Tuesday, April 27, 2021
Njeri Mathis Rutledge (South Texas), Walking the Tightrope: Reflections of a Black Female Law Professor, 43 Campbell L. Rev. 233 (2021):
In a sobering moment, I realized that my success (and that of many people of color) stems from our ability to normalize daily racism — Njeri Rutledge (2020)
As a Black female law professor, I often walk an invisible tightrope, carefully avoiding any misstep for fear of falling. The problem of racism makes that tightrope particularly difficult. There is a misperception that racism does not impact successful people, but only those who are uneducated or have a low socioeconomic status. Nothing could be further from the truth. As a Black professional woman, I deal with racism constantly.
I walk a daily tightrope where I must appear as though all is well despite the barrage of images of unarmed Blacks being killed, racist attacks, and the growth of white supremacy. Even the legal academy fails to provide a haven from racist attitudes.
My career as a law professor has spanned fifteen years. I love teaching and mentoring students. I must teach my students to review the law objectively. When race is germane, I must have the courage to raise it, and when it is not, I must have the courage to raise that as well, while defending my choice. I must serve as a role model without favoring my minority students, although I vividly remember being in their shoes. I know what it is like to sit in class when a controversial case about race comes up in property, contracts, constitutional, or criminal law. As a professor, when the topic of race is raised, I have to cautiously navigate giving my minority students the freedom to speak and the freedom to remain silent, knowing that few people embrace the burden of serving as a mouthpiece for an entire race