Paul L. Caron

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Harvard Rising 2Ls: Law Schools’ Complicity On Racism Must Be Challenged

Tyler Ambrose, Zarinah Mustafa & Sherin Nassar (J.D. 2022, Harvard), Law Schools’ Complicity on Racism Must Be Challenged:

Corporationsnewsrooms, and political institutions have faced public pressure to denounce and combat racism as activists nationwide have pushed for police reform. However, there is an institution guilty of perpetuating racial inequality that we have yet to scrutinize: American law schools.

These institutions produce the legal professionals we rely on to interpret and uphold the law, such as the district attorneys who prosecute the police. Yet, they are overwhelmingly misguided and underinformed on issues of racism in the law. And it is not entirely their fault. 

Law schools are complicit. As rising second-year Black and brown students at Harvard Law School, we are keenly aware of our privilege. While America is embroiled in a people’s movement for justice long denied, we recognize and embrace our responsibility to challenge the racially sterile curriculum of law school classrooms. 

We cannot allow these legal institutions to continue producing race-illiterate lawyers. The consequence of this illiteracy is not hypothetical. It is police killing Black people with impunity, and harsher sentences for Black and brown men, women and children. It is judges selling Black boys to prisons for profit. It is protesters marching for weeks during a pandemic. 

Law schools can no longer refuse to depart from the status quo while in the same breath claim they believe Black lives matter.  ...

Law professors enjoy an immense amount of discretion in curating their curriculum. Professors have the right to choose the materials and legal frameworks through which they teach. We affirm and respect this academic freedom: our qualm is not with its existence.

Instead, we question why professors so frequently choose to use this discretion to position race as an afterthought and not as a legitimate lens to view the law. ...

As a country, we must demand more from the legal profession. Lawyers cannot be social engineers or stewards of progress if law students are given permission to ignore racism in the law and in our communities. If law schools are to rise to the importance of this moment, then they must send the clear message that learning the contours of racism within the law is fundamental to any legal education worth its salt.

Legal Ed News, Legal Education | Permalink


@ Mike Livingston: This is just political and it will abruptly end the day after the election. It will resurface 4 years after that, and then 4 years after that, for a long while.

Posted by: Anon | Jun 27, 2020 10:53:00 PM

It is kind of funny how you always find Democrats in charge of all the institutions that suffer from “structural racism.”

Posted by: Anon | Jun 26, 2020 7:13:13 PM

I think Harvard needs to hire a few conservatives before it worries about tilting further to the left

Posted by: Mike Livingston | Jun 26, 2020 2:47:17 AM

Lol, they didn’t capitalize “brown” as they did “Black.” Dang.

Posted by: Anon | Jun 26, 2020 12:52:59 AM

Last time I checked, discrimination based on race was against the law. That fact appears missing from this article about law schools..

And also last time I checked, Asian applicants were systematically discriminated against by Harvard, as compared to other groups. That fact also appears to be missing from this article about law schools.

And another observation, missing from this article about "fighting" a concept like racism: When one speaks about "fighting" against something, which isn't defined and cannot be measured, the term "fighting" is meaningless. It has no practical application whatsoever.

I do have some idea about what a society would look like if everybody was pressured to "fight" against thoughts and concepts, as opposed to actual discrimination. You can find such socities around the world, and I'd never want to live in them.

Posted by: MM | Jun 25, 2020 7:09:58 PM

The BLM people got it wrong. When the cops kill White people, as happened to a local French-Canadian in Leominster MA on Route 2 in 2013 after a high-speed chase--no one cares! Didn't make the Boston Globe; the Herald gave it one paragraph.

Posted by: Nathan Redshield | Jun 25, 2020 10:17:47 AM

I think instead they will get some empty statements of solidarity, a committee, a new policy or two in the handbook, and it will be back to business as usual.

Posted by: JM | Jun 25, 2020 9:36:56 AM

I have respect for people who cared about this before. I don’t have much respect for the hangers-on. Next year it will be a new “cause.”

Posted by: Mike Livingston | Jun 25, 2020 3:00:47 AM