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State Bar withdraws writing award for short story with "racist" symbolism

Aug 20, 2015

The State Bar of Michigan is apologizing for honoring a short story with "racist" symbolism.

Kyle Bristow
Credit Southern Poverty Law Center

The bar association has offered Michigan lawyers a chance to flex their literary skills with a biennial short story contest for the past eight years. 

The contest is open to all bar association lawyers in Michigan. More than 30 short stories were submitted this year. 

The contest is judged by a panel of attorneys.  The winners were announced in this month’s copy of the State Bar of Michigan magazine. 

This year, a story titled “post-conviction relief” received an honorable mention in the contest. But the award has been withdrawn. A press release from the SBM says the story contains “racist cues and symbolism.”

"We cannot apologize enough," said State Bar President Thomas C. Rombach in a written statement.

The story was written by Kyle Bristow, an attorney with links to white supremacist groups, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Bristow first gained notoriety when he served as the president of the Young Americans for Freedom chapter at Michigan State University. Under his leadership, the group was criticized for anti-immigrant and anti-homosexual themed events. He has since published two works: White Apocalypse and The Conscience of a Right-Winger.

In a statement sent to the Lansing State Journal, Bristow defends his short story insisting it's “simply about a criminal defense attorney who becomes fed up with the legal system.”

The State Bar of Michigan has not only withdrawn the award, it has canceled the short story contest.