Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Professor Ben Davis - Whose National Security?

Guest Blog by Benjamin G. Davis, Professor of Law, University of Toledo College of Law

The news recently reported "Race War Plot Leads to Five Arrests on Federal and State Charges." This kind of domestic terrorism has an old pedigree in this country that forms part of the national security concerns of America. Yet, these types of cases are not highlighted in the national security space unless someone like me brings it up. This point is part of the general question of "whose national security" are we concerned. I raised this point at the meeting of the ABA Standing Committee on Law and National Security November 7, 2015. 
It is not simply enough to publish press releases on Muslims being convicted to cover national security. I am far more worried about the risk of some crazy young white man - as we have seen so many times over these years - killing me in some racist rage or as part of some crazy idea to start a race war. (Update: my concern is well founded - That meme was what Charles Manson was trying to do and has a very old pedigree back through the KKK.
I await the confronting of Senators Cornyn and Tillis and other elected officials and law enforcement people with ties to the KKK. Those of you who will quickly turn away from this essay form part of the narrow view of national security that contains in it a complete indifference to these kinds of virulent domestic terrorism that are a clear and present danger to many Americans.  Just keep in mind those people in Charleston praying in church and gunned down by that young white man for his ideological reasons that have nothing to do with Islam and everything to do with the long painful history of racial oppression in this country.
Take a moment to think about it before reflexively dismissing these concerns. To do that is to countenance collateral damage with a coldness that borders on sadism.
In another recent case, Donal Trump supporters threw a Black Lives Matter protester to the ground and kicked him during a rally.  Why do I have to read about these things first in the foreign press? This man showed courage in going to that meeting and raising that issue of black lives matter. The attack on him instigated by Donald Trump is an example of the kind of domestic terrorist violence that the national security establishment is hesitant to address. This reality confirms the need for my question "whose national security?" that I raise to raise your consciences.
I have been that lone black man under attack - in 2012 at a "True the Vote" meeting in Worthington, Ohio where I duly paid my entrance fee and - in the Q and A - was threatened with the police and removal for asking my questions that were relevant and to the point. I was called a coon and a faggot within earshot of my son.
The sense of entitlement to commit violence of these people on this black man reflects the undervaluing of black agency that is endemic in this country.
So before you reflexively turn away from this essay, do not say that you did not know about this problem. Those who turn away merely choose to disregard this kind of collateral damage which is a consequence of their narrow vision of national security.
We need a national security that assures a safe space for all Americans.

November 25, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Call for Papers - SE/SW People of Color Legal Scholarship Conference

The 2016 Southeast/Southwest People of Color Legal Scholarship Conference at by Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University (FAMU) College of Law (Orlando, FL) welcomes papers and works-in-progress for our conference on February 25 ­ 27, 2016. The conference theme is ³Power and Authority² in Promoting Justice for All. The deadline for submissions is December 4, 2015.

For information about the topics for the call for papers, visit this link:

For information about works-in-progress, visit our website here:

The conference also has a student writing competition, and we encourage you to let your students know about it. The article must be a cutting-edge legal/law and society issue related to the conference theme: ³Power and Authority² in Promoting Justice for All. More information is available here:


November 24, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, November 19, 2015

"This morning at Harvard Law School we woke up to a hate crime."

 "The portraits of black professors, the ones that bring me and so many other black students feelings of pride and promise, were defaced. Their faces were covered with a single piece of black tape, crossing them out of Harvard Law School’s legacy of legal scholarship."Screen Shot 2015-11-19 at 3.34.32 PM

    I can't be more eloquent than Michele Hall, Harvard 2L, in this photo essay about what happened at Harvard Law School today. And I'm not going to analyze what happened in the usual terms of proof and harm and culpability and intent that will no doubt be played out over the internet in the next few hours and days. I'm just going to say that, people often reflexively think and talk about these events in language that reveals racial identity and allegiance. "Why do they behave that way?" "What about our kids?" And I often implicitly invoke my own non-Black, non-White racial identity as I try to mediate dialogue about race, talking about both Black people and White people as though I were an outside observer. 

I don't feel like doing that today. Today, I'm saying "Why did they do that to us? Why did they do that to me?"

Seriously, why?

November 19, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 17, 2015



Most of us like to think that we would have been the ones sheltering Jews fleeing the Holocaust, that we would not have joined the crowds on the town square watching the lynchings of Black people, that we would not have cheered the internment of Japanese Americans and then purchased their farms for pennies on the dollar. But we should remember that economically stressed Germans scapegoated people they historically feared and didn't understand, and White Americans thought Black men were savage beasts obsessed with ravishing White women, and even the Greatest Generation didn't think they could distinguish loyal Japanese Americans from the diabolical Oriental enemy. I don't mean to excuse the irrational hatred that motivated some of them, but most people don't think of themselves as monsters; they think their fears are justified.

So I'm just wondering how anyone can be confident that their fears of Syrian refugees--with elements of all three of these examples--are any more rational than these other tragic historical mistakes.

Continue reading

November 17, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, November 15, 2015

French Muslims' Post-9/11

Paris just suffered a terrorist attack that will leave an imprint as deep in the French psyche as the September 11th attacks did on the American psyche. After families of the victims mourn and bury their loved ones, and hopefully heal from an unimaginable pain, the national wound will remain.

From it will rise anger, hate, and retaliation directed at the Muslims in France, whom by virtue of their identity will be guilty by association.

The line drawn to keep them as outsiders from French society will thicken. They will be told to “go home” to some unfamiliar land in North Africa or the Middle East which most have never seen. Their bodies and minds will be placed under surveillance watching every step they make, listening to every word they utter. Their very presence on French soil will be viewed as an existential threat to the survival of France.

Few will notice the tears in their eyes as they mourn their friends and family killed by the terrorist attacks in Paris. Few will acknowledge that they too were born in France, their parents were born in France, and their grandparents lived much of their life in France. That they too feel their country has been attacked. That they too feel their sense of safety has been shattered.

The right wing will grow stronger. Their chants of hate will grow louder. Kick them out. Close the borders. Bomb them. They will blame the left for being naïve in thinking “those Muslims” could ever be integrated, could ever be civilized. They will demand stricter immigration laws, stricter criminal laws, and punishing Muslims for practicing their faith. The backlash will last for months, maybe years. The hate will spread on the wings of fear crossing borders to other European countries.

Innocent Muslims will be targeted in public spaces, harassed at work, bullied in schools, and the hostile stares will follow them everywhere. Carrying a double burden – French Muslims will grieve for their country and fear for themselves.

All the while, France's Muslims will remain herded into ghettos where jobs are rare and social problems are ample. The only way out is deportation or incarceration. No one will care about their plight.

Instead, attention will be on suspecting them of past, present, and future terrorism. The French ghetto will become a theater of war where informants lure in vulnerable youth into sting operations and terrorists recruit the hapless and hopeless to fight in Syria where they are promised treasure and dignity.

All eyes will be on the Muslims in France, but the stares will not see the looks of trepidation and sadness in their eyes.

The City of Lights was attacked by terrorists on November 13, 2015. Criminals claiming to be Muslims killed over 130 people and injured over 400. Millions of French Muslims will pay the price. But France will not be any safer for it.

November 15, 2015 in Food and Drink | Permalink | Comments (2)

Monday, November 9, 2015

Call For Papers: "Critiquing the Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) Framework" at UC-Berkeley, Feb. 5-6, 2015


Download Berkeley Call for Papers 10.14.2015-Activated Links


Institutionalizing Islamophobia:  Critiquing the Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) Framework and Emerging Programs 


The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) defines “violent extremism” as “individuals who support or commit ideologically-motivated violence to further political goals.”  The government’s concerns with violent extremism appears to be limited to policing “homegrown terrorism,” or acts of violence that are committed within the boundaries of the United States “without direction or inspiration from a foreign terrorist group.”  Furthermore, government resources are directed at homegrown terrorism committed by individuals who self-identify as Muslim.  The consequence is an over-policing and securitization of Muslim communities in the United States under the rubric of “Countering Violent Extremism” (CVE).

Several Muslim organizations have embraced CVE programs pursuant to a belief that such programs empower communities to both protect their youth from recruitment by foreign terrorist organizations and protect Muslims from government over-reach. By working with the government, cooperating Muslim organizations claim they are better able to shield their constituents from ill-informed, identity-driven counterterrorism practices. However, because CVE pilot programs in Boston, Los Angeles, and Minneapolis focus solely on Muslim communities, it has become increasingly evident that CVE programs conflate Muslim identity with a propensity for violence. Moreover, the myriad factors that CVE claims to determine an individual’s propensity to engage in violence are broad and amorphous, such that participating in routine religious, political, and other constitutionally protected activities are criminally suspect.


Accordingly, this conference convenes scholars, advocates, and activists to explore and critique the fundamental assumptions and narratives on which CVE programs are founded.  In addition to producing empirical and normative scholarship, the conference aims to develop advocacy strategies grounded in the experiences of those most directly and adversely impacted by CVE programs.


To this end, we are accepting paper proposal submissions that focus on one or more of these questions:


  1. What is the relationship between CVE programs and Islamophobia?
  2. How do narratives of empowerment euphemize the goals of CVE programs?
  3. Can CVE operate in a racially or religiously neutral manner?
  4. What is the relationship between CVE and the international war on terror?
  5. What are counter-narratives to the CVE paradigm?
  6. What role, if any, do Muslim organizations play in buttressing CVE programs?
  7. How has CVE impacted particularly vulnerable segments of the Muslim American population?
  8. How does CVE interact or overlay with conventional community policing paradigms?


The conference will take place on February 5-6, 2016 at Boalt Law School at the University of California-Berkeley.  The deadline for paper abstracts and panel proposals is December 1, 2015.  Prospective participants are encouraged to submit panel proposals.  Individual and panel proposals can be emailed to the conference committee at OR you can fill out the form here to submit an individual paper or here to submit a panel proposal.  Please include your name, paper topic, academic title, and institutional affiliation.


This conference is sponsored by the Islamophobia Research and Documentation Project of the Center for Race and Gender at the University of California at Berkeley and the National Coalition to Protect Civil Freedoms.  

Conference Committee:
Dr. Hatem Bazian, Berkeley University*

Dr. Maha Hilal, National Coalition to Protect Civil Freedoms

Professor Khaled Beydoun, Barry University School of Law*

Professor Sahar Aziz, Texas A&M University School of Law*[i]

* Title used for affiliation purposes only.

November 9, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, November 5, 2015

It is Society That Needs to Change: Stockman on Respectability Politics

Regular readers know that we recently concluded a symposium in response to Randall Kennedy's "Liberal Defense of Respectability Politics." Both Professor Kennedy's essay and the symposium are worth reading (if you haven't already) as the dialogue over the essay covers a multitude of perspectives and insights on the issue.

Of course, respectability politics isn't just an academic topic; it inherently political. Yesterday, Farah Stockman of the Boston Globe published a story titled "The new face of civil rights." Her op-ed covers the respectability politics debate from the point of view of #blacklivesmatter activists.  Unlike Professor Kennedy and other new-day defenders of the politics of respectability, Ms. Stockman's essay informs the discussion with observations about the dignity and (dare I say it) respectability of the #blacklivesmatters leaders.

Ms. Stockman's comment is refreshing and helpful, as it documents the clear message that "black people don't need to change.  It [is] society that needs to change."

Maybe the rhetoric of respectability politics misses this bigger point by attempting to cabin in the indignation of contemporary civil rights activists (solely?) because it results in bad optics. (I made a similar point last week.) The respectability rhetoric ultimately says to these activist, you're making us (whomever the "us" is:  the "race," the "political establishment," the "prior generation of activists," or the "owners of respectability rhetoric") look bad.

Yet, as Ms. Stockman points out, the 60s civil rights movement activists were told the same thing. Even when student protestors of the era of King and SNCC sat in at Woolworth's lunch counter in their Sunday-go-to-church respectability, those activists were accused of "making the race look bad."

How times have changed.

November 5, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Call for Papers for 2016 Southeast/Southwest People of Color Conference

2016 Southeast/Southwest People of Color Legal Scholarship Conference

Hosted by Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University (FAMU) College of Law (Orlando, FL)

Dates:  February 25 – 27, 2016

Conference Theme: “Power and Authority” in Promoting Justice for All

FAMU College of Law is proud to host the next SESW POC Legal Scholarship conference.  The Planning Committee has selected the general conference theme “Power and Authority” in Promoting Justice for All.  In this regard, we have selected a number of panels as conference topics.  This is a formal solicitation for paper and panel proposals on the following conference topics:

Policing and the Community: The Politics and Perceptions of Power and Authority

Focus of Discussion: To discuss the politics and policies contributing to encounters with the police being a controversial and dangerous endeavor for minorities.  Topics may include Law Enforcement and Communal Perceptions/Misperceptions, Why Black Lives Matter, the Failure of the War on Drugs, and the Over-policing of Minority Communities.

Cultural Competency in the “Justice” System

Focus of Discussion: To discuss the potential consequences of not having a minority presence in planning safe streets and communities. Topics should also include the necessity for cultural competency and the consequences of under-representation of minorities in constructing and enforcing a fair Justice System.

On the Question of Racism in 21st Century America

Focus of Discussion: To discuss changes in the social climate from slavery to a “post-racial” America and whether there has been an impact on the Justice System.

Our Children and the Replication of Criminalization

Focus of Discussion: To discuss the overreaction of schools and law enforcement to the perceived misbehavior of black children.   Studies show that black children are treated far more harshly than white kids for similar misbehavior.  Topics should include proposed solutions.  

Criminalizing And Policing The LGBT Community In America

Focus of Discussion: To discuss the impact of police encounters with member of the LGBT Community from a cultural competency approach.

An Open Conversation on the Future of Black Males In America

Focus of Discussion: This panel is designed to give the panelists an opportunity to make a brief presentation and then engage in an interactive discussion with the audience on a range of topics including police encounters, entrepreneurship, and prison statistics. 

The Role of HBCUs in Developing Cultural Understanding and Access to Justice

Focus of Discussion: To discuss the purpose and importance of HBCUs in training and producing culturally competent professionals and leaders at every level of the Justice System.

What It Means To Be Black and Female In America

Focus of Discussion: This panel is designed to give the panelist an opportunity to make a brief presentation and then engage in an interactive discussion with the audience on a range of topics including the police encounters, pay equity, entrepreneurship, upward mobility and the dehumanization of the black female. 

Each proposal must include paper or presentation title, presenter(s), affiliation, and current email contact, along with a C.V. and an abstract of no more than 250 words.  Please submit materials via email to with the subject line:  2016 SESW Conference Proposal.

The submission deadline is Dec 4, 2015.  Scholars whose submissions are selected for the conference will be notified not later Jan 4, 2016.  There are limited spots available so we encourage early submissions, as selections will be made on a rolling basis.

 SESWPOC 2016 Work-In-Progress (WIP) Submissions

Additionally, SESWPOC will provide WIP workshops to provide scholars with an opportunity to present WIPs and receive invaluable feedback on their articles from a designate reviewer and other conference participants. This is a formal solicitation for WIP presenters and reviewers for the 2016 SESW POC Conference.  We accept various types of proposals for WIP presentations, such as draft articles, article outlines, and article ideas. WIPs can cover any subject matter that is publishable in a law journal.

If you would like to present a WIP, please send your abstract to Ann Marie Cavazos at, Lydia D. Johnson at or Stephanie Ledesma at with the subject line 2016 SESW WIP.  The submission deadline for WIP abstracts is December 4, 2015.  Selected WIP authors will be notified by January 4, 2016.

If you are willing to serve as a reviewer for a WIP, please indicate your subject area(s) via email to Ann Marie Cavazos, Lydia Johnson, or Stephanie Ledesma.


November 3, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Professor Randall Kennedy Discusses Respectability Politics on KERA's THINK

For those following the debates surrounding "respectability politics," you may find of interest Professor Randall Kennedy's interview on THINK hosted by Krys Boyd at KERA.   The summary and link to the interview is below.

"As an African-American child growing up during the Civil Rights era, Randall Kennedy was taught to always put his best foot forward in order to survive. That philosophy contradicts the argument that it’s unfair for minorities to have to hold themselves a higher standard. This hour, we’ll talk to Kennedy, who’s now a Harvard Law professor, about why he still believes his parents’ methods are best. His essay on the topic appears in the current issue of “Harper’s.”"

November 1, 2015 | Permalink | Comments (0)