Kalandra Wheeler
Texas Employment Lawyer Kalandra Wheeler

“Oh, look Elaine, the black and white cookie. I love the black and white. Two races of flavor living side by side in harmony.  It’s a wonderful thing isn’t it?”

Jerry, Seinfeld, The Dinner Party — Season 5, Ep. 13 (1994).


In 1994, I would have been 14 years old when this episode of Seinfeld first aired.  There are many lines that I still remember from Seinfeld, but this one stands out for several reasons.  When hearing it for the first time, I thought of racial harmony, inclusion, fairness, and equality.  Later – when watching reruns – I was more cynical with thoughts of, “yeah right, that’s not reality,” “where are the Black actors in this group of friends,” and “that’s just a cookie, nothing more nothing less.” Now, when thinking back to that episode I simply think of Jerry’s line, “cinnamon takes a backseat to no babka…lesser babka, I think not.”  But I’ll come back to that.

Here in 2021, there will be varying views on Colin in Black and White, but in truth, it was a glimpse into the life of growing up Black. Growing up as a Black woman – a Black person – you find that your life is not the same as many of the people around you.  Regardless of what you’re taught or told, regardless of what schools try to keep out of the classroom, brown skin comes with different life lessons.

Watching Colin in Black and White was a reminder of old life lessons, sometimes those experiences leave emotional and/or physical marks that shape us into the people we are today. In brown skin, we live each day hoping those experiences don’t kill us.

Because Kaepernick is biracial some may try to minimize his experiences or marginalize him. However, his experiences were the Black experience.  If not for the color of his skin he would not have endured the looks, comments, suspicions, or degradation that comes with growing up Black in America.

The Black experience plays out differently for us all. Though experiences may be similar, mine were not the same as Colin Kaepernick’s. Both of my parents are Black, and I grew up in a household where everyone was like me. I grew up in a household where both of my parents were able to guide me and teach me the realities of life, some realities harsher than others. Having a support system, having a cheering squad prepares you for what lies ahead in life.

I remember teachers holding me back from opportunities and feeling defeated when a teacher told me I could not test for the middle school gifted and talented program. However, upon entering middle school there was relief when teachers in my regular classes would ask, “Why are you in this class?”  I was quickly moved into my school’s advanced placement courses. I remember my hair getting wet on a school trip – shrinking and curling. This was followed by speculative eyes and questions of “Why does your hair do that?” and “Can I touch it?” I remember hours of dance classes with an instructor preparing me for tryouts and feeling confident, only later for me to have to tell her I didn’t make the cut. I also remember every special dance skill I was later pulled in to perform that could not be performed by those selected above me. I have been followed in stores, while others have shopped without a care in the world.  I also recall being pulled over in the middle of the night by officers. My friends and I were told to exit the vehicle, only to have officers needlessly search my car – no traffic citation was issued. I shed tears for those that didn’t survive this type of encounter and I have disdain for those that don’t acknowledge when race plays a crucial role in disparate treatment.

I’ve been made to feel like an outcast. I’ve been passed over. I’ve been singled out. Clearly every occasion was not related to the color of my skin and I would not dare make such a pronouncement. However, there are clear instances where you examine the treatment you receive or the reception you garner and recognize that the only difference between yourself and others is the color of your skin.

The differences faced based on race, start at an early age and I reflected on my experiences as I watched Colin in Black White.

I applaud Colin Kaepernick in taking a knee and all the others that did. I applaud Colin in Black in White in telling a story that speaks to the true experiences faced by Black people in America. I do not see racism in everything, but to deny that it still exists is recklessness.  To deny racism exists is the same as condoning it.

Like that cinnamon babka that Jerry said was not a lesser babka, the color of my skin does not make me less than. The color of my skin does not make rejection of me acceptable; it does not make disparate treatment appropriate; it does not make one’s discrimination against me or anyone else of color lawful or forgivable.  I take a backseat to no one.


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Photo of Kalandra N. Wheeler Kalandra N. Wheeler

We asked Kalandra N. Wheeler, a Trial Attorney in the Houston office of Wiley Wheeler, P.C., to provide her sincere answers to a range of questions.  After reading, you will be more more abreast with the understanding and competency that Ms. Wheeler

We asked Kalandra N. Wheeler, a Trial Attorney in the Houston office of Wiley Wheeler, P.C., to provide her sincere answers to a range of questions.  After reading, you will be more more abreast with the understanding and competency that Ms. Wheeler brings.

1.Why did you start practicing labor and employment law?

I wanted to be able to help people that otherwise might not find help. Labor and employment laws affect most of society.  And – whether our results help one or many – our work and efforts as employment lawyers touch people in a real way in their every day lives.

2. Who is your favorite Supreme Court Justice?

Thurgood Marshall.

3. What do you think is the most important part of a good case?

The client. Good facts and evidence are definitely important. But good clients are a lawyers’ most valuable asset.  A good client: (1) is invested in their case; (2) works or worked hard for their employer; (3) can tell their story clearly and concisely; and (4) is someone that a jury will find sympathetic and relatable.

4. If you could write a new law, what would it do?

The Texas Workplace Anti-Bullying law.  I hear the stories, the ones told by employees looking for help. And in far too many of those stories the law offers no solution.  Every employee that goes to work and works hard to do the job they are hired to perform should be able to do so without abuse, harassment, and bullying. There is no justification for bullying, not in our schools, and not in our workplaces.

5. Besides Rob Wiley, P.C., what is the most interesting job that you have had?

For a year before law school, I worked as a lube tech for Jiffy Lube.  I spent hot summer days, working on hot cars, changing oil or flushing transmissions or radiators.  I never had a customer come back with a complaint.

6. How do you market yourself differently than others?

I tell clients what they need to hear, not necessarily what they want to hear. Before a client begins down any path toward resolving an employment dispute, they need thoughtful, honest advice. I am a believer in justice and everyday people deserve competent representation in an arena that is difficult for non-lawyers to navigate.

7. What do you do when you’re not practicing law?

I spend time with family and friends.  I read true crime books.  I sew and draw.

8. How would you describe the color yellow to someone who could not see?

It’s not the intense heat of the sun during the month of August, but instead the softness of the sun on your skin just as the seasons change from Summer to Fall.  It’s warm. And soft to the touch.  It’s fresh squeezed lemonade with a hint of sugar.  Slightly cool, inviting, and happy.

9. What’s your favorite legal TV show?

Law & Order: SVU

10. If you could argue any case in history, what would it be?

The Karen Silkwood case. But really, I think that would be more about arguing and trying a case alongside Gerry Spence for the learning experience.

Kalandra N. Wheeler is a Trial Attorney in the Houston office of Wiley Wheeler, P.C.  She graduated from The University of Houston with a bachelor’s degree in political science.  Ms. Wheeler went on and received her law degree from The University of Arkansas.