Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Call for Papers: Past, Present, and Future of the City of Detroit Symposium

The University of Detroit Mercy Law Review is celebrating its 100th anniversary with an academic Symposium to be held on March 4, 2016. This Symposium will showcase the past, present, and future of the City of Detroit, and will gather scholars, policy makers, and community members to discuss the past, present, and future of Detroit.

Articles submitted may focus either on a specific era – past, present, or future – or they may trace a specific subject through the past, present, and propose future solutions. Specific topics could include, but are not limited to:

1. The Past

  • Civil rights and race relations
  • Labor law
  • Relationship between the City and the suburbs (or the rest of Michigan)

2. The Present

  • The Impact of the Bankruptcy
  • Efforts to eradicate blight and abandoned buildings
  • Public Education in Detroit

3. The Future

  • Impact of new developments on the future of Detroit
  • Relations between the City and the suburbs
  • The role of the law in developing new economic opportunities

The Law Review invites interested individuals to submit an abstract for an opportunity to present at the Symposium. Those interested should send an abstract of 250-300 words that details their proposed topic and presentation. Included with the abstract should be the author’s name, contact information, and a copy of their resume/curriculum vitae. Since the above list of topics is nonexhaustive, the University of Detroit Law Review encourages all interested parties to develop their own topic to present at the Symposium. In addition, while submitting an article for publication is not required to present at the Symposium, the Law Review encourages all speakers who are selected to submit a piece for publication in the Fall 2016 edition of the Law Review.

The deadline for abstract submissions is October 26, 2015. Individuals selected to present at the Symposium will be contacted by November 2. Law Review editorial staff will contact those selected for publication at a later date regarding details and deadlines for full-length publication.

The submissions, and any questions regarding the Symposium or the abstract process, should be directed to Law Review Centennial Symposium Director Katherine Ross at

September 30, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Islamophobia: New Name, Old Tradition

This post was originally published in the BBC, available here - 


Earlier this month, Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson told US media he would "not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation," in response to a question about whether "Islam is consistent with the Constitution".

Carson's statement galvanised defenders on the extreme right and prompted critical responses spanning from scorn to constitutional critique.

But Carson's statement was neither an isolated nor novel attitude. In June, a poll by Gallup found 38% of Americans would not vote for a "well-qualified" Muslim presidential candidate.

The root of his comments are found both in America's legal history and today's policing of Muslim communities.

"Islamophobia" is what it's called today. But the rising fear, hate and discrimination that currently threatens eight million Muslim Americans stems from a long and established American tradition of branding Islam as un-American, and demonising Muslim bodies as threat.

 copyrightReutersImage captionBen Carson has been under fire for statements about Islam

Denied citizenship

On the morning of 19 April 1995, the Federal Building in Oklahoma City was rocked by a bomb. The domestic terrorist attack killed 168 people and injured 680 more. Minutes after, media reports speculated that "Islamic extremists" or "Arab radicals" were the culprits.

Ninety minutes after the explosions, Timothy McVeigh - a white, Christian male - was arrested and later linked to the attack. There had been no evidence to support the idea Muslims had anything to do with the bombing.

Despite people with similar ideologies to McVeigh were responsible for the majority of domestic terrorist attacks in 1995 - a figure still true today - the legislation that followed the Oklahoma city bombing did not place its focus there.

The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (AEDPA) was the beginning of policing of Muslim subjects and communities. One part of this legislation led to the disparate investigation of Muslim American political and social activity, while another led to the deportation of Muslims with links - real or fictive - to terrorist activity.

This policing was broadened and intensified after the 9/11 terrorists attacks. More recently, US Homeland Security's Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) programme, as well as political demagoguery, further expands the suspicious focus on Muslims.

Until 1944, American courts used Muslim identity as grounds to deny citizenship. Even Christians perceived to be Muslims or feared to be "of mixed Muslim ancestry" were denied.

One Supreme Court ruling discussed the "[t]he intense hostility of the people of Moslem faith [toward Christian civilization]". Other courts issued rulings based upon the idea there was an inherent menace and threat to American life" posed by Muslims and Islam.

The courts looked beyond the genuine contours of Islam as faith, and mutated it into a political ideology, and most saliently, a homogenous race - instead of a multi-ethnic and multi-racial religion.

From 1790 until 1952 whiteness was a legal prerequisite for naturalised American citizenship. And Islam was viewed as irreconcilable with whiteness.

In a 1913 decision called Ex Parte Mohreiz, the court denied a Lebanese Christian immigrant citizenship because they associated his "dark walnut skin" with "Mohammedanism".

And in 1942, a Muslim immigrant from Yemen was denied citizenship because, writing about "Arabs" the court noted: "it cannot be expected that as a class they would readily intermarry with our population and be assimilated into our civilization."

In this case, the court conflated "Arab" with "Muslim" identity. The courts too believed that such an identity was "inconsistent with the Constitution", and said so in public rulings.

These legal baselines, rooted in old case law, are part of the rhetoric used by both Mr Carson and Donald Trump. But they also form the foundation of a current breed of state-sponsored Islamophobia.

The 'logic' of targeted policing

Fear of Islam is tightly knit into the American fabric, and deeply rooted in its legal, political and popular imagination. Whenever a domestic terrorist attack takes place in America, many quickly turn to tropes of an "Islamic menace" or "violent foreigner". While these tropes have taken on new forms and frames, they are conceptually identical to their predecessors.

Where evidence is lacking, both political rhetoric and national security policing apparatuses will justify their scrutiny of Muslims by using these tropes.

After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, or more recently, the Boston bombings (which spawned CVE policing), proponents of state-sponsored Islamophobia will justify disproportionate policing of Muslim Americans and the communities they live in on the grounds of isolated attacks involving Muslim culprits.

Although Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) statistics show that only 5% of domestic terrorist attacks involve a Muslim culprit, CVE is a programme functionally tailored to prevent and police Muslim Americans.

Steered by the conflation of Islam with national security threat, CVE policing was piloted in Boston, Los Angeles, and Minneapolis - cities with sizable Muslim American communities.

And even before the emergence of CVE, New York Police Department had its own programme of systematic policing and surveillance of Muslim Americans. It was ultimately abandoned because of its brazen violation of civil liberties.

CVE is built upon the same old and embedded stereotypes of Muslims injected into the American psyche centuries ago. Such policing links benign and routine religious, political and social activity with "radicalisation".

Making the Islamophobia dragnet local chills and erodes the constitutionally protected activities of Muslim Americans, and marks them as threats to their neighbours. Suggesting Muslim Americans need to be under special investigation endorses and emboldens the Islamophobic rhetoric among presidential hopefuls.

This combination stirs anti-Muslim fervour on the ground in America. If the state associates Islam with threat, then surely, that will influence political and media perceptions.

September 29, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 28, 2015

The Inconsistent and Incoherent Position of Ben Carson on a Muslim Presidency (Guest Blog by Professor Jasmine Abdel-Khalik)

Authored by guest blogger Professor Jasmine Abdel-Khalik

When he announced his candidacy, Mr. Carson stated his belief that there are only a few criteria for the Presidential pedigree:  (1) someone who believes in the Constitution; (2) someone who believes in their fellow man, loves America, and is compassionate; and (3) somebody who believes in, essentially, the Pledge of Allegiance.  So perhaps it is logical that he referred to some of these concepts when asked by Chuck Todd on Meet the Press whether a President’s faith should matter.  The answer was still surprising.  Mr. Carson suggested that some faiths are more American, more consistent with the Constitution than others.  Why?  I don’t know because he didn’t say.

Responding to the follow up question of whether Islam is consistent with the Constitution, Mr. Carson said that it is not.  That is an unequivocal statement.  Perhaps you could spin his follow up statements to say that he was focused on who he could advocate for or agree with.  But initially, he said Islam is not consistent with the Constitution.  Again, why?  I don’t know because he didn’t say.  At this point, I would think any reason given would be specious at best and demonstrating religious intolerance or racism at worst, but I would at least know what he thought. 

The press has focused on the statement that Mr. Carson would not vote for a Muslim President.  Unfortunately, this point seemingly has resonated with some as Mr. Carson has said that money is pouring in after his Muslim comments.   

But it’s the next answer that makes Mr. Carson truly inscrutable.  When Mr. Todd asked whether he would ever consider voting for a Muslim in Congress, Mr. Carson’s answer is inconsistent.

"Congress is a different story, but it depends on who that Muslim is and what their policies are, just as it depends on what anybody else says, you know.  And, you know, if there’s somebody who’s of any faith, but they say things, and their life has been consistent with things that will elevate this nation and make it possible for everybody to succeed, and bring peace and harmony, then I’m with them."

Now, I’m really confused.  Congressional candidates who are Muslim should be evaluated on individual merits and actions just like anybody else, and by implication Mr. Carson could be persuaded to vote for the candidate, but Islam is inconsistent with the Constitution, and he would not vote for a Muslim President? 

I would love to say that, if he thinks Islam can’t be consistent with the Constitution, Mr. Carson doesn’t understand Islam (and takes a terrible, Islamophobic position).  I would hope that this is not Mr. Carson’s intended message, but that would require me knowing what he arguing and what he is misunderstanding.  At this point, I have no idea.   

I could speculate that he thinks the Presidency has more symbolic value and should reflect his religion or his interpretation of God.  If that test were applied to him, then Mr. Carson may be in trouble because his specific religion is not the only or majority religion in America.  More importantly, as others have pointed out, Article VI of the Constitution prohibits any religious test as a qualification to any office or public trust. 

After the backlash against his comments began, he claimed that he said that many parts of Sharia law are not compatible with the Constitution.  First, he did not say that originally.  The transcript speaks for itself.  But let us take that as true.  As far as I am aware, no religion exactly parallels the provisions of the Constitution.  And yet, we have always had Presidents. 

Similar suspicions were raised against John F. Kennedy because he was a Catholic.  Before his election, 150 Protestant ministers made the exact same intolerant demand that Mr. Carson has since made of any Muslim candidate – the candidate must repudiate his or her religion.  In Mr. Carson’s case, he requires repudiation of Sharia law.  In the ministers’ case, they demanded that JFK repudiate the Roman Catholic Church to prove his independence.  Of course, President Kennedy won and became our first Catholic President, and none of these fears were borne out.  In fact, we just saw the Pope speak to Congress in front of a Catholic, Democrat Vice President and a Catholic, Republican Speaker of the House; and it is pretty clear that they often do not agree.  It now seems ludicrous to assume that a Catholic would be a puppet to the Holy Roman Catholic Church.  Even when considering application of Catholic doctrine to individual practitioners’ lives, the results of a recent Pew Research Center’s poll of American Catholics demonstrates how independent we are. 

So frankly, that returns me to Mr. Carson’s own words - albeit in the congressional context.  Voters should select candidates based on who the person is as an individual and not judge solely on one’s religious affiliation.  Why does he think that should be any different for a Muslim Presidential candidate?  It should not be.  And I would love to respond to Mr. Carson more specifically, but that would require him to understand what he’s saying.  Maybe he was just revealing his deep seated prejudice against Islam.  But even putting the most benevolent spin on his statements, one could charitably say that he doesn’t understand Islam, at least part of the Constitution, or our history.  But he felt free to opine anyway.  And that may be the most revealing point of all.    

September 28, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 25, 2015

Podcasts on Race and the Law

As podcasts become an increasing source of information, I will be regularly posting podcasts I come across that discuss legal or policy issues pertaining to race, ethnicity, or color.  I welcome our readers sending me additional podcasts that would benefit the Race and the Law blog community at

Here is the first batch.

How Accurate is TV’s Portrayal of Terrorism? May 6, 2015, RAND Corporation  


American Terrorist, June 8, 2015 FRONTLINE: Audiocast PBS
Race in America, From Watts to Ferguson and Beyond, August 8, 2015, On Point with Tom Ashbrook, by NPR,

September 25, 2015 in Current Affairs | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Three Views on Slavery as a National Institution: Why Dred Scott Matters

In the wake of Constitution Day 2015, two writers debated the role of slavery in the original Constitution. In a New York Times op-ed, Sean Wilentz argues that "the myth that the United States was founded on racial slavery persists, notably among scholars and activists on the left who are rightly angry at America's racist past." Wilentz argues that the fact that the Framers refused to create a property right in slavery demonstrates an "antislavery outcome." In his words:

Far from a proslavery compact of “racist principles,” the Constitution was based on a repudiation of the idea of a nation dedicated to the proposition of property in humans. Without that antislavery outcome in 1787, slavery would not have reached “ultimate extinction” in 1865.

Lawrence Goldstone rebuts Wilentz in a New Republic essay. Although it may be correct to say the Constitution does not formally establish slavery as a national institution, Goldstone argues, it nevertheless "in clause after clause . . . tried to make certain that slavery would endure as one." 

This exchange helps to forward the ongoing discussion about the relationship between America and eighteenth century chattel slavery. It helps to shatter the myths we have about the nobility and purity of the Founders' motives. This is a vital discussion in considering the meaning of race in America, as the recent Confederate flag debates have shown.  

Yet this exchange is incomplete. Neither Wilentz nor Goldstone consider Dred Scott v. Sanford in their analysis of how the Framers' structure ultimately impacted the state of slavery or empowered the antislavery movement. To the point, Dred Scott helps to demonstrate how the Constitution's "repudiation of slavery" (if such a repudiation can credibly be found in the original Constitution) was far from total.

Dred Scott made explicit what was implicit in 1787--that slaveholders had a property right in their slaves and that slaves could not become citizens short of an act of Congress. The Founders, in facilitating the operation of slavery, tying slavery to the South's political power, and at the same time creating mechanisms for protecting property rights from state domination in the Fifth Amendment, created a scheme that preserved space for, and protected the political economy of, slavery.  As others have pointed out, this logic is consistent with the view of the majority of the Founders.  This protection of slavery was strongly implied in 1787; the Dred Scott decision made this explicit in 1857.

Dred Scott completes Goldstone's argument and demonstrates the flaw in Wilentz's apologetic. What is needed is further public intellectual conversation of this sort about the Constitution and slavery.

H/T Ruthann Robson at ConLawProf Blog 

September 23, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Integrating Biological Insights into the Study of Race and the Law

For those following the legal developments of equal protection doctrine in the courts, Race and the Law in the Genomic Age: A Problem for Equal Treatment Under the Law by Professors Robin Bradley Kar and John Lindo may be of interest.   The abstract to the paper is pasted below.

"This is the “Age of Genomics”, and yet people who study race and the law often resist integrating biological insights into their understanding of human psychology and behavior. The historical reasons for this resistance are understandable, but the biological sciences have been undergoing a recent renaissance, which creates a contemporary problem of translation. This article explains why the appropriate response of the law to recent developments in the evolutionary and biological sciences is to recognize that there is more, rather than less, cause for concern with respect to how racial concepts typically function in the law. The short reason is twofold. First, belief in race is prone to function in ways that are far more prejudicial than probative of most issues relevant to criminal or civil liability. Second, racial concepts function automatically and unconsciously, often without racial animus or discriminatory intent. Hence, current equal protection doctrine, which requires a finding of discriminatory intent and is the central legal mechanism for guaranteeing the equal treatment of persons under the law, is poorly suited to guarantee equal treatment.

In fact, properly understood, evolutionary and biological paradigms offer support for many of the central empirical claims that critical race theorists have been making about race, law and society for some time now. Among those that Devon Carbado and Daria Roithmayr identify as “key modernist claims of the theory about which there is general consensus among practitioners in the United States” are the following: (1) “Racial inequality is hardwired into the fabric of our social and economic landscape”; (2) “Race is [nevertheless] a social construction whose meanings and effects are contingent and change over time”; (3) “Racial stereotypes are ubiquitous in society and limit the opportunities of people of color”; (4) “Because racism exists at both the subconscious and conscious levels, the elimination of intentional racism would not eliminate racial inequality”; (5) “The concept of color blindness in law and social policy and the argument for ostensibly race-neutral practices often serve to undermine the interests of people of color” (Carbado & Roithmayr 2014). Although critical race theorists have typically rejected evolutionary and biological paradigms, an increasing number have begun to argue for more direct engagement with the social sciences (Carbado & Roithmayr 2014). This chapter, written for the section on biology for the Oxford Handbook on Law and Technology, suggests that there may be room for cross-fertilization with the evolutionary and biological sciences as well.

The chapter ends by identifying four legal and policy implications. First, remedial forms of affirmative action should be used to cure not only for past practices of intentional discrimination but also for continuing effects of current unconscious discrimination. The shelf life of affirmative action is not likely to expire anytime soon, and its remedial use should be broadened. Second, the Supreme Court should reinterpret the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution so that it protects against not only intentional discrimination but also any disparate impact caused by racial beliefs that regularly function to produce inequality, as described in this chapter. Third, more policy focus should be placed on integration — a goal that has largely been abandoned since the last concerted efforts to enforce Brown v. Board of Education in the 1980s (Anderson 2011). Fourth, state actions and police policies that impact minorities should be based on deliberations that involve more diverse constituents. Mechanisms to produce racially diverse juries should be developed in some criminal and antidiscrimination cases."

The paper can be downloaded at


September 20, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 17, 2015

The Violence Inherent in the System: Race, Voter Suppression, and the Incomplete Work of the Constitution**

On this Constitution Day, I have been drawn to thinking about violence against minorities in America and how our constitutional system fails to address this violence.  We have seen numerous episodes of individual and community violence against neighborhoods of color from Ferguson to Baltimore.  We are familiar with the long list of individuals who have died at the hands of the police under questionable grounds.  (I discussed both here previously.)  This violence is so engrained and pervasive that it is systemic. In the words of a famous scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, it is “violence inherent in the system.” 

Yet this physical violence is but one manifestation of the long history of subordination of communities of color. This violence of white supremacy is also made manifest in the expressive violence of exclusion from the political process, as it dilutes and diminishes both minority individual and community political strength.  And our constitutional mechanisms are not fully addressing it.

Communities of color have been victims of this violence—whether state-imposed or state-abetted—for generations. This violence has taken various forms: slavery, Jim Crow, police brutality, and mass incarceration.  That violence attacked their bodies, their property, and their status as members of the American democratic community.

The ways that our constitutional system allows violence against vulnerable minorities represents an existential attack against minority communities and a continuation of the patterns of white supremacy (even if the intent of racial discrimination is absent).  This isn’t to say that the crises linked to the policing of minority communities, including police brutality and killings; racial profiling; mass incarceration; and racial disparities in the death penalty shouldn’t be thought of as less important—they are important and pervasive.  Yet these species of state-sanctioned violence are connected to the political exclusion that minorities suffer, and they are better seen as parts of a whole.

While criminal justice related violence counts as visible manifestations of violence against minorities by the state, there is also an invisible, expressive violence inherent in the system. It is the violence of marginalization and exclusion from the democratic process that is part and parcel of this existential crisis, as well as the damage done to the constitutional mechanisms meant to prevent such violence.

This becomes clear when one examines the movement against broader enfranchisement. As much as our Constitution promises freedom from “unreasonable searches and seizures,” our Constitution promises that states will allow all citizens to freely exercise the right to vote free of racial prejudice. Thus, and I note in a recent essay, denials of the right to vote that fall heavily on the basis of race—felon disenfranchisement, voter identification requirements, proof of citizenship requirements, gerrymandered electoral districts, and arbitrarily shifted election season rules—create barriers to minority voting in the states where these practices take place.  This suggests that the promise of political racial equality is not being fulfilled.

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 is supposed to mitigate many of these practices to promote the Fifteenth Amendment’s promise of ending racial discrimination in voting.  But in light of cases like Shelby County v. Holder, the ability for national solutions to be found to these problems has been greatly crippled.  Moreover, these barriers have been justified by a call for election integrity. While insuring fairness and impartiality in elections is important, the manifestation of this concern in laws that appear to hyper-regulate the political process through regulations that apparently bar access and discourage participation seem targeted at policing minority voters rather than insuring fairness of access. This raises questions about the legitimacy of these rules and the perverse incentives of the politicians who make those rules, which in itself casts doubt upon the integrity of elections.

This exact issue—the integrity of rules that frustrate minority access to the political process—has been raised in recent litigation under Section 2 of the VRA of 1965.  In Texas and North Carolina, civil rights groups have sued regarding voter identification qualifications.  The theory that these requirements disproportionately exclude minorities who lack the credentials the laws require at higher rates. The Fifth Circuit recently found this to be the case regarding the Texas’s voter identification requirement. (And it is worth noting that such questions would have been addressed far more directly had Section 5 of the VRA been operational.)

These laws are systemic violence against minorities.  They likely effectively disenfranchise minorities (and they also send the expressive message that minorities are not welcome to vote).  Such exclusion from voting—that fundamental right that is supposedly protective of all other rights—is thus exclusion from full status as citizens.

The purpose of fundamental rights in a democratic constitution is to protect “We the People” from the systemic violence of the state and to prevent the state from abetting such violence, whether it is violence against our persons, our property, or our rights.  A constitutional system that touts democracy but allows disparate treatment of its citizens of color by disproportionately killing their bodies, destroying their ability to vote, and relegating minorities to a political and social underclass can be fairly questioned as illegitimate. The work of the Constitution is incomplete until this failing is remedied and the racialized physical and political violence inherent in the system is brought to an end. 

** This post originally appeared as part of the ACS Blog 2015 Constitution Day Online Symposium.  You can obtain that link here:

September 17, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

How Asian-American Voters Went From Republican To Democratic

In 2012, nearly three-quarters of Asian-American voters went for President Obama. But, rewind — 20 years prior — and you'll find fewer than a third voted Democrat.


Asian American racial identity, is, of course, more fluid and less discrete than for some other groups. Many Asian Americans are constantly flirting with trying to downplay or discard racial identity altogether. But so far, I think it remains true that we are still not considered fully American unless we embrace a multiracial (rather than colorblind) vision of what it means to be American. And so we are constantly constructing race. Which, in the current highly racialized climate, includes political identity. 

September 17, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

#IStandWithAhmed Example of Disparate Disciplining of Minority Students

The case of Ahmed Mohamed begs the question:  why do so many Americans believe the United States is post-racial?   Post-racialism means the interrogation, arrest, and suspension of a 14 year old Sudanese American Muslim boy for building a clock that his teacher believed was a bomb was merely a mistake, a good faith error, or an anomaly.  In a post-racial America, Ahmed’s race, national origin, and religion offer no insights into his excessively punitive treatment by school officials in Irving, Texas.  That Muslims have been systematically vilified as terrorists in the media for the past fourteen years would be irrelevant.  Indeed, the post-racial reasoning would conclude that Ahmed would have been treated the same had he been white and Christian.

The problem with post-racialism, as lofty as it may be, is that it is belied by the facts.  In Nancy E. Dowd’s book Justice for Kids, social scientists and legal scholars offer an alarming plethora of data that makes one thing clear: African American and other students of color are subject to disproportionately punitive and excessive disciplining by school officials.  One study found that in 2005-2006 white students comprised 56% of the student population and received 39% of school suspensions and expulsions.  In contrast, minority students who made up 44% of the student population received 61% of suspensions and expulsions.  For African American male students, the rate of suspension was 24% - nearly triple their representation of the student population.   Often times minor infractions lead to severe penalties.  

A common myth is that zero tolerance policies that produce such high levels of suspensions make schools more successful.  To the contrary,  the suspension rates of a particular state correlates negatively with its rankings in math, writing, and reading due to the negative  school environment.  It also contributes to the startling statistic that 59% of African American males graduated from high school compared to 80% of white males.   Harsh disciplining policies also adversely impact the mental health and well-being of the students affected, most of whom are racial and ethnic minorities. 

Hence, the embarrassment that Ahmed Mohamed experienced as he was interrogated for more than an hour by police, handcuffed in front of his peers, and hauled to a juvenile detention center to be fingerprinted leaves deep psychological scars.  It causes learning and school to be associated with humiliation and vilification.  And it makes students distrustful and resentful of the teachers who are supposed to nurture and support their intellectual growth, not punish it.

While Ahmed’s appalling experience was mitigated by the outpouring of support he received on social media, including a tweet by President Obama; the millions of other students of color experiencing disparate disciplining are not so lucky.  Instead, they suffer in silence in a racialized education system that blames the victims.

September 16, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Yellowface and the Presumption of Merit


After Yi-Fen Chou: A Forum

19 writers respond to Michael Derrick Hudson’s yellowface

Michael Derrick Hudson pretended to be an Asian poet, and submitted his work under the name Yi-Fen Chou. One of his poems was included in The Best American Poetry 2015.


Early last week, news broke that Yi-Fen Chou, whose poem is included in The Best American Poetry 2015, is not a Chinese poet, but in fact is a white man named Michael Derrick Hudson. After little success submitting poems under his real name, Hudson decided to take on the Chinese name Yi-Fen Chou—a name, it turns out, is shared by a high school classmate of his. His poem was accepted by the journal Prairie Schooner and later chosen by Sherman Alexie for this year’s anthology of Best American Poetry.

Why is it that when there is statistical inequality benefitting White people, the presumption by many is that the inequality is the result of superior merit, while success by people of color is bemoaned as "political correctness"? If Hudson saw people of color being selected above him, perhaps he should have worked harder at his craft and stopped complaining! But that's probably too harsh a judgment on a person I know nothing about. It's frustration aimed not at Hudson but at the general discourse about race where the narrative of the neutral and efficient market only works in one direction. Study after study showing that non-White names on resumes and applications get superior results, even with lesser qualifications, seems not to make the same impression.

Continue reading

September 15, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 14, 2015

Diversity and Coercive Assimilationism

“Diversity talk” is all around us – in schools, workplaces, and businesses.   Everyone seems to want to “be diverse” but few people seem to agree what that means precisely.  Does diversity mean two of every “other” that is not a member of the dominant group?  Does it apply only to immutable characteristics such as race, gender, or ethnicity?  Or is diversity expansively defined to include differences along ideological, class, and geographical lines?  In the end, the pursuit of diversity raises more questions than it provides answers.

As I highlight in a recent article, one dimension of diversity rarely addressed is intra-group differences, particularly among minority groups.  This oversight lends itself to “check the box” approaches to diversity where success is based on appearances – what I call the “colorful picture” syndrome.  So long as we can look at a snapshot of the institution and see people that look different in terms of skin color, gender, ethnicity, religion, and age; we can rest assured that we have demonstrated our commitment to diversity. 

However, the picture (as lovely as it may be) does not reveal the differences among members of the same minority groups.  For example, the business may boast a high percentage of female supervisors while failing to recognize that only women who fit certain gender stereotypes are promoted: deferential, perpetually pleasant, soft spoken, and not overtly ambitious.  Similarly, the Muslim Americans hired downplay or cover altogether their religious identities, dress in Western attire, and do not request religious accommodations.  This soon transforms into a process that allows only “good women,” “good Muslims,” or “good others” into the institution.  And what determines the goodness of a minority group is whether their identity performance assimilates into the dominant group’s behavior and norms so as to minimize the latter’s discomfort or inconvenience.

Assuming one objective of diversity is to create an environment where non-dominant groups have equal opportunities as dominant groups to thrive in an institution; we must recognize the stereotypes and essentialization that diversity efforts may perpetuate.  It is not merely about having a certain number of women, African Americans, Muslims, or Latinos in a particular institution.  Rather, meaningful diversity is about providing the same space for intra-group differences among members of minority groups as is granted to individuals within the dominant group.   

So before institutions “celebrate diversity,” they should ask themselves what price members of the minority group must pay in order to be included in the celebration.  And if it is higher than the majority group, then it is time rethink what we mean by diversity.

September 14, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Countering Violent Extremism (CVE): The 'New Patriot Act' or 'Same Old Policing Tactics"? A Review of Amna Akbar's "National Security's Broken Windows"




Counter-violent extremism (CVE) is the government’s new model, and strategy, for policing communities linked to national security and terrorist threat. Since its inception, CVE resources and programming have disparately targeted Muslim American communities. Although Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) statistics – the agency that coordinates CVE policing – found that 94% of terrorist attacks on American soil were commit by non-Muslims.

Following her initial article on CVE, titled “Policing Radicalization,” Ohio State University Law Professor follows up with "National Security's Broken Windows," published in the most recent volume of the UCLA Law Review.  The Article analyzes how police engagement with Muslim American communities - which is foundational to CVE strategy - must be viewed as an integral part of a broader policing apparatus; and specifically, preexisting community policing regimes.  Akbar writes:  

"Efforts at improving communication and collaboration with communities typically on the wrong side of the gun. On the surface, it appears the FBI is working to build open lines of communication with Muslim communities, to learn about community concerns, and to provide reassurance that law enforcement is committed to equal protection for all communities. Indeed, the federal government anchors its community engagement with Muslim communities in a broader history and language: that of community policing with marginalized groups in the ordinary criminal context, calling on principles of communication, collaboration, and trust building."

Although the "community outreach" dimension of CVE is regarded as "softer" and "more cooperative" by proponents and CVE supporters (many of them within the Muslim American community), Akbar contends that CVE policing does not function distinctly or independently, but is overlaid with traditional community policing programs.  She writes, "To understand the harms of community engagement approaches, it is essential to appreciate the larger context of law enforcement scrutiny in which they occur."    

Therefore: first, highlighting that Muslim American communities already marred by racialized community policing may already, and in the imminent future, also face overlapping CVE scrutiny; and second, that community policing tactics employed by CVE pose considerable civil liberties threats to Muslim American populations, particularly those situated in concentrated communities and - as I argue in my forthcoming piece, "Between Indigence, Islamophobia and Erasure: Poor and Muslim in 'War on Terror' America" - indigent and working class spaces.

In addition to analyzing how CVE policing is overlaid with traditional community policing strategy, National Security's Broken Windows closely examines the range of speech, association and free-exercise perils the program poses to Muslim Americans.  Initially launched in Los Angeles, Minneapolis and Boston - cities strategically chosen because of established Muslim American presence and/or recent attacks - the FBI is poised to introduce CVE to additional cities.  Therefore, through deploying informants in community centers, mosques, neighborhood businesses, and other strategic centers where Muslim Americans live and congregate - Akbar discusses how political dissent, piety, or shift in religiosity could mark a subject as a prospective or actualized "radical," conflating constitutionally protected activity with presumed guilt.

An excellent and illuminating Article, National Security's Broken Windows is vital reading for national security, first amendment, and race law scholars.  With CVE programming expanding, and the increasing focus of  debate within political and advocacy spaces, this piece will be sure to have an immense impact beyond the bounds of legal discourse.  

September 14, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

2015 CRS Symposium at UCLA--Race and Resistance: Against Police Violence

The Critical Race Studies Program at UCLA has really become a leading institution in the study of race. This year's symposium, Race and Resistance: Against Police Violence, looks fabulous.

CEN_CRS_2015 Symposium-large

September 8, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

A Personal Note on Birthright Citizenship

Indulge me in some pride about my father, Ford Lee. This article describes his lifelong devotion to the Chinatown YMCA in San Francisco. The article was written some time ago, but he continues to spend time supporting and encouraging Chinatown kids. This last summer, at the age of 83, he traveled up to the Sierras again to sleep in a sleeping bag and cook for the kids at summer Y camp.

2002 Ford Lee article


I also have an older picture, of his father, my grandfather, Lim Guey Him, on an immigration document. He came to the United States using an alias, as a "paper son," fraudulently claiming to be the son of a legal resident. He was an illegal immigrant. (I've written about him before.)

So my Dad, born in San Francisco, is a citizen by birthright citizenship.

Continue reading

September 8, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Book Announcement: Hip Hop and the Law (Carolina Academic Press 2015)

I believe that one of the functions of this blog is to share innovative scholarship that addresses race and the law themes.  In that spirit, I want to announce the publication of HIP HOP AND THE LAW, an innovative scholarly collaboration and textbook edited by Professors andré douglas pond cummings, Donald F. Tibbs, and the late Professor Pamela Bridgewater-Toure.  


The book features scholars and attorneys from across the legal academy.  (Full disclosure: I am a contributor to the volume.)  The book's chapters explore the varied ways hip hop music and culture interact with and comment on American law. These essays speak to a multitude of substantive issues, including the content of a hip hop and the law perspective and the interaction between the hip hop consciousness and 21st century legal activism. These chapters also provide incisive hip-hop driven accounts of various doctrinal issues ranging from intellectual property law to mass incarceration.  

This volume is available here from Carolina Academic Press.  It is not only a substantive contribution to this growing area of scholarship, but it also provides a substantial text for classroom use for those interested in offering a Hip Hop and the Law course. I encourage scholars and the public to share and make use of this resource.  

September 2, 2015 in Books | Permalink | Comments (0)