Saturday, January 8, 2022
Sad News: The Passing of Civil Rights Advocate Lani Guinier, Reportedly of Complications of Alzheimer's
I read the news late on Friday of the passing of Lani Guinier and it was especially sad to learn that family members reported her death, at just 71, was due to "complications of Alzheimer's disease." That report made me realize that I hadn't heard from her on the important civil rights issues of the last few years -- and this history probably explains why. Nonetheless, her teaching, her writing, her advocacy in court and in the field on behalf of civil rights, on voting rights, on student empowerment (often on behalf of women in law school classrooms, urging them them to speak out) will continue to impact the nation. In her 2002 book, The Miner's Canary -- sitting nearby on my shelf -- cowritten with Gerald Torres, the conclusion resonates with equal strength in 2022:
We credit the civil rights movement and the liberal legal model to the extent that each created a space for progressive politics and reduced racism as conventionally defined. This tolerance model has made alliance possible that were once unthinkable. But the civil rights movement too often seems to measure progress by looking backward; we want to shift the focus to where we are going, not how far we have come. In the past, conventional ideas of race were deliberately tied to issues of social policy in order to make programs of general concern sound like special pleading. Our response is to reclaim race in order to "complete" democracy."
With grateful feelings, and remembering her as a role model for so many, we will miss her.