Romana Lavalas is a high-flying attorney out of Syracuse New York. After spending a decade in the District Attorney’s office in Onondaga County, Lavalas made a run for judge last year. Although she wasn’t able to get the votes necessary to defeat the incumbent, she ran a strong campaign and presented herself as part of the future of judicial leadership in the state of New York.
Like so many black women around the United States, Lavalas constantly grapples with the challenges that come with succeeding in a world where there can sometimes be obstacles to your success. In spite of all of this, Lavalas works harder than the rest, stays focused and is one of a large army of “Quiet Michelle Obamas” who are changing the world.
The Syracuse Post-Standard interviewed Lavalas about the experience of being a professional black woman and here is what she had to say:
Lavalas, 37, is an assistant Onondaga County district attorney. Her family is from Panama, and she identifies as a black and Hispanic. Because of this, she says she has a different perspective than African-Americans coming from a Southern background. “Being black is part of me but not all of who I am,” she says.
On racism: “For me I don’t really walk around thinking that something happened to me because I’m black. Culturally I didn’t have that experience. It wasn’t a focus for me growing up.” She goes on to say, “There are a few situations in my life where I’ve seen discrimination because of color. It’s not the first thing I consider.”
On marriage: “I don’t feel I need a male in my life to be a complete person. I’m a whole person by myself,” Lavalas says. “I need the right person. I would rather be alone than miserable in a marriage.”
The poll results indicated that black women value a successful career over marriage. Lavalas has a different point of view. “I’d like to be married at some point. If I don’t that’s OK. Would I put that above a career? I don’t compare the two. They are two different arenas,” she says. “People are giving up on marriage too early. I’m not necessarily searching. I think the right time will happen on its own. There needs to be a depth of maturity for both people.”
On balancing a family and career: “Life requires a balance and for women of color and women in general, that balancing act is difficult because you want to be home and be a good mom.”
“Men can be aggressive at work and at home. Women don’t get that opportunity,” she says. After having a baby, “They leave work and have to come back and when they do, they’re not seen as ferocious as they once were.”
On faith: “For me and most women of color having a strong relationship with a higher power plays into who they are and creating their value system. This is what you don’t see on reality shows.”
On black stereotypes/reality TV: “I do think television and movies do a good job in playing into stereotypes of black women. Stereotypes do come from some kernel of truth and when it comes to reality TV, I do think people not familiar with black women will get the idea that they are foulmouthed, oversexed beings. I hope people will understand that even though the show may be unscripted, it is edited.”