinguished Scholars Program. 

“I joined BLSA as a 1L in the fall of 2018, largely out of a desire to find a group to belong to,” Forbes said. “I am also the first person in my family to attend law school and wanted the academic and emotional support of a group. I also wanted to give back to the Tucson community, as I enjoyed the privilege of a legal education.” 

Forbes decided he wanted to go to law school while he was in high school. He was a member of his high school’s Navy Junior ROTC unit and has wanted to become a Judge Advocate ever since. 

While studying Government and International Relations at New Mexico State University for his undergraduate degree, he says he developed an interest in global affairs and international relations history.  

“I became interested in diplomacy but noticed the severe lack of people of color in America’s Foreign Service,” Forbes said. “Rather than let this discourage me, I resolved to become a Foreign Service Officer, and increase the diversity of experience in the personnel who represent America abroad.”

Since he began at law school in 2018, Forbes has worked to support black students at the law school and engage people of color in the Tucson community. In a post George Floyd world, Forbes says he hopes that real, tangible, institutional reform comes from all the recent protest and activism. 

“America has a long and sordid history of institutional racism, directed against people of color. From housing discrimination, to financial discrimination, to racial profiling, to crude violence, our country has continually failed to uphold the promises of liberty and equality to racial minority groups,” Forbes said. “I hope that this movement will result in serious public safety reform that will fundamentally alter the way that police interact with communities of color.”

A year from now, Forbes will be graduating from law school and he has big dreams for himself and the United States too. 

“I hope that we can reduce the number of things that we ask police to do; law enforcement should not be taking the place of social workers in underserved communities,” Forbes said. “I think we need a smarter, more proactive approach to public safety; one that aims to reduce the social factors that create crime, and not just lock up criminals. This is obviously far easier said than done. But I think that flashpoints like Mr. Floyd’s death make it clear to our society that we cannot continue with our current path of mass incarceration and ‘tough on crime’ policies.  When police see themselves as being soldiers in a war on crime, it makes them more likely to see the people they're supposed to be serving as enemies. Police aren't at war with America's poor, and certainly not with communities of color. Our policies need to reflect that.”

After graduating from law school in 2021, Forbes is planning to commission as a Judge Advocate in the United States Navy. 

“I hope to challenge, and deconstruct, barriers to racial, economic, and environmental justice across the world.”

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