Thursday, November 30, 2017

AALS Section on Minority Groups Announces Award Winners for 2018

This past week, the American Association of Law Schools (AALS) Section on Minority Groups announced its annual award winners for 2018. 

The Derrick A. Bell, Jr. Award is named after the late Derrick Albert Bell (1930-2011), who was the first Black tenured professor of Harvard Law School.  Professor Bell was well known for his protests against the University of Oregon School of Law, where he resigned when the faculty refused to hire an Asian American woman candidate, and against Harvard Law School, where he refused to return from a leave of absence in protest of the Law School faculty's lack of women of color.  Professor Bell later became a visiting professor at New York University (NYU) School of Law.  He was also a founding figure in Critical Race Theory (CRT), and his generosity and efforts to "humanize the law school experience" are also well known to his former students. 

The Derrick A. Bell, Jr. Award is presented to "“a junior faculty member who, through activism, mentoring, colleagueship, teaching and scholarship, has made an extraordinary contribution to legal education, the legal system or social justice.”  This year's winner is Professor Stacy Hawkins of Rutgers University-Camden School of Law.  Professor Hawkins was especially recognized for her "commitment to diversity issues in her scholarship and teaching, as well as in her service contributions ... [p]articularly ... [her] ... work with the Rutgers University Diversity Committee, which, under her leadership, has spearheaded innovative programs to support faculty diversity and to cultivate new avenues for identifying underrepresented graduate students."

The Clyde Ferguson Award is named after the late Clarence Clyde Ferguson (1924-1983), who was Dean of Howard Law School, distinguished professor at Rutgers University School of Law; and who was the second Black tenured professor at Harvard Law School.  Dean Ferguson served as U.S. Ambassador to Uganda from 1970-72 and also served in many capacities as a proponent of international human rights: he was an advocate for implementing many provisions of the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, most notably those which dealt with race and religion discrimination; and he also helped to draft the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization's statement on race in 1967.

The Clyde Ferguson Award is presented to "to an outstanding law teacher, who in the course of his or her career has achieved excellence in the areas of public service, teaching and scholarship."  This year's winners are Professors Dorothy Brown of Emory University School of Law and Guy Charles of Duke University School of Law.  Professors Brown and Charles were particularly recognized for their "work creating and building the Jerome Culp Colloquium, which provides aspiring law professors with crucial guidance and mentorship at all stages of the appointments process and throughout the initial stages of their careers as they prepare for the tenure review."

Congratulations to Professors Brown, Charles, and Hawkins.



November 30, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

10 African American Rhodes Scholars in 2018: A New Record

Rhodes Scholarships are arguably the most prestigious academic honor available to college graduates, but they have an ominous history.  Cecil John Rhodes, who established the Rhodes Trust through his will, was an prominent British imperialist who believed in the supremacy of English people, and who had a significant role in British colonization of various African nations.  Women were excluded from consideration for the first 75 years of the Rhodes Scholarship, and up until the 1990s, all winners from Africa were White.

Nevertheless, given the academic prominence of the Rhodes, it is important to recognize the recent accomplishments of African American students who are named Rhodes Scholars.  For 2017, a record seven African Americans won Rhodes Scholarships.  And this year, that record was once again broken: 10 African Americans were awarded these prestigious scholarships for 2018.  Whatever misgivings we may have about Cecil Rhodes and the history of the Rhodes Scholarship, we should celebrate people of color who achieve such excellence.



November 22, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Emerging Issues in Employment Discrimination and Multiracial Plaintiffs (Prof Tanya Hernandez)

--by Professor Tanya Hernandez

With the growth of a mixed-race population in the United States that identifies itself as “multiracial,” legal commentators have begun to raise concerns about how employment discrimination law responds to the claims of multiracial plaintiffs.  The U.S. Census Bureau began permitting respondents to simultaneously select multiple racial categories to designate their multiracial backgrounds with the 2000 Census.  With the release of data for both the 2000 and 2010 census years much media attention has followed the fact that first 2.4% then 2.9% of the population selected two or more races.  The Census Bureau projects that the self-identified multiracial population will triple by 2060.  Yet mixed-race peoples are not new.  Demographer Ann Morning notes that their early presence in North America was noted in colonial records as early as the 1630’s .

However, the presence of fluid mixed-race racial identities within allegations of employment discrimination leads some legal commentators to conclude that civil rights laws are in urgent need of reform because they were built upon a strictly binary foundation of blackness and whiteness.  Building upon the social movement for recognition of multiracial identity on the census and generally, these commentators conclude that courts misunderstand the nature of discrimination against mixed-race persons when they do not specifically acknowledge the distinctiveness of their multiracial identity.  Even United States Supreme Court litigation has begun to associate the growth of multiracial identity with the obsolescence of civil rights policies.  Particularly worrisome has been the judicial suggestion that the growth of multiracial identity undercuts the legitimacy of affirmative action policies that have long sought to pursue racial equality.

The supposition that the multiracial experience of discrimination is exceptional, and not well understood or handled by present anti-discrimination law, is evident in the publications of multiracial-identity scholars like Ken Nakasu Davison, Leora Eisenstadt, Tina Fernandes, Nancy Leong, Camille Gear Rich, and Scot Rives.  I coin the term “multiracial-identity scholars” to refer to authors whose scholarship promotes the recognition of the distinct challenges that multiracial identity now presumably presents for civil rights law.   

The crux of the multiracial-identity scholar critique of the emerging cases is that courts often reframe multiracial plaintiffs’ self-identities by describing mixed-race plaintiffs as “monoracial” minority individuals.   Specifically, in many cases, judges refer to mixed-race complainants as solely African American or black.  These scholars take issue with this characterization, arguing it hinders the recognition of the racial discrimination that multiracial individuals experience.  This essay disputes that premise because the cases themselves illuminate the disjuncture between the theoretical critique they make and the actual adequacy of the judicial administration of the claims.

A close examination of such claims indicates that in an overwhelming number of the cases scholars rely on, the facts present a complainant whose description of the alleged discrimination includes pointed, derogatory comments about non-whiteness and blackness in particular.  The overarching commonality in the cases is the exceptionalism of blackness and non-whiteness, rather than multiraciality, as subject to victimization.  Although the plaintiffs may personally identify as multiracial persons, they present allegations of public discrimination rooted in a specific non-whiteness and often black bias that is not novel or particular to mixed-race persons, nor especially difficult for judges to understand.  For instance, the employment discrimination case of Marlon Hattimore in Richmond v. General Nutrition Centers, Inc, No. 08 Civ. 3577(LTS)(HBP), 2011 WL 2493527 (S.D.N.Y. June 22, 2011), presents a paradigmatic illustration of the adequacy of current law to address the racial discrimination that multiracial-identified persons encounter.

--This is an excerpt from Professor Tanya Hernandez's article What Emerging Multiracial Plaintiff Cases Suggest About Employment Discrimination Law published in the New York Law Journal


November 15, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

One Hundredth Anniversary of Buchanan v. Warley (1917)

Buchanan v. Warley (1917) was the first case won by the NAACP.  One hundred years ago, America was entrenched in Jim Crow segregation.  In this context, why did the U.S. Supreme Court strike down a Louisville, Kentucky ordinance that prohibited Black Americans from living on majority-White blocks and vice versa?  Because it violated the property rights of White homeowners--it did not allow Charles Buchanan (a White man sympathetic to the plight of Black people) to sell his home.  Buchanan v. Warley was a test case cleverly orchestrated to pit White property rights against Jim Crow.  Professor Elizabeth A. Herbin-Triant of the University of Massachusetts Lowell discusses it further right here.

November 14, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, November 13, 2017

Continuing Derrick Bell's Devotion in Creative Action (Prof. Angela Kupenda)


I remember my first time seeing Derrick Bell in person and hearing him speak, just a few years before he passed away.  I was in awe of him for many reasons, but primarily for two reasons.  First, I noted from watching him with his devoted students, how mutual was the devotion coming from him—devotion to them as people and as those who would surely carry on his great work of seeking to forge equality in America and beyond.  And second, I was in awe of him because of his devotion to the elimination of racism, while at the same time commenting in some of his writings the sad permanence, it seems, of racism and other -isms.


Reflecting on those two lessons from Professor Bell, I think we can both pay homage to him, and further the cause by considering his exemplary devotion-- to his students and to the cause of the eradication of isms ---by empowering ourselves to serve within oppressed communities, as an additional advancement for racial progress.


Recently, I attended the LatCrit Biennial academic conference where academics of color wondered aloud where are safe places that allow the thriving-- and even just surviving-- of academics of color to carry on the work of Professor Bell and others who fought tirelessly for us to have the positions we now have in America. Some of us feel under attack in our own schools and in the proliferation of national and state policies that hinder full equality.  


Although I, too, am greatly concerned about the future of education and equality in America, I firmly believe we can find safe spaces, which allow us to further follow Professor Bell’s legacy, through embracing practical ideals.


We can find space spaces to evolve by serving in spaces where we are needed most and are welcomed.  When I was a new faculty member trying to get tenure over 20 years ago, I felt unsafe . . .  frequently.  Works of scholars like Professor Bell assured me that my voice had purpose.  Yet, there were few nonwhite faculty members at my institution.  I was the only faculty member writing and publishing about race and gender.  Many of my law students had never had a black professor and found my presence unfamiliar. In the midst of this all, some faculty announced they would aim to heighten the tenure standards. Needless to say, it was difficult for me to find a safe space within my institution…to even do the work I felt called to do.


Just a few miles from my school in the city was a public elementary school that was almost all black (from decades of white flight and other de facto segregation).  I started to volunteer at that school. I would work with the students, many had never engaged with a lawyer.  I helped the teachers who had large and busy classrooms.   I attended programs and events with the overworked parents, who were struggling to be engaged.  And, I cheered for the successes of the students and the school.


In the midst of my volunteer efforts, I learned more about teaching.  From these skilled and hardworking black public school teachers, I learned so much about pedagogy. I found a safe space, where I was needed and welcomed, where I could be myself and further social justice.  And, I got tenure at my law school, while maintaining a sense of well being and purpose. Feeling safe and welcomed with my extended time volunteering, I was able to be even more productive as a teacher and scholar at my institution. 


I thought of this as I reflected on Professor Bell and how kind he was toward his students, how engaged he was, and how all of that commitment enhanced, not diminished, him as a scholar. Finding space spaces by visiting and serving in spaces, and with young people, where we are needed most and welcomed is a way to survive and thrive in academia, and a way to continue Professor Bell’s enduring mission of eradicating the -isms that seem so permanent, especially now in 2017.


-- Professor Angela Mae Kupenda is Professor of Law at Mississippi College.



November 13, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Racial Taxation

Professor Camille Walsh of the University of Washington Bothell has come out with a book entitled RACIAL TAXATION.  Professor Walsh explores the history of taxation as it relates to citizenship and public policy.  She argues that both "taxpayer identity" and tax policy were built on "foundations of White supremacy."  To support her thesis, she considers various policy initiatives throughout the history of American public education, including school funding and desegregation efforts.  By integrating various disciplinary traditions and analyzing a variety of sources, Professor Walsh illustrates how taxation and citizenship are related to each other and have served as axes of racial oppression and inequality.

November 11, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, November 10, 2017

“It Just Means Telling the Truth”: Professor Derrick Bell’s Critical Race Theory

As the 2009-10 Derrick Bell Fellow at New York University (NYU) School of Law, I had the honor and privilege of working closely with Professor Derrick Bell to organize and teach his classes.  From this experience, I have many cherished stories to tell about Professor Derrick Bell as a teacher, and this is one.

As one of the founders of Critical Race Theory (CRT), the late Professor Derrick Bell set into motion one of the most influential scholarly movements that the legal academy has seen.  But while his impact on the academy was profound and undeniable, Professor Bell’s view of CRT went far beyond scholarship: it was a way of living one’s life.  When asked what Critical Race Theory was, Professor Bell used to say half-jokingly:  “I don’t know  … [t]o me, it just means telling the truth, even in the face of criticism.”  And while he had strong, well-defined views on many issues, Professor Bell also recognized that being “critical” meant analyzing all perspectives—particularly those that were marginalized in the mainstream discourse.  He told his own version of truth, but as a teacher, he also recognized the validity of other perspectives. 

The second part of Professor Bell’s quote on Critical Race Theory—“even in the face of criticism”—was even more important to him than “truth.” Professor Bell wrote a book entitled Confronting Authority, which he took quite seriously as a philosophy of life. He wanted students to confront his authority in the classroom—to sincerely tell their own version of the “truth,” even if it went against his views.  On more than one occasion, I saw Professor Bell encourage conservative students to challenge him in class.  Sometimes they did, and when progressive students criticized the conservative students in response, Professor Bell stood up for the latter, even if his own views were more in line with the former.  Professor Bell said that he had the utmost respect for anyone who had the courage to stand up to authority, to go against the crowd, and to say what he or she believed.  When Professor Bell was the authority that meant being “critical” of him.  And just as he became a founding figure in CRT by confronting authority and by “just…telling the truth[,]” Professor Bell wanted his students to stand up to authority and tell their own truth, even in the wake of criticism, and even if he disagreed with them.  It was not just about him telling his truth, but rather about everyone having the courage to tell their own truths.

For Professor Bell, CRT was as much a humanistic endeavor as it was a scholarly enterprise or a progressive activist movement.  His scholarly works and his activism told his truth—which is well known to us as CRT.  But his kindness to those who disagreed with him, his desire that they confront him, and that they too have their voices heard, were all just as important to Professor Derrick Bell, and were part of his Critical Race Theory.

For more of my stories about Professor Derrick Bell as a teacher, see:

Vinay Harpalani, Gifted with Second-Sight”: Professor Derrick Bell the Teacher, in Covenant Keeper: Derrick Bell’s Enduring Education Legacy 17 (Gloria J. Ladson-Billings & William F. Tate eds. 2016).

Vinay Harpalani, From Roach Powder to Radical Humanism: Professor Derrick Bell’s“Critical” Constitutional Pedagogy, 36 Seattle U. L. Rev. xxiii (2013).

November 10, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Call for Papers: Slavery Past, Present and Future

Call for Papers: 


Indiana University Europe Gateway, Berlin, Germany  July 10 & 11, 2018

Throughout history, slavery (the purchase and sale of human beings as chattel), enslavement (through conquest, and exploitation of indebtedness, among other vulnerabilities), and similar extreme forms of exploitation and control have been an intrinsic part of human societies. 

Is slavery an inevitable part of the human condition?

Controversial estimates indicate that up to 35 million people worldwide are enslaved today.  This modern re-emergence of slavery, following legal abolition over two hundred years ago, is said to be linked to the deepening interconnectedness of countries in the global economy, overpopulation, and the economic and other vulnerabilities of the individual victims and communities.

This conference will explore slavery in all its dimensions and, in particular, the ways in which individual humans and societies understand and attempt to respond to it. 

The varieties of contemporary forms of exploitation appear to be endless.  Consider, for example, enslavement or mere “exploitation” among:

  • fishermen in Thailand’s booming shrimping industry,
  • children on Ghana’s cocoa plantations,
  • immigrant farmworkers on U.S. farms,
  • truck drivers in the port of Los Angeles.
  • prostituted women and girls on the streets and in the brothels of Las Vegas,
  • the dancing boys (bacha bazi) of Afghanistan,
  • the sex workers of The Netherlands’ Red Light Districts and in Italian cities,
  • Eritrean and other sub-Saharan Africans fleeing to Israel and trafficked and exploited in the Sinai,
  • Syrian refugees in Jordan, Turkey, and Lebanon, and
  • migrant workers from Southeast Asia and other countries who flock to the oil rich Gulf States for work.

Does the persistence and mutations of different forms of extreme human-of-human exploitation mean that the world may not have changed as much as contemporary societies would like to believe since worldwide abolition and the recognition of universal individual and collective human rights?  Like the ‘consumers’ of past eras, such as early industrialization, are we dependent on the abhorrent exploitation of others? 

Potential themes and sub-themes of the conference include but are not limited to:

  1. Defining Slavery:
    1. What do we mean when we talk about “slavery”
    2. Using “slavery” to obscure other endemic forms of exploitation
    3. Teaching and learning about historic slavery and contemporary forms of exploitation
  2. Slaveries of the Past
    1. Classical (Egyptian, Greco-Roman, etc.) slavery
    2. Conquests and colonizations – Aboriginal Australians, indigenous peoples of the New World, dividing and colonizing Africa and Asia
    3. Slaveries in Europe before the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade and Industrialization, such as villeinage and serfdom
    4. Trans-Atlantic Slavery and the trans-Atlantic Slave Trade
    5. Systems of slavery in tribal and traditional societies
    6. WWII and post-WWII forced labor camps
  3. Human Trafficking and other Forms of Contemporary Exploitation
    1. Definitions
    2. Types of human trafficking
    3. Organ trafficking
    4. The focus on sex trafficking: reasons, purpose, effects
    5. Can nation states enslave?
    6. Is human trafficking “slavery”
    7. Contemporary usage and depictions of slavery
    8. Civil society anti-trafficking activism
      1.   Methodologies
      2. Effectiveness
    9. Anti-trafficking policies and legislation
    10. Assessing contemporary anti-trafficking and/or anti-“slavery” Initiatives
  4. Systems and Structures of Enslavement and Subordination (historic and contemporary)
    1. Role of slavery in national and global economies
    2. Economic, political, legal structures – their role in enslavement and exploitation
    3. Slavery’s impact on culture
    4. Cultural impacts of historic slavery
  5. Voices of the Enslaved
    1. Slave narratives of the past and present
    2. Descendants’ interpretation of their enslaved and slave-holding ancestors
  6. Legacies of slavery
    1. Identifying and mapping contemporary legacies – economic, social, cultural, psychological
    2. Assessment of slavery’s impact – economic, political, other
    3. Commemorations of enslavers and/or the enslaved
    4. Debating reparations
  7. Anti-slavery movements:
    1. Reparations
    2. Economic compensation
    3. Restorative justice
    4. Teaching and learning about slavery
    5. Relationship to the global racial hierarchy
    6. Abolitionism and law: effects and (in)effectiveness
    7. The role of media and social media

Submissions to this conference are sought from people from all genders and walks of life, including academics (from multiple disciplines, such as art, anthropology, sociology, history, ethnic studies, politics, social work, economics) and non-academics; social workers, activists, and health care professionals; government representatives and policy makers; former slaves and indentured laborers; members of at-risk populations such as migrant and guest workers, non—regularized immigrants, and refugees.  

Conference Committee:

Karen E. Bravo (Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law, IN, USA) David Bulla (Augusta University, GA, USA) Sheetal Shah (Webster University, Leiden, The Netherlands) Polina Smiragina (University of Sydney, Australia)

Submitting Your Proposal

Proposals should be submitted no later than Friday, March 2, 2018 to:

Karen E. Bravo, Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law, Indianapolis:

E-Mail Subject Line: Slavery Past Present & Future 3 Proposal Submission

File Format: Microsoft Word (DOC or DOCX)

  The following information must be included in the body of the email:

  1. Author(s)
  2. Affiliation as you would like it to appear in the conference program
  3. Corresponding author email address

 The following information must be in the Microsoft Word file:

  1. Title of proposal
  2. Body of proposal (maximum of 300 words)
  3. Keywords (maximum of ten)

Please keep the following in mind:

  1. All text must be in Times New Roman 12.
  2. No footnotes or special formatting (bold, underline, or italicization) must be used.

Evaluating Your Proposal

All abstracts will be double-blind peer reviewed and you will be notified of the Organizing Committee’s decision no later than Friday, 16 March 2018.  If a positive decision is made, you will be asked to promptly register online. You will be asked to submit a draft paper of no more than 3000 words by Friday, 01 June 2018.


November 9, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Society of American Law Teachers (SALT) Announces its Award Winners

The Society of American Law Teachers (SALT) has announced its award winners for this year. 

The recipients of the 2017 Junior Faculty Teaching Award, which "recognizes an outstanding recent entrant (seven years or fewer) into legal education who demonstrates a commitment to justice, equality and academic excellence through his or her teaching[,]" are Professor Katie Eyer of Rutgers University-Camden School of Law and Professor Lua Kamal Yuille of the University of Kansas School of Law.

The recipients of the 2018 M. Shanara Gilbert Human Rights Award for "an exceptional person or institution whose struggle for human rights requires recognition" are Professor Robert S. Chang and the Fred T. Korematsu Center for Law and Equality at Seattle University School of Law, where Professor Chang is the Executive Director of the Korematsu Center.

The recipient of the 2018 Great Teacher Award, which "recognizes individuals or institutions that have made especially important contributions to teaching, legal education, and mentoring[,]" is Professor Jeffrey Selbin of the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law.

Congratulations to all of the winners.  SALT will present the awards at its Annual Awards Celebration on Friday, January 5 at 4:30 pm at California Western School of Law, 350 Cedar Street, San Diego, California 92101.  Tickets can be purchased online at 



November 2, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)