Saturday, April 29, 2017

For Black "Intellectuals" Who Championed Jill Stein When Hillary Clinton was Enough - An Essay Reflecting on Trump's First 100 Days

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Make no mistake – the individual that has been taking up space in the Oval Office for the past 100 days rose to power on the wings of good old-fashioned American racism.  However, attacks on Hillary Clinton by Black “intellectuals” were a powerful wind beneath those wings. 

Even though the 2016 election was decided months ago, as we reflect on the past 100 days, there are several reasons why we must discuss who is to blame for the outcome.  First, a problem is unsolvable until its causes are identified.  A major factor in Clinton’s loss was low turnout by Black voters.  If people of color had shown up in Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania, Hillary Clinton would be president.  But rather than encouraging people of color to turn out for Clinton, these Black “leaders” encouraged the third-party option long after it was responsible. Though it was crystal clear to most that a Trump victory would be disastrous for Black America, too many Black “intellectuals” with public platforms used their voices to mock Hillary Clinton, tell their audiences that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were one and the same, or to praise Jill Stein, the candidate preferred by the patron saint of lost causes.  These continued and relentless attacks on Clinton were likely enough to convince wavering voters– particularly young Black voters – to stay at home.  

This is particularly distressing because when Black folks show up, Democrats usually win handily.  However, Democrats usually lose ground in midterm elections because their core constituencies – young people and people of color – are less likely to vote in off year elections.   Meanwhile, the GOP’s older and whiter base continues to turn out in force.  

It is critical that the Democrats regain control of both houses of Congress in 2018.  The White House will remain in hostile hands, but a solidly Democratic Congress can stop Trump from implementing his agenda.  But if those who encouraged people to stay home or vote third party in 2016 continue to spout the same reckless nonsense over the next eighteen months, it could prevent a Democratic victory in 2018 – and perhaps even 2020.  This cannot happen.    

Second, while several factors caused the results in 2016, Black “intellectuals” must take responsibility for their role in creating the current political quagmire.  Each of the past 100 days has presented a new nightmare for marginalized people.  The White House has rolled back protections for LGBT people, particularly transgendered persons.  The Attorney General plans to weaken the consent agreements entered into by police departments across the nation.  The newest Supreme Court justice will likely provide the vote that will kill the Voting Rights Act – or at least put it in a permanent vegetative state.  Immigrants – including children who had no say in the decision to move here - are being deported.  Support for private prisons has been increased.  Plans for the border wall are progressing.   And while Obamacare is safe for now, at any point, the GOP could pass a bill to repeal it. 

None of these things would have happened under President Hillary Clinton. 

Even if it was somehow reasonable to think that Trump and Clinton were identical on racial issues prior to the election (spoiler alert: it wasn’t), the past 100 days have conclusively proven that this is not the case.  As such, anyone who says that the Democratic candidates in 2018 and 2020 are no different than their GOP counterparts deserves to be ignored like a call from a telemarketer.

Third, the logic of these “intellectual” left much to be desired.   The most common argument offered was some variation on the “voting my conscious” theme.  This is a dangerously cavalier attitude.  We have learned the hard way over these past 100 days that voting has consequences far beyond the individual.  Prioritizing the self over the community in this instance was not an act of conscience, but of ego.   Conscience dictates that we do what is best for others even when it may not be best for us.  Ego drives us to do what is best for ourselves even when it harms others.   If these talking heads continue to prioritize themselves and their agendas over what is best for the most marginalized, they deserve to be ignored like a piece of mail addressed to “Occupant.” 

Another problem with the logic employed in 2016 is that the folks in question savaged a perfectly good candidate in the outlandish hopes that a “perfect” candidate would win.  Settling for the good is not as emotionally satisfying as crusading for the perfect.   But we live in serious and dangerous times.  Such times call not for frivolous crusades, but for relentless practicality.  Being practical is not exciting, but the time for childish pipe dreams is over.  In this current climate, we must devote our energy into preventing any further harm to immigrants, the poor, women, people of color, and other marginalized populations. 

It is critical that we remember not to sacrifice the good for the potentially perfect going forward.  The Democrats are not perfect.  They are going to make mistakes.  They are going to frustrate us.   This result is inevitable because no one is perfect.  But while the Democrats are not perfect, they are good.  In the past 100 days, though they have had very little power to stop Trump, they have done what they can to frustrate his efforts and to speak for those that he is attempting to harm.   That is good.  And for now, good will have to be good enough.  Anyone who says otherwise in 2018 or 2020 must be ignored like an e-mail from a Nigerian prince seeking help with his fortune. 

Over the past 100 days, it has become clear that all but the wealthiest and whitest Americans will suffer greatly under the current regime.  There is only one way to stop this suffering.  We should protest, but protests won’t stop deportations.  We should boycott stores that sell Trump products, but that won’t change the Supreme Court.  We should continue to mock Trump mercilessly, but what he has done in the past 100 days is no laughing matter.  The only way to begin to repair the damage Trump has done is to use our votes to limit his power in 2018 and then to kick him out of office in 2020.

Anyone who tells you otherwise deserves to be ignored for the next 100,000 days. 

April 29, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 24, 2017

Call for Papers: ClassCrits - Mobilizing for Resistance, Solidarity, and Justice

ClassCrits at Ten: Mobilizing for Resistance, Solidarity, and Justice

Call For Papers and Participation

Sponsored by the Tulane University School of Law

New Orleans, LA  * * *   November 10 & 11, 2017

Ten years ago, a group of scholar-activists organized a series of conversations about law and economic class.  Building on “outsider” jurisprudence that has moved inequalities of race, gender, and sexuality from the margins to the center of law, the group proposed a jurisprudence of economic inequality. To foreground economic justice, the group sought to critique mainstream law and economics and to focus on the lives of poor and working class people. 

Rejecting the neoliberal ideology of scarcity, and reclaiming the possibilities presented by the commons and by collective action, ClassCrits was born.  Our name, “ClassCrits,” reflects our ties to critical legal analysis and our goal of addressing economic class in the multiple intersecting forms of subordination. We confront the roots of economic inequality in divisions such as race and gender and in legal and economic systems destructive to the well-being of humanity and the planet.

Alternative visions and solutions have become even more essential in the contemporary moment. In the United States, 2017 has begun with historic dangers, global protests, and major constitutional litigation against the new federal administration.  The 2016 presidential election has exposed deep rifts in the foundations of law, economy, and society, reflecting a broad and deep discontent with neoliberal globalization.  Decades of bipartisan policies have focused on privatization and de-regulation of economic power.  Perceptions that established systems of law and economy are “rigged” against ordinary people have led to demands for change.  Some blame liberal “identity” politics for giving short shrift to those harmed by economic disruption.  Others rationalize increased inequality and insecurity as the inevitable results of innovation and potential growth that necessarily skews rewards to a privileged few.

What we cannot deny is the reality we are facing:  A counter-democratic revolution.  In response to this discontent, the prevailing response has been to take the neoliberal vision further. In place of principles and practices of law, democracy, and public service, this vision idealizes unaccountable authority aimed at unequal private gain.  Policy proposals include selling off public lands, privatizing the already fragile public education system with vouchers, and permitting private interests to foul the air and water held in common as fundamental to health and life on earth.  Promises to “Make America Great Again” seem to entail a rollback of civil rights protections for people of color, women, immigrants, religious minorities, and LGBTQ persons, along with an increase in militarization and an expanding carceral state, in the name of never ending foreign threats and geared toward hands of private profiteers. 

The new dangers of oligarchy and authoritarianism risk fostering hopelessness and cynicism. Many of us grope around silences to find reasoned words of persuasion.  Many struggle to find strategies for scholarship, teaching and advocacy sufficient to address emerging threats.

At the same time, this moment has sparked new voices and energy.  Whether it is attending town hall meetings, calling or writing democratically elected representatives, engaging in numerous strikes and protests, or filing lawsuits, a resurgence of public dissent and collective action suggests the possibility of alternative solutions.  Protests by indigenous persons at Standing Rock, by diverse groups of women marching in cities all over the world, by workers of color in the “Fight for Fifteen,” and by immigrants speaking out against the rising xenophobia and racism have inspired support and action challenging established boundaries of identity, interest, and policy.

During this exciting moment of possibility and struggle, we invite participants to submit applications to present at the 10th Annual ClassCrits conference, held at Tulane University Law School.  We invite panel proposals, roundtable discussion proposals, paper presentations, poetry and fiction reading, and art that speak to this year’s theme, as well as to general ClassCrits themes.  We are also interested in receiving proposals from law clinicians who engage in activist lawyering as a core part of their curriculum design. See the following page for details.

Finally, we extend a special invitation to junior scholars (i.e., graduate students and non-tenured faculty members) to submit proposals for works in progress. At least one senior scholar, as well as other ClassCrits scholars, will provide feedback and detailed commentary upon each work in progress in a small, supportive working session at this year’s workshop

The general themes of ClassCrits, include: 

  • The legal and cultural project of constructing inequalities of all kinds as natural, normal, and necessary. 
  • The relationships among economic, racial, and gender inequality. 
  • The development of new methods (including the interdisciplinary study and development of such methods) with which to analyze and criticize economics and law (beyond traditional “law and economics”). 
  • The relationship between material systems and institutions and cultural systems and institutions. 
  • The concept and reality of class within the international legal community, within international development studies and welfare strategies, and within a “flattening” world of globalized economics and geopolitical relations. 

Proposal Submission Procedure and Deadline

Please submit your proposal by email to by June 1, 2017. Proposals should include the author’s name, institutional affiliation and contact information, the title of the paper to be presented, and an abstract of the paper to be presented of no more than 750 words.  Junior scholar submissions for works in progress should be clearly marked as “JUNIOR SCHOLAR WORK IN PROGRESS PROPOSAL.”  

The venue for the gathering is Tulane University School of Law in New Orleans, LA. The workshop will begin with continental breakfast on Friday, November 10 and continue through the afternoon of Saturday, November 11. Arrangements are being made for conference hotels. The registration fee is $210.00 for all conference attendees who are full-time faculty members from the Global North. Registration is free for students and activists. Participants who do not fit into these categories, and/or who for individual reasons cannot afford the registration fee, should contact us at Workshop attendees are responsible for their own travel and lodging expenses.  

Conference Organizing Committee: 

Chair and Host, Saru Matambanadzo, Tulane University Law School, 

Tonya Brito, University of Wisconsin Law School,

Kim Clark, Pacific School of Religion and Graduate Theological Union,

Angela Harris, U.C. Davis School of Law,

Danielle Hart, Southwestern Law School,

Lucy Jewel, University of Tennessee College of Law, 

Martha McCluskey, University of Buffalo School of Law,

Athena Mutua, University of Buffalo School of Law,

René Reich-Graefe, Western New England Law School,

Matthew Titolo, University of West Virginia School of Law,

About ClassCrits

ClassCrits is a network of scholars and activists interested in the critical, interdisciplinary and international analysis of law and economic relations.  Please visit our website at for more about ClassCrits.



April 24, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Rendered Invisible: African American Low-Wage Workers and Workplace Exploitation

Professor Llezlie Green Coleman offers an insightful thesis in her article Rendered Invisible: African American Low-Wage Workers and the Workplace Exploitation Paradigm published in the Howard Law Journal.  She states:

"The narrative of low-wage worker exploitation has increasingly narrowed in focus to reflect the experiences of undocumented immigrant workers whose immigration status makes them particularly vulnerable to wage theft and other denials of their substantive workplace rights. Indeed, much of the scholarship in this area rests solidly at the intersection of immigrant justice and employment law.

This article disrupts this paradigm by arguing that this limited narrative has rendered African American low-wage workers invisible. It also draws from the voices of low-wage worker advocates who have borrowed from current activism to announce that #BlackWorkersMatter. Given the role of paradigms in defining which issues merit our attention, analysis, and assessment, this article argues for a shift in the scholarly conversation to consider not only the historical reasons for the distancing of African Americans from worker advocacy, but also the current dynamics that have facilitated this phenomenon.

Despite the reality that low-wage workers in this country are predominantly white, images and narratives of African Americans historically dominated the images and narratives of low-wage work, particularly where that work involved the labor of farm workers (sharecroppers) and domestic workers. In recent years, however, the focus on low-wage workers has shifted toward Latino workers: often recent immigrants and sometimes undocumented. This shift in our attention, however, is not based upon a mass departure of African Americans from the low-wage workforce. While the number of African Americans engaged in low-wage work has decreased as a result of immigration patterns, African Americans continue to occupy a significant number of low-wage jobs.1

Nevertheless, the standard narrative of low-wage work has shifted to one that is inextricably linked to the exploitation of immigrants. Given the particular vulnerability of our immigrant population and the resulting high levels of wage theft and other workplace exploitation in the immigrant community, targeted efforts to address the intersections of these issues is both important and necessary. In the midst of this change, however, the experiences of African American workers have received very limited attention in the media, and even less attention in the academy. Indeed, the more common narrative of the African American work experience has become one of unemployment, rather than low-wage employment.

This article draws from critical race theorists’ black/white binary analysis to consider whether there exists an immigrant/non-immigrant binary paradigm in the analyses of low-wage worker exploitation. Finally, it considers the particular vulnerabilities and disadvantages this paradigm creates for African American workers."

A copy of the full article is available here.


April 19, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 6, 2017

‘Safe Spaces’ and the Educational Benefits of Diversity

With the troubling rise in hate groups in America, Professor Vinay Harpalani's article "Safe Spaces" and the Educational Benefits of Diversity offers a timely defense of campus safe spaces in the broader framework of diversity programming in higher education.  The following is an abstract of his article, forthcoming in the Duke Journal of Constitutional Law and Public Policy.

"This Article analyzes and defends “safe spaces” on university campuses. Safe spaces are campus programs and organizations that are devoted to the needs and experiences of marginalized groups — especially students of color. The Article argues that safe spaces are vital to the educational benefits of diversity — the compelling interest upheld in Grutter v. Bollinger (2003) and Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin II (2016) to justify universities’ use of race-conscious admissions policies. Safe spaces provide valuable support mechanisms for students of color at predominantly White universities.

The Supreme Court has recognized that these students can often feel “isolated or like spokespersons for their race,” and safe spaces can help them with social and cultural adjustment. Additionally, safe spaces also provide unique educational benefits for both students of color and for White students. Contrary to popular discourse, safe spaces do not promote balkanization or racial separatism on campuses. Even safe spaces that focus on one group, such as residential programs devoted to Black heritage and experiences, are open to students of all backgrounds. Some of these spaces have very diverse student participation. Safe spaces illustrate that immersion within one group’s experience is compatible with cross-racial understanding, not antithetical to it. These spaces provide valuable opportunities for students of color to engage issues of salience within their own groups, and for White students to learn about issues that would not come up in predominantly White settings. The conversations and debates that occur between students turn safe spaces into miniature “marketplaces of ideas,” where unique cross-racial exchanges can occur. Such exchanges epitomize the educational benefits of diversity upheld in Grutter and Fisher II."

To download Professor Harpalani's article, click here.


April 6, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 3, 2017

Islam on Trial (Sudha Setty)

The Boston Review featured a series of articles by legal scholars and lawyers on the legal, social, and political implications of the rise in Islamophobia in the United States.  Over the next few weeks, we will highlight the essays within this thought provoking and timely series.

Professor Sudha Setty exmaines how bipartisan consensus about the government's powers in matters of national security bolsters surveillance of Muslims, as well as other groups deemed suspect by the state.  She writes:

"Even if President Trump’s January 27 executive order barring or delaying immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries is deemed unconstitutional, the administration will continue implementing its plan to target Muslims. Trump has promised to ramp up the “respectful” surveillance of mosques and, if history serves as a guide, we should not expect popular, political, and judicial resistance to such measures to match recent furor. Since September 11, 2001, Muslim life in the United States has entailed burdens that the majority of U.S. citizens simply ignore because they do not affect us and, unlike the recent executive order, we are not privy to seeing them in action. Moreover, a high percentage of Americans are indifferent to or even supportive of Muslim citizens being watched closely by the government in the name of national security—despite the fact that at least some of the surveillance is legally indefensible and there is no evidence that it significantly improves national security.

Long before the Trump presidency, government surveillance targeted U.S. Muslims at their colleges, mosques, charities, and community centers. These shadowy practices are carried out under the umbrella of national security and exist largely beyond the reach of legal accountability. In late 2005 the New York Times disclosed the existence of a secret surveillance program against U.S. Muslims, put in place by the Bush administration in 2001. This led to public anger and accusations that the program undermined the constitutional rights of Muslims. However, rather than backing down, the Bush administration lobbied Congress to grant the legal authority to continue the program, and Congress obliged by voting overwhelmingly to enact the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Amendments Act of 2008. The act retroactively authorized broad surveillance and immunized telecommunications companies and the government from lawsuits or future government investigations. Lest we forget, both chambers were controlled by Democrats, and then–Senator Obama voted for the bill."

To read Professor Setty's article in full, click here.


April 3, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)