Paul L. Caron

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

For Minority Law Students, Learning The Law Can Be Intellectually Violent

ABA Journal op-ed:  For Minority Law Students, Learning the Law Can Be Intellectually Violent, by Shaun Ossei-Owusu (Penn):

Apologies to minority law students feel necessary. ... 

I’m a Black criminal law professor who studies inequality in the legal profession. Because of my work, I am in contact with law students across the country. Many are trying to make sense of the disconnect between the law on the books and what they see in the criminal justice system.

I feel compelled to apologize, not because of some personal responsibility, but because the learning of law—particularly for racial minorities—can be intellectually violent. It pales in comparison to the structural and physical violence that people experience outside the ivory tower, but it is also unforgiving, can feel unrelenting and often goes unnamed. ...

To be sure, you are not alone. White students and members of the general public are also witnesses to the law’s inequalities. But the casebooks and legal authorities you learn from are not teeming with race-conscious messaging. Accordingly, I offer some insights that may have broader resonance: I recommend internalizing three important points. ...

I’m not here to proselytize on how law students should proceed. As the saying goes, “politics are local.” Paths forward are specific to the person and situation. But I’m here to put you on notice about these issues, contextualize them and identify sentiments that are common in legal education and in these very unprecedented times.

Legal Ed News, Legal Education | Permalink