Ashley Taylor Jr., 39 

Troutman Sanders LLP

As a black Republican, Ashley Taylor Jr. knows what it's like to be in the minority of minorities. But Taylor, known for his positive outlook on challenging situations, welcomes the weight of the role.

Sometimes that means sharing a perspective picked up in a Jackson Ward barbershop with people in positions of influence. Or keeping Consolidated Bank abreast of trends in financial litigation that he's noticed while working on complex commercial lawsuits as a partner at Troutman Sanders.

Taylor is in a unique position to introduce people to things they hadn't considered or didn't know existed, and he's not naive about the chasm that divides the two worlds in which he walks. "It takes a certain level of intellectual dishonesty to claim that racism doesn't exist," he says. "There remains nuanced institutional racism."

Confronting racism is something you might expect the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights to be involved in. In 2001, the commission authored a scathing review of the president's record on civil rights. Some of those members have since left the commission, and were replaced by more conservative-leaning individuals appointed by President Bush. Taylor is one of them.

He retains his positive outlook when describing the work of the commission, which he says is to "broaden the discussion" to include important topics that haven't been considered before, such as a recent hearing about how minority children are treated in the foster care system.

"I think it was easier to identify the issues 50 or 60 years ago," he says. "Today's civil rights discussion is much more complex; it's about what I describe as the lack of cultural capital that many minorities have."

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