Tuesday, August 31, 2021
Rory D. Bahadur (Washburn; HeinOnline), Law School Rankings and The Impossibility of Anti-Racism, 53 St. Mary's L.J. ___ (2022):
The U.S. News and World Report Law School Rankings invoke ideas about excellence and high achievement in the legal academy, but under the surface, they also operate as a catalyst for systemic racism. They do this by capitalizing on system justification, a palliative evolutionary mechanism that forces all members of society, from privileged high socioeconomic groups to the disenfranchised, to buttress the societal status quo pervasively and unconsciously.
These responsive desires to keep the status quo invoked by the rankings are the same ones responsible for the perpetuation of the caste system in India, and every other division of human societies into dominant and disenfranchised groups. This system justification is not subject to introspection because it operates through powerful unconscious mechanisms. As a result, consciously antiracist people do not experience dissonance when making institutional decisions based on the rankings, even though those decisions perpetuate deeply rooted structural racism.
The only schools enrolling black students at the same level as their representation in the general population are the schools U.S. News ranks so poorly that they are not even assigned a numerical ranking, listed only as Tier 2 schools.
This is because the metrics used to evaluate success are themselves racist metrics which devalue blackness and overvalue whiteness and wealth. Undoing this cycle of perpetuating and reinforcing racism requires the reexamination of fundamental assumptions on which our society is based. Assumptions like America being a meritocratic society and that we live in a just world perpetuate systemic racism. Mechanisms that mitigate the impact of systemic racism in legal education and beyond exist, but while corporations are now widely adopting these mechanisms and decreasing racial inequity, legal education is unlikely to follow suit because real antiracism in legal education will reduce institutional profitability.