Thursday, December 29, 2016

Postcard from Egypt During Christmas 2016

After a divisive presidential election year with the purported threat of terrorism from the Middle East dominating the news cycle, spending Christmas in Egypt was refreshing. Completely contradicting the xenophobic stereotypes of Arabs as violent and religiously intolerant, I leisurely walked with Egyptians along the boardwalk of the tranquil Red Sea decorated with Christmas trees and holiday lights. Meanwhile, in the hotels and open-air cafes, middle and upper class Egyptian Christians and Muslims friends dined and socialized together during the holiday weekend.   It was a refreshing reality, far removed from the vitriol of Islamophobia, racism, and xenophobia that infects American post-election discourse.

My Christmas visit to Egypt brings to light the reality that what we read in the media about the Middle East is so narrowly focused on violence – real, exaggerated, or imagined – that it is no surprise that Americans are easily manipulated by the politics of fear. We expect all Middle Eastern countries to look like ISIS-controlled territory. We are indoctrinated to believe that we must fight “them” because they want to kill “us.” We are tricked into consenting to spending billions of dollars on military endeavors that have little to do with our public safety and a lot to do with propping up dictators; we do not question our politicians’ false claims of a clash of civilizations between East and West, between Muslim and Christian.

Yes, there is real violence in Syria, Yemen, and part of Iraq where proxy wars are destroying societies. But the day-to-day activities of the other hundreds of millions of people who live in the Middle East does not consist of actively resisting Western democracy or sympathizing with terrorist organizations on social media sites. Most people spend their time thinking about how to make ends meet in stalled economies. As inflation slices salaries in half, more than sixty percent of their income is spent on buying food. They fret over how they will pay the private school fees for their children because the public school system is reputed to graduate students who can barely read. They worry for their sons who cannot get married because they cannot afford to move out of the family home. For the lucky few who can afford a holiday at Egypt’s beautiful Red Sea, they spend quality time with their families away from the stress of urban life in Cairo and Alexandria.

What Middle Easterners are not doing is conspiring to kill Americans or plotting how to join terrorist groups. The over 90 million people in Egypt have other more important things to think about than appeasing Americans and Europeans’ Orientalist racial tropes of the Muslim terrorist. They are looking to work, expand their businesses, and improve their family’s lot in society. And when their authoritarian regimes (most of whom are supported by Western governments) attempt to distract them with conspiracy theories of American plots to destroy the economy – they are not taking the bait. Having suffered from decades of poor governance, they know all too well that these are common ploys deployed to shirk responsibility.

So as our leaders distract us with foreign boogeymen to blame for American politicians’ failures in governance and economic policies, we should learn from our counterparts in the Middle East. Like us, Muslim and Christian Arabs want jobs, decent wages, good infrastructure, and government accountability. Sharing our contempt for terrorism, they view the tiny minority of terrorists in the Middle East as obstacles to their aspirations for personal and societal prosperity.

As global citizens with the same fundamental human aspirations, I hope we in the West will recognize the recent anti-Muslim and xenophobic discourse for what it is – a tool of political manipulation used to persuade Americans to be complicit in the same policies and violence that led us all to this point.

As I write this postcard during Christmas in Egypt, I am inspired by Egyptians’ resilience and tenacity despite challenging economic times and a failed revolution.   I will follow their example to remain optimistic for 2017 as I return to a polarized America split apart by a historically divisive presidential election.

December 29, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, December 12, 2016

CFP: Innocence Network Conference 2017

Call for Papers Innocence Network Conference:

The Innocence Scholarship Committee of the Innocence Network is seeking high quality social science and legal scholarship for presentation at the 2017 Innocence Network Conference in San Diego, California on March 24-25 ( 

Areas of research are open but should touch upon the multifaceted causes, implications, and/or remedies of wrongful conviction. International papers are welcome but must be submitted in English. Please submit a title and paper proposal to the Innocence Scholarship Committee at this Gmail account: by February 1, 2017. Paper proposals must be no more than 200 words. Completed drafts must be submitted to the Committee by March 17, 2017. 

The Innocence Scholarship Committee is actively seeking publication for those papers accepted for Conference presentations in a law review symposium edition. More information about that is forthcoming. 

The Innocence Scholarship Committee is composed of the following Members: Professor Aliza Kaplan, Oregon Innocence Project, Lewis & Clark School of Law, Portland, Oregon; Professor Valena Beety, West Virginia Innocence Project, West Virginia College of Law; Professor Keith Findley, Wisconsin Innocence Project, University of Wisconsin Law School; Professor Stephanie Roberts Hartung, New England Innocence Project, Northeastern Law School; and Associate Clinical Professor Paige Kaneb, Northern California Innocence Project at Santa Clara Law.

December 12, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Still Recovering, But Not Surprised (Professor Ediberto Roman)

After reading all of the post-presidential election excuses concerning the reasons for the failure of Hillary Clinton to win the White House which virtually all seem to center on the failure of democrats, , to find solutions to the White working class in so many rejoins in the country, see for example , I remain disappointed with a reality many people of color were reminded of on November 8th.  Donald Trump ran and won because of the power of hate, bigotry, and White Supremacy.

As a reasonable thinking person of color that was mortified by the weekly disqualifying statements by Trump, aimed at virtually every vulnerable minority group in this country: i.e., the physically disabled, Arabs, Muslims, Latinos, African-Americans, and women, just to name a few, I sincerely believed reasonably-thinking people would come out in huge numbers to reject bias. I thus volunteered hundreds of hours on the Clinton Campaign, doing everything from poll watching, to phone banks to writing op-eds both in English and Spanish. My sense was that Democrats, and People of Color in particular were motivated to reject the hateful rhetoric stemming from the other side. Indeed, I perhaps foolishly, like so many other pundits, predicted in both English and Spanish the Latino electorate would come out in massive numbers to reject bias and bigotry. See for example, and 

Like millions of others, and virtually every news account and prognosticator in the country, I was dead wrong on the election results and what actually was reasonable thinking in our times. What the days since have reminded me was the place, People of Color in general and Latinas and Latinos specifically, we currently hold in this society. Many of us were lulled into thinking our world had changed, perhaps in part due to the two-term election of Barak Obama as our President. We believed our world and country had progressed and would act rationally to reject the cornerstone of the Trump campaign—rhetoric centered on White Nationalism. What our collective Psyche failed to appreciate was that the White majority in fact acted rationally—they came out like locust to reject the inclusiveness of the progressive agenda of Obama, the Democrats, and other left of center groups throughout the land. Through the annals of time, leaders from Gloria Steinem, Malcolm X, Cesar Chavez to Harriet Tubman have noted that both freedom and power is not given up freely, it has to be fought for and taken.

On November 7, 2016, the vestiges of self-interest, hegemony (perhaps explaining why so many White women were okay with such an embarrassing misogynist candidate, and how 18% of Latinas and Latinos were okay with the unprecedented hateful and demeaning words directed at them and their brothers and sisters) showed its strength to reclaim “their America.”

For the rest of us, I have a response, perhaps to give us a moment of optimism as we prepare to face challenging days ahead: to use the vernacular of my old inner city New York neighborhood: “no worries, I got you.” You see, I, along with all reasonably thinking progressive people, know the era of successful institutional bias is in the midst of ladder chapters of the annals of U.S. history. You see, the demographics of our populous and in fact the power of education is not with them.  We know an ill-equipped egomaniac unqualified candidate running on his nauseating ego and the interim power of hate will not succeed. Yes, he will be the president, but his self-interest, vanity, and shameful arrogance will hurt millions. We, however, will still be present ready to stand up for the voiceless and be “presente,” using that old Caribbean sentiment to be counted upon to ensure our narrative of inclusion, love, and reasonable thinking will be this country’s lasting legacy after the failure of hate.

by Ediberto Roman, Professor of Law, Florida International University School of Law

-- This is the final blog in the online symposium hosted by the Race and the Law Profs Blog examining the implications of a Trump administration on women, racial, religious, and ethnic minorities, immigrants, LGBTQ communities, disabled persons, and other historically subordinated groups.  Other blogs can be viewed here

Thank you to our contributors and readers.

December 12, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Call for Papers: Examining the Post-Obama Era (SESW People of Color Conference)

Change We Can Believe In? Examining the Post-Obama Era
2017 SESW People of Color Conference
Call for Proposals
March 16th-18th, 2017
Charlotte School of Law
Charlotte, North Carolina
Please submit Proposals by December 15, 2016
The Planning Committee for the 2017 SESW People of Color Conference invites you to submit proposals for discussion  and works-in-progress at the conference, which will take place from Thursday evening, March 16th through Saturday, March 18th at the Charlotte School of Law in Charlotte, North Carolina.
We welcome proposals for concurrent sessions, plenaries, workshops, and works-in-progress devoted to our theme. At recent conferences, concurrent sessions have run for about 60-90 minutes. We welcome ideas for shorter formats, flash or lightening talks. We expect to offer sessions of varying lengths intermingled with plenary discussion and opportunities for free-form discussion and networking.
In January 2009, the world witnessed the inauguration of Barack Obama as the first black president of the United States, following his hard-fought campaign promising “Change We Can Believe In.”  As the sun begins to set on this historical presidency we will consider the legacy he leaves and the significance of his administration on the future for people of color.
Particularly, we will look back and explore some of the hallmarks during President Obama’s term, including progress that was made and setbacks that occurred.  Primarily, we will examine how race relations were impacted as a result of his presidency. We have seen a significant rise in the number of acts of violence born out of bias and racism. Is this the result of having a black president or despite having one?
What did the impact of our country’s first African American President have on immigration policies, health care reform, economic concerns? What bearing did his term have on Congress’s ability to function in a cohesive manner? Were sound policies subverted due to some prejudices or were policies implemented despite this? Most importantly, how did President Obama impact public perception of what equality is and what it requires?
As we face a Trump presidency, we must explore the question of whether he is, as some believe, the answer to the public’s consternation with the current regime, or will he inhibit the progress made during President Obama’s term? Have we seen a rise in far left views and platforms such as those expressed in the Sanders campaign as a result of having President Obama in office? We will explore some of these questions as we continue our dialogue on the struggle for equality and how this struggle will be impacted with the new presidential regime.
We already have three approved panels in the areas of:
1.      Title IX: Impact on Sex discrimination and Transgender issues.
2.      The Education Dilemma Post-Obama
3.      Voter Identification and Suppression
Please let us know if you would like to join one of the established panels.
A suggested list of topics include:
·         Politics
·         Immigration Reform
·         Estate Planning
·         Economics
·         Artists Rights
·         Housing/Real Estate
·         Education
·         New opportunities/limitations for Millennials with first African American President 
·         Obama Care
·         Criminal Procedure/Police Conduct
Other topics related to our theme are welcome.
Please submit your proposals for panels to Mindy Sanchez at and Kellyn McGee at with the subject line, 2017 SESW Conference Proposal.  Works-in-Progress should be directed to Professors Stephanie Ledesma and Lydia Johnson at and  Proposals should include presenter or author’s name, title of paper or presentation, institutional affiliation, and an abstract of no more than 250 words.
Please submit your proposal by December 15, 2016. Scholars whose submissions are selected for the conference will be notified no later than January 15, 2017.  We encourage early submissions as there are limited spots available.
For any other questions about the conference, please feel free to email me, SESWPOCC 2017 Conference Chair, at


December 11, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, December 5, 2016

Backlash in the Name of Inequality (Professor David Troutt)

The presidential election that was too vulgar for us to write about, with accusations too inarticulate to describe policies, and an intimidating atmosphere of racist, nativist and sexist extremism inflaming every imaginable social division, finally received the emotional outcome it created. Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton in a historic upset destined to be known as the ultimate political demand for change.  For those dedicated to working against structural inequality, this may be the transformative change we never imagined.  The U.S. will now be run by a Republican president, Congress and a conservative Supreme Court majority.

Cut through the sum of post-mortem line drawing—the country’s coasts, the educational attainment of its voters, where they fit on the metropolitan grid, their race, gender and citizenship status—and we see the power of inequality, upside down. 

The angriest, most betrayed and forgotten constituency was not comprised of the African American, Latino and immigrant communities targeted by institutional discrimination and the continuing effects of the Great Recession, but working-class and blue-collar whites whose position has slipped under the rapid constraints of globalization.  We have always known the economic instability was blind to color in the United States, especially in the last fifteen years.  However, we had not anticipated the strength of its frustration—both its politically fed up and its racially weaponized forms.  Trump’s policies are not clear.  His symbolism, however, is getting clearer.  The tone—which is what we will all live with until the policies kick in—is zero sum.  This suggests a steep climb, if not a repudiation, of some of the core beliefs underlying CLiME’s work—mutuality, the progressive power of changing demographics and the persuasive weight of factual evidence.  We have some reckoning to do.

Before we do, consider this much that we know objectively about the vote for change from various news sources.  Working-class whites from Rust Belt states overwhelmingly supported Donald Trump, especially men.  Hillary Clinton barely won the woman’s vote; 53% of white women voted for Trump.  In battleground states, many white Democrats also voted for Trump, a lot of whom had voted for Obama.  The expected Latino voter surge occurred, but exit polls showed 29% voted for Trump (the same percentage as Asian voters).  African Americans voted overwhelmingly for Clinton, but failed to vote at 2008 and 2012 levels in key electoral states. Non-college educated whites, especially older voters, remain a significant voting bloc, and they are either angry at or dissatisfied with Washington and desperate for an outsider who will hear their calls for change.  They did not trust Clinton to deliver that.

There’s a lot of uncertainty about the president-elect’s actual policies, but we can begin to make objective sense of the implications this election will have on how and whether we can effectively reduce structural inequality.  Obviously, if Trump’s tax and trade policies can remake the terms of a labor economy restructured over the last forty years or more—that is, if his administration can increase the manufacturing sector everywhere it’s contracted and drive up wages in the service sector—that might stabilize household income and community wealth for a broad, multiracial swath of working-class and lower middle-class people, reducing inequality.  But overturning such tides of globalization may take much more than Republicans will deliver.  And it will not reach the structures of inequality rooted in discrimination.

This much seems clear about inequality and the election:

  1. It was a repudiation of President Obama. Some of this was intended by Trump supporters, some a result of disaffection with Hillary among Democratic voters.  Neither campaign emphasized the growth of the economy or job creation under Obama, nor the first increase in middle-class wages and reduction in poverty rates.  The objective gains of the Obama administration were at risk, and the result will mean many will be dismantled or transformed beyond recognition—Obamacare, executive orders on immigration and climate change and, most critically for CLiME’s work, the federal courts and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.  In an interview, Trump was quoted pledging to rescind the HUD rule on affirmatively furthering fair housing.
  1. Civil rights advocacy will assume a defensive stance again, and strategies for progressive change will probably avoid federal arenas in favor of local ones. Donald Trump has already signaled his contempt for many federal agencies, and his intention to nominate conservative judges from the Supreme Court on down.  Those facts alone counsel against federal strategies to reduce structural inequality.  The risks of bad precedents are already great.  A refocus to states will also be challenging, given conservative control of many statehouses, declining budgets and—as this election reinforced—profoundly stratified state electorates.  Thus, we will be forced to smaller regionalism and larger localism as the footprint for reforming the institutional arrangements that reproduce structural inequalities.  The electorate’s mood—which was roundly misread—may augur little hope for integration strategies.  Remember, widespread economic inequality was expressed in terms more hostile than unified.
  1. Colorblindness, that myth, has been eviscerated again by the reprise of white identity politics. Pundits and journalists roundly admonished the nation for forgetting about the pains and needs of disaffected white people.  The explosion of explicit racism that became the undercurrent of Trump’s campaign to these voters fueled and legitimated not just their status as economically struggling people, but their entitlement to feel angry about it and to project that anger onto others.  Whatever form of white nationalism this took—I hate that you forgot about me or I hate because you forgot about me, the lesson is clear: white votes matter.  This explicit racialization, routinely fanned by conservative media, makes it hard to argue post-racialism with a straight face. 
  1. Misogyny is a force. “On paper” the canyonesque disparities in presidential qualifications between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have long been acknowledged by people of good will.  But in context, the Trump campaign’s rhetoric fanned a different fire we were making progress on dousing, which amounts to this: Lots of people, including many, many women, will hold a woman candidate for president to an almost impossible standard of ethical rectitude and trustworthy leadership than a man—even a vulgar, politically non-experienced, intemperate and truth-challenged man like Donald Trump.  Whatever her flaws, the hatred of Hillary Clinton transcended Hilary Clinton.
  1. The post-modern death of shared facts imperils evidence-based change. This election showed the extreme relativism in much of the public’s reading of evidence as fact.  A Fox news “fact” is not an MSNBC “fact.”  An NPR “fact” is the inaudible and irrelevant whisper of elites.  Throw in Facebook, Twitter rants and all of our selective blogs, and “the public” has lost more than a common basis for truth.  We don’t even share the same standards for determining what’s true.  It’s not at all clear how we will soon coalesce behind a common faith in fact-telling.  If you cannot count on people’s rational capacity to hear your evidence fairly, the ground beneath your arguments is quick sand.

If those are fair observations of what the 2016 election means to ending structural inequality, let me end with some more interpretive thoughts about race, class, gender and the prospects for mutuality.  Mutuality, CLiME friends may recall, is that progressive notion of interdependency first asserted nationally by Dr. Martin Luther King, who proclaimed “We are tied in an inescapable network of mutuality.”  Despite our spatial, racial and economic balkanization, we are wrapped in a common destiny of cause and effect.  What happens to some of us, affects all of us in important ways.  Yet it is the recognition of these social physics that promises a beloved community.

That promise suffered mortal blows last Tuesday.  What we saw was a prime example of worried and wounded Americans expressing their economic alienation in accusatory and divisive ways rather than seeing the commonality of their misfortunes.  The working class, after all, is disproportionately people of color.  Their economic status has been marginal for generations, and they have benefited very little from anything an Obama Administration targeted at them alone.  As CLiME’s work and that of countless researchers have shown, the struggles of people of color to attain stable middle class status have been confounded mainly by two factors: powerful institutional racial and economic discrimination and structural changes in the post-industrial economy, like globalization.  Working-class blacks and Latinos die sooner, make less money, have less wealth, suffer more poverty and unemployment, fear more crime and violence, attend weaker schools and enjoy fewer resources of an abundant nation’s bounty—even in the same places where whites have struggled.  The white working class, on the other hand, has suffered mainly at the hands of only one of these factors—structural changes that lowered wages, displaced manufacturing and favored capital investors. 

What might have been a moment of broad voter recognition of mutual interests in policies that stabilize all families instead devolved quickly, loudly and sometimes violently into an us-versus-them game of non-evidence-based blame.  I am not suggesting that all Trump voters express the invective aimed at Mexican and Muslim immigrants, the demeaning of blacks, the tacit KKK support and the open “Trump that Bitch” misogyny.  I am saying that they accepted it as part of their vote and have now frustrated the chance to stop it.  It is an indelible part of who and what won last Tuesday, separating us farther from each other than actual facts about social standing and economic vulnerability would indicate.  This is the toxic palliative of inequality, an addictive opioid of fleeting pleasure that separates the desperate interests of people with common concerns, a fix with no easy cure.

This blow to mutuality relied on a powerfully familiar and divisive trope: a hierarchy of vulnerability, entitled on the one hand and discredited on the other, “givers and takers.”  In this frame, white economic alienation is the entitled kind, something we had all better fear and placate, to “take back” from the outsiders inflicting that vulnerability as of right.  That view of vulnerability risks, like the Southern Strategy of Nixon’s era or the Reagan Democrats of the 1980s, being racialized, privileged and institutionalized by the new president, Republican Congress and the federal judiciary.  The minority objects of conservative scorn—whose statistical deficits, rather than supposed gains, remain the canary in the country’s coalmine—are discredited (again), their shared pain and unstable futures deemed something Other, stuck in stereoptyped incompetence and self-victimhood that is not in the national interest to solve right now.  They voted for Hillary.  They had their chance under Obama.

This is fundamentally the wrong premise for a nation tired of inequality.  More than ever, we still need each other’s success.  We still pay the costs of each other’s failures.  The hope had been that we would continue to find new ways not only to show this in our research and advocacy, but to demonstrate effective ways to use policies of mutuality in our common interest. 

Everyone should have the resources to reach their potential.  Everyone should be able to live in decency and with respect.  Everyone of us should have a life and a voice that matters to those who govern and distribute our nation’s immense wealth.  Continue to hope.  It is still in us to change for the better.  But we will have work even harder.  There is no other way.  Keep hope alive.

(this article was originally published with the Center for Law in Metropolitan Equality (CLiME))

by David D. Troutt, Professor and Justice John J. Francis Scholar, Rutgers School of Law

-- --This blog is part of an online symposium hosted by the Race and the Law Profs Blog examining the implications of a Trump administration on women, racial, religious, and ethnic minorities, immigrants, LGBTQ communities, disabled persons, and other historically subordinated groups.


December 5, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, December 2, 2016

Trump’s Double Assault on Women of Color (Dr. Deirdre M. Bowen and Dylan Johnson)

Donald Trump’s reality TV-style campaign ushered in permission to “see” and confront race again. As bad as the “post-race” claims were with the election of Obama, the new era of confrontational identity politics will be far worse—and particularly for women of color. Women of color face an ever-increasing threat of overt racism in their daily lives with the onset of a Klu Klux Klan endorsed president-elect and the cultural shift his campaign laid bare. But the ramifications of the policies he promises to enact will create far-reaching damage to the health and safety of women of color. Indeed, the fear Trump created for women of color is evident in the way that they voted. Only 6% for him.

Trump’s cultural revolution dismantled the last shreds of civil discourse to be sure. It has also emboldened a certain segment of the population. It is the segment that never engaged in subconscious or implicit bias, but rather sequestered its overt racism to the back rooms where like-minded individuals gathered. Now, Trump’s rhetoric creates a license to bring this racism to the forefront of American life. Reports of hate crimes increased significantly after the election, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

But what about sexual assault? Where is the data tracking the increases in sexual assault? You will not see it. You will not see this data because when the president-elect openly brags about assaulting women, and in turn, others normalize his speech as “locker room talk,” it has a chilling effect. Reporting a sexual assault of one’s body has always been fraught. The cost of reporting such crimes includes the currency of blame and judgment. And this currency gets traded generously on the stereotypes of women of color. Women of color are much more likely to internalize these stereotypes of promiscuity and blame themselves. Whites, too, are much more likely to blame the victim when the victim is a minority woman. Never mind that minority women are already disproportionately attacked and experience police reporting differently from Whites.

By: Deirdre M. Bowen, J.D., Ph. D. (Associate Professor of Law, Seattle University School of Law) and Dylan Johnson

--This blog is part of an online symposium hosted by the Race and the Law Profs Blog examining the implications of a Trump administration on women, racial, religious, and ethnic minorities, immigrants, LGBTQ communities, disabled persons, and other historically subordinated groups. 

The chilling effect, however, becomes an all out freeze effect when one considers the policy message Trump sent with the nomination of Jeff Sessions to head the Department of Justice. Senator Sessions’ remarks could hardly be shrugged off as locker room talk. When asked if the grabbing of women’s genitalia constituted sexual assault, Sessions observed that it was not clear how it could be. Thus, when the nation’s potential lead prosecutor does not view such action as assault, it is difficult to imagine how women, but particularly women of color, would calculate a cost-benefit analysis in which reporting sexual assault would inure a single advantage. It sends an advantageous message to the perpetrator, however. He is likely to get a free pass under this administration. In fact, Fox news reports that college campus groups representing men accused of sexual assault are hopeful that a Trump administration will role back the Obama administration policies on sexual assault prevention and response on college campuses.

One need look no further than the effect of a federal loop hole that does not allow native American tribal courts jurisdiction over non-native criminals. Native American women who live on reservations are two and half times as likely to encounter sexual assault particularly by white men. Why? Because these perpetrators are never prosecuted. With Trump and Sessions in power, a machismo cultural shift has occurred in which men are free to assert themselves over women with impunity. Trump bragged repeatedly of the ways in which he viewed women as objects to be used. And what has become of these woman who came forward? They arrived in time for guest appearances in the reality TV style campaign season only to disappear when the “show” ended. What message does the media send when no follow up on the consequences of Trump’s actions appear forthcoming.

The dehumanization of women certainly did not begin with Trump, but it has taken on new life with his rhetoric and choice of Attorney General. The cultural backlash against women cannot be dismissed as mere “locker room talk.” The consequences are real for women. And the burden will disproportionately be borne by women of color. The question remains whether this backlash is a last gasp of a cohort of men watching their position of power give way to hierarchy inclusive of women and people of color or a retrenchment that promises to survive for generations?

December 2, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Combatting "Deeply Intertwined" Discriminatory Harassment in our Schools Post-2016 Elections (Professor Nancy Chi Cantalupo)

In 1970, African-American lesbian feminist civil rights lawyer and Episcopal minister Pauli Murray wrote that “racism and sexism in the United States… are so deeply intertwined in the country’s institutions that the successful outcome of the struggle against racism will depend in large part upon the simultaneous elimination of all discrimination based upon sex.”  Five years earlier, Murray and a co-author advised that “sex discrimination can be better understood if compared with race discrimination and … the similarities of the two problems can be helpful in improving … the legal status of women.”

After a campaign where the now President-Elect poured forth slurs against many underrepresented groups and the press uncovered a recording of him bragging about sexually assaulting women, this wisdom from a great civil rights activist could not be more relevant or prescient.  In the weeks since the election, the flood of reports of harassment and violent threats against individuals in these same groups by self-proclaimed Trump supporters has burst forth across the nation, including on college and university campuses like the University of Pennsylvania, where virtually immediately following the election, all black Freshmen received messages containing racial epithets and a “daily lynching” calendar.  Particularly when combined with other in-person harassment at Penn that week, many students talked about feeling unsafe, sounded traumatized, and are likely experiencing all the disruption to their educations that inevitably occurs as a result of such fear and discrimination.

The Penn incident brings to mind several connections that Reverend Murray would recognize.  At Dartmouth College in 2014, a “rape guide” posted online targeted a first-year woman student who later reported that she was assaulted at the first party she attended after the posting appeared.  Her experience apparently fit a common pattern of such harassment and threats directed at women Dartmouth students via the website.  The next year, a leader of “Feminists United” at University of Mary Washington was murdered by a fellow student after Feminist United members had been repeatedly threatened and harassed over a social media app called Yik Yak.  Even though no one in either case appears to have alleged a direct connection between the violence and the pattern of harassment and violent threats leading up to it, the potential connections undoubtedly helped bring national attention to these cases.

The larger phenomenon that the Dartmouth, UMW, and now Penn cases exemplify provide lessons for all of us to—as Reverend Murray might say—better understand how to improve our campus communities’ responses to discriminatory harassment directed at many vulnerable groups, not only harassment of women.  Many colleges and universities have recently improved their campus sexual harassment and violence prevention systems by, for instance, recognizing how fear and trauma can disrupt students’ educations in a discriminatory way and by adopting trauma-informed practices to minimize that disruption as much as possible.  Those insights should inform campuses’ responses to student victims of all forms of discriminatory harassment, including the Penn students targeted last week. 

In addition, these incidents remind us of how “deeply intertwined” all variations of discriminatory harassment are and why we need to resist efforts to treat some forms of such discrimination more seriously than others.  Since August, over 100 law professors have signed a White Paper supporting steps taken in recent years by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights that reinforce its commitment to combat disability-based, gender-based, racial and sexual harassment equally strongly.  Post-2016 election, all of us in education must do our part to reach Reverend Murray’s goal: the “simultaneous elimination of all discrimination,” including all discriminatory harassment against students in our schools.

by Nancy Chi Cantalupo, Assistant Professor, Barry School of Law

--This blog is part of an online symposium hosted by the Race and the Law Profs Blog examining the implications of a Trump administration on women, racial, religious, and ethnic minorities, immigrants, LGBTQ communities, disabled persons, and other historically subordinated groups.

December 1, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)