Saturday, April 11, 2015
April Shaw (Arizona), How Race-Selective and Sex-Selective Bans on Abortion Expose the Color-Coded Dimensions of the Right to Abortion and Deficiencies in Constitutional Protections for Women of Color, NY Review of Law & Social Change (forthcoming)
The Supreme Court’s framework on the right to abortion as articulated in Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey fails to take into account how race impacts women’s access to abortion. I argue that the race “neutral” framework of Casey’s undue burden test simultaneously erases the racial context of abortion and imposes a conceptual blind spot on how race is used to place a greater burden on women of color relative to white women. Specifically, States are using race to burden women’s access to abortion, but because the right to abortion does not explicitly take race into account, race is not used to measure whether regulations pose a heavier burden on certain groups of women. Applying race as a conceptual lens of analysis is not about inserting race into the legal framework, it is about showing how the current legal framework obscures the impact of race and almost inevitably perpetuates racial stereotypes, disproportionate burdens, and racial inequalities so as to systematically ensure that the right to an abortion as a fundamental right is less secure for women of color.
Thursday, April 9, 2015
From Al Brophy at The Faculty Lounge, Jones on Lynch Nomination
Martha Jones of the University of Michigan's history department and law school has an op-ed at Huffington Post on Loretta Lynch's nomination to be attorney general and the increasing political influence of African American women. Let me use this as an opportunity to mention, as well, the book that Martha has just co-edited, Toward an Intellectual History of Black Women. This obviously builds on Martha's pioneering book on African American women and political ideology in the nineteenth century, All Bound Up Together.
Tuesday, April 7, 2015
At USC School of Law, Reframing the Welfare Queen: Feminist and CRT Alternatives to Existing Poverty Discourse
This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the Moynihan Report, a Senate report issued in 1965 that pathologized the creation of black, female single-parent households with long- term dependence on state assistance programs, and in this way laid the political foundation for the political construct known as the "welfare queen." The "welfare queen construct" has played a key role in political debates and facilitated the transformation of public assistance programs. For the past fifty years it has played a prominent role in presidential politics, shaping discussions of poverty during the Reagan, Clinton and even Obama presidencies. Moreover, the construct led to a spate of concrete policy changes in 1996, ones that transformed older open-ended welfare programs into TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families). Many TANF features are direct responses to the threat of the welfare queen, including: family caps limiting benefit levels for families above a certain size; workfare programs requiring welfare recipients to work; and strict time limits that sunset welfare benefits after a set number of years.
Numerous scholars, activists and commentators have explored how the welfare queen construct is used to demonize poor women of color in need of state assistance programs. And while the critiques launched by these early conversations about the welfare queen have been important in opening a much-needed dialogue about the needs of the poor, this conference attempts to move us beyond discussions that isolate poor minority female welfare recipients as a special class. Instead the conference explores how the construct of the welfare queen imposes costs on us all, by revealing the hidden institutional norms naturalized by the construct and the cultural anxieties it creates that prevent people from seeking state assistance. Our project is to "reframe" the welfare queen - to challenge the ways in which claims of need are represented as pathological by the state; feminized and racialized in ways that marginalize and render invisible certain needy communities; and foreclose recognition of certain kinds of "need" and certain relationships of support between the individual and the State. By "reframing" the welfare queen have an opportunity to image new forms of governmental assistance that might better match up with the working poor's needs and lived experiences and with feminist values and anti-poverty advocates' goals and understandings.
Thursday, March 5, 2015
Nzinga-Johnson, Sekile. Laboring Positions. Black Women, Mothering and the Academy. 2013. Demeter Press: Ontario
When I offered to review Nzinga-Johnson’s 2013 edited volume on Black women and mothering in the academy I felt compelled to do so as I needed to read something that directly addressed the intersections of my identity as a Black woman, recent mother, professor and administrator. Recent books about women being mothers in the academy have privileged a worker/mother dichotomy that tends to elevate the “worker” identity above that of the mother. This divide did not speak to neither my colleagues of color’s nor my experiences after becoming mothers and performing more care-related work (mentoring, community building, activism) on our college and university campuses. I know that as a working Black mother in the academy my story is not unique, but it is one that if often unheard, under valued, and silenced within the halls of the ivory tower.
That silence is being undone with the publication of Nzinga-Johnson’s 2013 edited volume: Laboring Positions: Black Women, Mothering and the Academy. The fourteen articles in this edited volume speak to the various experiences of Black women, Black mothers, and mothering/care work done in the academy. Using a variety of methods and disciplinary perspectives, Laboring Positions is grounded overall in Black and intersectional feminist understandings of mothering/motherhood.
Wednesday, February 25, 2015
Black women have a long history of advocating for fair wages and access to decent employment opportunities for African-American communities. In her recent remarks at the Academy Awards championing the fight against wage inequality, Patricia Arquette seemed wholly unaware of these histories, elaborating backstage that it was now time for all other groups to fight for white women, because they had fought for everybody else.
In 1920 or thereabouts, famed Washington, D.C., educator Nannie Helen Burroughs helped to found the National Association of Wage Earners as both an advocacy group and a training resource for working class black women. Addressing employment inequality and wage inequality for newly freed black women entering the workforce after Emancipation, and later for black women from the South who had migrated North, was a hallmark of black women’s organizing in the late 19th century and the early 20th century. At the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893, Fannie Barrier Williams, a socialite, club woman and budding political theorist told the crowd, “in the item of employment, colored women bear a distressing burden of mean and unreasonable discrimination.” Still, she told them, “we believe this country is large enough and the opportunities for all kinds of success are great enough to afford our women a fair chance to earn a respectable living.” In 1925, Gertrude Elise McDougald, an organizer and teacher in New York City, helped to found the Trade Union Committee for Organizing Negro Workers, in order to encourage African-American solidarity with labor and discourage strike-breaking as the pathway to work.
Thursday, February 12, 2015
In The Underrepresentation of Women of Color in Law Review Leadership Positions, Berkeley La Raza Law Journal (2015), A recent law grad analyzes that lack of opportunities available to women law students of color and proposes some affirmative solutions.
In the history of the UCLA Law Review, there has been only one black woman to serve as EIC (there have been no black men). This fact, combined with what I witnessed at the selection meeting, made me very concerned that the opportunities available to women of color law students were being unduly and unfairly limited. The unfortunate fact remains that in competing for law review leadership positions, women of color are significantly disadvantaged.
This Article explores the potential causes, challenges, and remedies surrounding this inequitable playing field. As Clare Dalton put it in describing the importance of investigating women’s issues in law school, “Exposing the sites of legal education and practice as important creators and sustainers of the culture of gender, as well as the culture of law, we can assert the importance of studying the treatment of women, women’s realities and women’s concerns in legal education and the legal profession.”5 The pipeline for women of color making the law review and into law review leadership positions, such as EIC, is one such site of legal education worth exposing.
Part I introduces the problem by examining the limited research that shows a significant underrepresentation of women and people of color in law review leadership positions, and explains the significance of such research. Part II explores the possible causes of this unfortunate phenomenon by uncovering the challenges that women of color face in obtaining law review leadership positions. Finally, Part III offers potential solutions for increasing opportunities for women of color in obtaining law review leadership positions.
Her proposed solutions include: creating a welcoming environment; structural remedies of diversity outreach committees, board quotas, mentorship programs, and transcripts and transparency of the board decisionmaking process.
Friday, January 16, 2015
From the Atlantic:
A scuffle between a largely black sorority and a predominantly white fraternity provides an interesting case study on Title IX.
At first, the kerfuffle at the University of Connecticut between a largely black sorority and a predominantly white fraternity might seem a lot like the big-kid version of a schoolyard fight. It is, after all, a dispute over an iconic boulder on campus affectionately known as the “Spirit Rock.” No one has been physically hurt, and campus officials have taken action in response to the event.
But a closer look at the quarrel likely reveals a racially charged conflict in whichwhite frat brothers, according to university investigators’ initial findings, physically intimidated the group of black women, hurling verbal insults at them, including “fat black bitch” and “whores.” It has forced university officials—administrators accustomed to treating race and gender bias as distinct problems—to grapple with a conflict that’s almost certainly shaped by some combination of both issues. What’s more, the Spirit Rock affair is unfolding at a time when public scrutiny of issues related to sexual violence and harassment on campus has reached an all-time high. Turns out that what happened at the Spirit Rock is hardly a petty matter.
Tuesday, January 13, 2015
Lani Guiner (Harvard), Ivy League's Meritocracy Lie: How Harvard and Yale Cook the Books for the 1 Percent. In this excerpt from Guiner's new book, she traces the elitest and anti-Jewish origins of standardize testing in law schools and discredits the alleged merit evalution of SAT and LSAT tests. Taking the "testocracy" to its ultimate result, she concludes we are admiting students based on a false sense of merit and failing to prepare students as future leaders and professionals.
The top career choices of many male Harvard students—whether it is 2007 or 2013—are severely lacking in any element of service. This is the damage that we are doing through our testocracy. We are credentializing a new elite by legitimizing people with an inflated sense of their own merit and little unwillingness to open up to new ways of problem solving. They exude an arrogance that says there’s only one way to answer a question—because the SAT only gives credit for the one right answer.
Saturday, October 25, 2014
But to the professor Kevin Allred and 32 students at Rutgers University, Beyoncé is something more—a feminist, a gay icon, and a powerful political figure.
Allred teaches a wildly popular women’s studies course, Politicizing Beyonce: Black Feminism, US Politics, & Queen Bey.
The class is at capacity, and the room is cramped—especially because Allred encourages students to bring their friends. But that doesn’t stop them from rocking out to Beyonce’s greatest hits.
“They usually sign up because they're big fans of Beyoncé's music, but they quickly start to make connections beyond just being fans," Allred says.
Allred, 33, says he’s been a huge fan of Beyoncé for a long time, but he didn’t think of her as a political actor until he came across an essay by Yale Professor Daphne Brooks that linked the singer to black, female disempowerment. ***
In Allred’s course, Beyonce’s music is paired with black, feminists texts, another love of his.
“That way, students are getting an education in the history of black feminist theory in the US, just using Beyoncé as the focal point,” he says. “I let them be pretty fan-oriented on the first day, but urge them for the remainder of the semester to push past that and engage academically.”
Thursday, October 23, 2014
So suggests the Korea Herald. The fertility rate (or lack thereof) among South Koreans is owing in part to the class inequality in the country and the demands of an industrial nation-state.
South Korea’s low birthrate is generating deep concern among policymakers.
The government is scrambling to shore up the falling birthrate, a threat that could jeopardize Asia’s fourth-largest economy, which is saddled with a rapidly aging population.
What many policymakers have failed to tackle is the underlying problem that forces Koreans to delay or forgo having children.
Just ask Kim Jin-ah, a 28-year-old Seoulite who still hasn’t been “properly” employed, despite her two university degrees.
“I don’t think marriage is an option for me right now,” said Kim, who currently works as a part-time tutor. “Having kids is just not even thinkable. I can’t even take care of myself right now. I am not sure if I deserve to be happy at this moment.”
After finishing her master’s degree in biology, Kim, at age 26, realized she didn’t want to be a scientist. She started looking for jobs ― a full-time position that would pay her enough to move out of her parents’ house and start a family of her own ― but never found one.
During one job interview, for a marketing position at a big firm, Kim was told that she was “too old” for the company’s entry-level positions.
Kim, who lives with her parents, is considering going back to school, or even overseas for job opportunities. She is putting off marriage until she gets a full time job.
“If you are not working full time and want to be married, you have to have wealthy parents,” she said. “That’s just not the case for me.”
Thursday, September 11, 2014
As one of the few African-Americans in her law school class, Paulette Brown noticed career counselors steering her and other black students toward legal service or public defender jobs assisting the poor, instead of more prestigious jobs in big law firms. But she refused to go down that path, eventually serving as in-house counsel for several Fortune 500 companies.
Since those law school days, Brown, a partner in the Boston law firm Edwards Wildman Palmer LLP, has fought against subtle racism, discrimination, and small slights known as “micro-inequities.” For much of her career, she has pressed firms to hire and promote more women and minorities; mentored hundreds of lawyers, mostly women of color; and trained many others on diversity in the workplace.Now Brown, 63, has a platform to expand her mission even further. Last month, she became the first black woman elected to lead the 400,000-member American Bar Association, which, until 1943, did not allow African-Americans to join.
In a profession where only 7 percent of partners are people of color and the number of female associates has fallen for the past five years, Brown is focused, among other things, on raising awareness about implicit bias in law offices, the legal system, and American society.
Sunday, August 31, 2014
I received a request from Prof. Charlotte Garden at Seattle to post about the upcoming Lat Crit-SALT conference, which I am happy to do.
Twelfth Annual LatCrit-SALT Call for Participation Junior Faculty Development Workshop October 9, 2014 University of Nevada-Las Vegas Las Vegas, NV
LatCrit, Inc. and the Society of American Law Teachers (SALT) are pleased to invite interested participants to the Twelfth Annual Junior Faculty Development Workshop (FDW), immediately preceding the SALT Teaching Conference. This annual workshop is designed for critical, progressive, and social justice oriented pre-tenure professors, including clinicians and legal writing professors, as well as those who may be contemplating a teaching career. However, we also encourage more senior members of the profession to attend, share their experience, and serve as resources and mentors.
The FDW is designed to familiarize critical, progressive, and social justice oriented junior faculty with LatCrit and SALT principles and values and support them in the scholarship, teaching, and service aspects of professional success. In addition, the FDW seeks to foster scholarship in progressive, social justice, and critical outsider jurisprudence, including LatCrit theory, among new and junior faculty, students, and practitioners. Finally, the FDW aims to cultivate a community of scholars interested in the continuation of this and similar projects over the years.
To facilitate community building through shared experiences and the exchange of ideas, we strongly encourage all participants to attend the entire workshop.
If you have questions about the workshop or would like to attend, please email SALTLatCritFDW@gmail.com. Although we will make efforts to accommodate all interested participants, RSVPs are strongly suggested by September 30, 2014.
Registration for the SALT Biennial Teaching Conference is available at http://www.saltlaw.org/conference_registration/
Saturday, August 9, 2014
LIVING THINKERS: AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF BLACK WOMEN IN THE IVORY TOWER examines the intersection of race, class and gender for Black women professors and administrators working in U.S. colleges and universities today. Through their diverse narratives, from girlhood to the present, Black women from different disciplines share experiences that have shaped them, including segregated schooling as children, and the trials, disappointments and triumphs encountered in Academia
Tuesday, August 5, 2014
From the NYT, Editorial, Kimberle Crenshaw (Columbia/UCLA), The Girls Obama Forgot
“ANYTHING that makes life harder for women makes life harder for families and makes life harder for children,” President Obama told an approving crowd last month, at a White House summit meeting on working families.
But this seemingly obvious point is not reflected anywhere in the president’s signature initiative on race — My Brother’s Keeper, a five-year, $200 million program that will give mentorships, summer jobs and other support to boys and young men of color, most of them African-American or Hispanic, and that entirely omits the challenges facing their mothers and sisters. At a meeting in Washington last week to announce new commitments to the program from corporations, school systems and nonprofits, Mr. Obama gave a perfunctory shout-out to “all the heroic single moms out there,” but did not utter the word “girls” even once.
Mr. Obama has told us why men of color are his focus. His moving story of the Kenyan father he knew for a month and the Kansan mother who went on to raise a president speaks volumes about his passion. But My Brother’s Keeper highlights one of the most significant contradictions of his efforts to remain a friend to women while navigating the tricky terrain of race. It also amounts to an abandonment of women of color, who have been among his most loyal supporters.
Thursday, July 17, 2014
Carmen Gonzalez (Seattle) and Angela Harris (UC Davis) have posted Presumed Incompetent: The Intersections of Race and Class for Women in Academia:
Abstract:On March 8, 2013, the Berkeley Journal of Gender, Law & Justice hosted an all-day symposium featuring more than forty speakers at the University of California, Berkeley School of Law to celebrate and invite responses to the book entitled, Presumed Incompetent: The Intersections of Race and Class for Women in Academia (Gabriella Gutiérrez y Muhs, Yolanda Flores Niemann, Carmen G. González & Angela P. Harris eds., 2012). Presumed Incompetent presents gripping first-hand accounts of the obstacles encountered by female faculty of color in the academic workplace, and provides specific recommendations to women of color, allies, and academic leaders on ways to eliminate these barriers. The symposium held at Berkeley continued the conversation begun in the book through a series of concurrent and plenary panels, poetry readings, and keynote addresses. Selected papers from the symposium were published in both the Berkeley Journal of Gender, Law & Justice and the Seattle Journal for Social Justice (SJSJ). This introduction discusses and contextualizes the papers published in the Berkeley Journal of Gender, Law & Justice. These papers reflect the exhilarating breadth and depth of the discussions that took place during the symposium. Like the papers published in SJSJ, they enhance our understanding of the hierarchies of the academic workplace, and offer additional tools to promote a more equitable and inclusive campus environment.
Tuesday, April 29, 2014
Maria Lopez (Loyola, New Orleans) and Kevin Johnson (Davis) have posted Presumed Incompetent: Important Lessons for University Leaders on the Professional Lives of Women Faculty of Color, Berkeley J. Gender, Law & Justice (forthcoming).
Academics have long known that the experiences of women faculty members of color differ in important respects from those of any other faculty members. Adding significantly to that body of knowledge, Presumed Incompetent: The Intersections of Race and Class for Women in Academia edited by Professors Angela P. Harris and Carmen Gonzalez in a collection of essays of different voices offers important lessons for scholars, university administrators and leaders, faculty members, and, for that matter, students interested in the experiences of women of color in academia. People of good faith who want to “do the right thing” may find it difficult to read the unsettling stories and pleas for empathy, internalize the lessons as based on common occurrences rather than outlier experiences, and consider how to address and redress the issues. Still, we as a collective have the obligation and responsibility to think about what might be done to improve the day-to-day lives of the next generation of women faculty of color.
To that end, this review essay directs attention at one chapter of the volume, which offers invaluable commentary and perspective on the other chapters and provides many lessons for university leaders hoping to make a positive difference. This is terrain where one might expect two minority law school deans (and faculty members) to feel most comfortable. In addition, as people of color with real life experience with these issues, we hope to provide insights that help university leaders to better appreciate, grapple with, and attempt to effectively address the concerns of women faculty of color
Wednesday, April 23, 2014
From her dissent in Tuesday's decision in Schuette v. BAMN, upholding Michigan’s state ban on race-conscious (and gender-conscious) admission decisions. (Citations omitted).
Race matters. Race matters in part because of the long history of racial minorities’ being denied access to the political process. And although we have made great strides, “voting discrimination still exists; no one doubts that.”
Race also matters because of persistent racial inequality in society—inequality that cannot be ignored and that has produced stark socioeconomic disparities.
And race matters for reasons that really are only skin deep, that cannot be discussed any other way, and that cannot be wished away. Race matters to a young man’s view of society when he spends his teenage years watching others tense up as he passes, no matter the neighborhood where he grew up. Race matters to a young woman’s sense of self when she states her hometown, and then is pressed, “No, where are you really from?”, regardless of how many generations her family has been in the country. Race matters to a young person addressed by a stranger in a foreign language, which he does not understand because only English was spoken at home. Race matters because of the slights, the snickers, the silent judgments that reinforce that most crippling of thoughts: “I do not belong here.”
In my colleagues’ view, examining the racial impact of legislation only perpetuates racial discrimination. This refusal to accept the stark reality that race matters is regrettable. The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to speak openly and candidly on the subject of race, and to apply the Constitution with eyes open to the unfortunate effects of centuries of racial discrimination. As members of the judiciary tasked with intervening to carry out the guarantee of equal protection, we ought not sit back and wish away, rather than confront, the racial inequality that exists in our society. It is this view that works harm, by perpetuating the facile notion that what makes race matter is acknowledging the simple truth that race does matter.
Wednesday, April 2, 2014
She used to wear a burqa in public, but now has had her face printed on thousands of ballot pamphlets for the provincial council in Wardak. She campaigns in person in a district, Saydabad, that is thick with Taliban.
The woman in question is 28 year-old Mariam Wardak's mother, who is running for public office in Afghanistan. More:
There is finally the sense here, after years of international aid and effort geared toward improving Afghan’s women’s lives, that women have become a significant part of Afghan political life, if not a powerful one.
On the other hand:
But their celebratory moment is also colored by the worry that those gains could so easily be reversed if extremists come back into power, or if Western aid dwindles. Those concerns have added urgency to this campaign season for women who are fighting to make their leadership more acceptable in a still deeply repressive society.
Wednesday, March 26, 2014
According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, men apparently have more leisure time than do women.
“In virtually every country, men are able to fit in valuable extra minutes of leisure each day while women spend more time doing unpaid housework,” according to the OECD. But the sharper point was that gender inequality is most stark in India, where the average man spends just 19 minutes a day on “routine housework” and the average woman spends almost five hours on such duties.
Of course, stats must be taken with some qualification and skepticism. Somehow the claim that there is more leisure time for men seems apt for those who can afford not to work. There is this to consider as well:
Millions of Indian men do huge amounts of housework — but in single-man or all-male households. Three years ago, I spent a few weeks in Mumbai interviewing dozens of auto rickshaw drivers for a long essay about their lives. An overwhelming majority of them lived in all-male households, often sharing a single room and cooking for one another. It’s not just them. Millions of poor and lower-middle-class Indian men leave behind their villages and families every year to work in cities as daily wage laborers, construction workers, auto rickshaw or taxi drivers, security guards, fruit or vegetable sellers, waiters or domestics, transferring the small surplus incomes of their city lives into economic security for all of their dependents back in the village.
Such a man runs his own household expertly and sometimes with evident pleasure, shopping, chopping, cooking and cleaning at high speed, being ribbed by his mates all the while. On his annual visit back to the village, though, he puts his feet up and doesn’t do even the 20 minutes of routine housework that would make him above average.
Thursday, February 27, 2014
Teri McMurtry-Chubb (Mercer), guest blogs today in response to Lisa McElroy (Drexel), Are Legal Writing Professors Like Nurses? Professor McMurty-Chubb serves as a member of the Association of Legal Writing Directors (ALWD) Board of Trustees, and Chair of the Legal Writing Institute (LWI) Diversity Initiatives Committee.
In the lodestar history of African American female nurses, Black Women In White: Racial Conflict and Cooperation in the Nursing Profession, 1890-1950 (Indiana University Press, 1989), Darlene Clark Hine discusses the racism Black nurses encountered in their professionalization as nurses. Hines' work is a sweeping tome that chronicles the hurdles Black nurses faced not only in caring for members of their communities, but also from the white women who shared their profession. Although Hines' work is an historical study, history oft repeats itself. A little over a year ago, in February 2013, an African American female nurse filed a lawsuit against Hurley Medical Center in Flint, Michigan after a new father (white) gave orders to her charge nurse that he did not want any Black nurses caring for his white baby (link to news story here: ). White nurses, however, were welcome. It seems that not all nurses are created equal.
As it is in nursing, so too it is in the academy. A 2002 study in the Chronicle of Higher Education stated that 39% of all full-time professors are women. Of this percentage 8% are African American and Hispanic women. See Black Professors On The Track. Recent works chronicling the experiences of these women, such as the highly praised Presumed Incompetent: The Intersections of Race and Class for Women in Academia (Utah State University Press, 2012), note that professors of color are isolated in university communities and lack allies in white women who wholeheartedly take up gendered battles, but shy away from those where race and gender collide in the bodies of their sisters of color. Of the 39% of women employed full-time in the academy, just over half are employed as instructors or lecturers. This necessarily means that African American and Hispanic women are represented disproportionately at the lower levels of employment status. A study published in 2003 by Deborah Jones Merritt and Barbara F. Reskin reported that 30.3% of tenure-track positions at law schools were occupied by white women as compared to 7.6% by women of color, New Directions for Women in the Legal Academy, 53 J. Legal Educ. 489 (2003), which brings us back to legal writing.
The experiences of women legal writing professors are not all the same. Women of color law professors who teach legal writing have a deeply textured, multi-layered experience in which privilege, power, and status operate differently than in the lives of white women law professors who teach legal writing. White women in the legal academy must build bridges to us, acknowledge our differences, and address how we can all advance together. If, as female law professors of color who teach legal writing, we are like Black nurses, then our white sisters in the academy must acknowledge their own race privilege as an impediment to our collective progress.