Monday, May 21, 2018

Race Hate: The New Normal? (NEPOC/CAPALF Conference May 31-June 1)

2018 NEPOC and CAPALF Legal Scholarship Conference

2018 Joint Conference Announcement

The Northeast People of Color Legal Scholarship Conference (NEPOC) and the Conference of Asian Pacific American Law Faculty (CAPALF) Proudly Present

Race Hate: The New Normal?

May 31 - June 1, 2018

Albany Law School, Albany, New York

Register Here 

For a time it was fashionable to describe racism as a thing of the past. Racism was a relic, a specter, a mystic chord of memory. Racism was bad form, anachronistic, irrelevant. Once upon a time racism existed, but the election of Barack Obama as the 44th president of the United States was “goodbye to all that.” “We’re all post-racial now.” But we have never been post-racial.

With the election of Donald Trump racism is again ascendant.

What is to be done?

We hope to address the present crisis at the NEPOC/CAPALF conference in Albany, New York. Speakers will address the following themes:

  • Race Hate 2018
  • Speech in a Post-Truth Era
  • Women & Legal Activism: Feminism, Social Movements & Resistance
  • Colonialism as Catastrophe: Disaster Relief in Puerto Rico
  • Challenges Facing Administrators of Color: Diversity & Inclusion In Higher Education & Legal Education
  • National Security Policy: Extreme Vetting and the Muslim Ban
  • Immigration, Federalism, Sanctuary Cities/States


Barbara Smith
Founder of Kitchen Table: Woman of Color Press (the first U.S. publisher for literature by women of color) and the Combahee River Collective (, and an author, activist, community organizer, and independent scholar whose groundbreaking work helped open up a cultural and political dialogue about the intersections of race, class, sexuality, and gender. Smith was among the first to define an African American women's literary tradition and to build Black women's studies and Black feminism in the United States. See and



Neil Gotanda



Sahar Aziz, Professor and Chancellor’s Social Justice Scholar; Director, Center for Security, Race & Rights, Rutgers Law School

Matthew Charity, Co=President of SALT, Professor of Law, Western New England University School of Law

Elaine Chiu, Professor of Law and Director, Ronald H. Brown Center for Civil Rights and Economic Justice, St. John’s University School of Law

Pamela Edwards, Professor of Law and Director of the Center for Diversity in the Legal Profession, CUNY School of Law

Anthony Farley, James Campbell Matthews Distinguished Professor of Jurisprudence, Albany Law School

Neil Gotanda, Professor of Law, Western State College of Law

Peter Halewood, Professor of Law, Albany Law School

Vinay Harpalani, Associate Professor of Law, Savannah Law School

Taja-Nia Henderson, Professor of Law, Rutgers School of Law

Janell Hobson, Professor of Women’s Studies and Chair, Department of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, University of Albany

Emily Houh, Gustavus Henry Wald Professor of Law and Contracts, University of Cincinnati College of Law

Margaret Hu, Associate Professor of Law, Washington and Lee University School of Law

Pantea Javidan, Chair, Center for Empowering Refugees and Immigrants

Anil Kalhan, Professor of Law, Thomas R. Kline School of Law, Drexel University

Alexis Kateron, Assistant Professor of Law, Director of the Constitutional Rights Clinic, Rutgers Law School

Deseriee Kennedy, Dean of Diversity and Professor of Law, Touro Law Center

Julia Kosineski, 3L, Albany Law School

Peter Margulies, Professor of Law, Roger Williams University School of Law

Teresa “Teri” Miller, Senior Vice Chancellor for Strategic Initiatives and Chief of Staff, State University of New York

Cheryl Packwood, Former Overseas Representative for the Government of Bermuda

Deborah Post, Professor EmeritusTouro Law Center

Jodie Roure, Associate Professor Latin American and Latina/o Studies Department, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York

Sudha Setty, Associate Dean for Faculty Development and Incoming Dean, Western New England University School of Law

Anna Shavers, Cline Williams Professor of Citizenship Law, Nebraska Law School

Rick Su, Professor of Law, University at Buffalo School of Law

Christian B. Sundquist, Director of Faculty Research and Scholarship and Professor of Law, Albany Law School

Jose Luis Vargas Tapia, Initiativa Communitaria Medical Brigade

Mona Washington, Playwright

Donna Young, Professor of Law, Albany Law School



May 21, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Ideological Diversity and Africana Studies

Ideological bias has become a significant topic of discussion in academic circles and in the media.  Fox News recently ran a story about the ideological bias at liberal arts colleges.  The study was based on a report by the National Association of Scholars (NAS),which was authored by Professor Mitchell Langbert of Brooklyn College.  NAS surveyed 5,197 tenure track professors from 51 liberal arts colleges.  The sample consisted of professors from a range of academic disciplines, and NAS “could not find a single Republican with an exclusive appointment to fields like gender studies, Africana studies, and peace studies.”  The report stated that these disciplines are the “most ideological” fields of study—implying that they are not ideologically diverse.  However, the NAS study does not give a picture of ideological diversity in these disciplines.  As my main interest here is in Africana studies, I use that as an example.

Professor Langbert’s framing of ideological division is narrow and does not capture the nuances of a field like Africana Studies.  His ideological dichotomy is very conventional and reflects White mainstream discourse which is far less applicable in a field like Africana Studies.  Any implication that the field is somehow ideologically homogenous is off-base: it is full of vigorous intellectual debate.  But Democrat vs. Republican, or even liberal vs. conservative in the conventional sense, [1] are not the major debates within Africana Studies. 

In my experience, the major debates in Africana Studies has centered on the tension between Black Nationalism and integrationist ideals. [2] Professor Langbert cites Fabio Rojas and correctly notes that Africana studies began with the emergence of “ideologically motivated political movements in the 1960s and 1970s.”  The Black Power Movement and Pan-Africanism, both rooted in Black Nationalist ideas, were indeed the foundations of Africana studies.  But there has always been a tension between integration and nationalism among African American scholars and activists.  This manifested itself most famously during the Civil Rights Era, in the different perspectives of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X.  In earlier eras, we saw debates between W.E.B. Du Bois and Marcus Garvey; and between Du Bois and Booker T. Washington.  The debates between nationalist and integrationist sentiments continue to exist to this day. [3] Many African Americans subscribe to both ideologies to one degree or another, and they balance the two when developing their political views.  This was famously articulated by W.E.B. Du Bois’s notion of “double-consciousness” in Souls of Black Folk:

After the Egyptian and Indian, the Greek and Roman, the Teuton and Mongolian, the Negro is a sort of seventh son, born with a veil, and gifted with second-sight in this American world,—a world which yields him no true self-consciousness, but only lets him see himself through the revelation of the other world. It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his two-ness,—an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder.”  --W.E.B. Du Bois, Souls of Black Folk--

Africana Studies intersects with history, sociology, literature, and other disciplines to explore different aspects of this debate.  It also considers policy issues that stem from the integration vs. nationalism debate, such as the efficacy of African-centered charter schools and of historically Black colleges and universities.  In fact, there is an inherent ideological tension along these lines within Africana Studies departments and programs, because many of them exist at predominantly White institutions.

Additionally, Africana Studies actually does have an intellectual current that parallels some conservative ideals.  Most Black voters feel alienated by the Republican Party’s history of appeals to racism: the Southern Strategy, dog whistle politics, and more recent overtures to White supremacists by Donald Trump.  Nevertheless, Black Nationalism has long emphasized Black self-help, paralleling ideas now espoused by many White conservatives. [4] There are differences in the degree and kind of self-help that are advocated by Black Nationalism as compared to White conservatism.  But that is also a rich source of ideological debates in the realm of Africana Studies.

Most White Americans and others who are not Black have not shown much interest in these debates.  But more than any other race-related dialogue, White interest and knowledge of Africana Studies and the debates therein would improve race relations in America.  It would give White Americans a more nuanced perspective on Black identity and political perspectives. [5]  Unfortunately, such engagement is uncommon inside or outside of academia. 

The debates that stem from Africana Studies can also inform other disciplines.  One of my fields, constitutional law, provides a notable example--thanks to my mentor, the late Professor Derrick Bell.  On this 64th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, it is fitting to remember Professor Bell’s striking challenge to the liberal orthodoxy of integration.  In his classic 1976 Yale Law Journal article, “Serving Two Masters”, Professor Bell contended that desegregation efforts often did not have clients’ interests at heart.  He was met with much criticism from liberals.  Nevertheless, many African Americans had similar sentiments. [6]  They were careful, however, about when and how to express these sentiments: they did not want to promote Jim Crow’s ideology of Black inferiority and detract from a vision of Black equality.  In constitutional law today, the litmus test for a theory of constitutional interpretation is said to be whether it would lead to the correct result in Brown: endorsement of Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling for desegregation.  Ironically, the only prominent dissenter from this view (notwithstanding Wendy Vitter and other Trump judicial nominees) has been Professor Derrick Bell—the most cherished and revered role model of legal academics interested in racial justice. [7]

The lessons here are important, and the homogeneity and bias that NAS brings to attention is not just one of ideology.  It is about the very meaning of ideological diversity—an issue that itself is almost always framed from a mainstream White perspective.  All of us can and should take the time to immerse ourselves in the ideological debates of Africana Studies and other identity-based disciplines.  Rather than criticizing these disciplines, we should appreciate the learning opportunities they can provide for all of us.  Many White Americans (and others who are not Black) are afraid that they would be unwelcome or met with hostility in Africana Studies circles.  I can say that when I was in graduate school at the University of Pennsylvania, the few White Americans or other non-Black people I saw attending Africana Studies-related events were always embraced with open arms.  All they had to do was to cede the idea that the issues and debates themselves must be framed from a mainstream White perspective; and to be open to engaging the debates that took place in Africana Studies.  For those who do this, it becomes clear that fields like Africana Studies are as rich in ideological debate as are other disciplines.

[1] Of course, American liberalism and conservatism differ from liberalism and conservatism in Europe and other parts of the world.

[2] Black Nationalism in America itself has a different meaning than most nationalisms around the world.  Its major goal is not to create a separate political space, but rather to mobilize and unify African Americans for political advocacy, community activism, and other causes within the U.S. context, not apart from it.  Although there are Black Nationalist thinkers, dating back to Marcus Garvey and earlier, who have advocated for a separate state, there is not a major political mobilization to this end.

[3] See, e.g., David Love, Little Rock 9: In Seeking School Desegregation Rather than Quality Education, Did Black People Miss the Forest for the Trees? Atlanta Black Star, Sept. 4, 2016.

[4] There has also been some discussion of Justice Clarence Thomas in this vein.  See, e.g. Mark Tushnet, Clarence Thomas's Black Nationalism, 47 Howard Law Journal 323 (2003-4).  Additionally, some libertarians have recently embraced the cause of police brutality, aligning themselves on this issue with #BlackLivesMatter activists.

[5] See my recent article, Vinay Harpalani, “Safe Spaces” and the Educational Benefits of Diversity,13 Duke Journal of Constitutional Law & Public Policy 117, 153-65 (2017).

[6] One student of mine at Savannah Law School, a Black woman from the South, told me recently about how her grandmother, who staunchly instilled an ethic of Black pride and hard work in her, reacted on the day of the Brown verdict.  She thought it was "the worst day in American history."

[7] In 2002, Professor Jack Balkin of Yale Law School published a book, What Brown v. Board of Education Should Have Said, where he surveyed eminent constitutional law professors on the question.  Professor Bell’s chapter was the only dissent from the majority opinion.  Having worked closely with Professor Bell, I know that he never wavered from that view, although he invited opposing viewpoints and sought ideological diversity.


I thank Professor Shakira Pleasant and Cherese Handy for their feedback on this post.

May 17, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, May 11, 2018

Equality Law Scholars' Forum: Call for Papers


Call for Proposals for the Second Annual Equality Law Scholars’ Forum

Building on the success of the Inaugural Equality Law Scholars’ Forum held at UC Berkeley Law last fall, and in the spirit of academic engagement and mentoring in the area of Equality Law, we (Tristin Green, University of San Francisco; Angela Onwuachi-Willig, UC Berkeley; and Leticia Saucedo, UC Davis) announce the Second Annual Equality Law Scholars’ Forum to be held this fall.  This Scholars’ Forum seeks to provide junior scholars with commentary and critique and to provide scholars at all career stages the opportunity to engage with new scholarly currents and ideas. 

We hope to bring together scholars with varied perspectives (e.g., critical race theory, class critical theory, feminist legal theory, law and economics, law and society) across fields (e.g., criminal system, education, employment, family, health, immigration, property, tax) and with work relevant to many diverse identities (e.g., age, class, disability, national origin, race, sex, sexuality) to build bridges and to generate new ideas in the area of Equality Law.  

We will select five relatively junior scholars (untenured, newly tenured, or prospective professors) to present papers from proposals submitted in response to this Call for Proposals. In so doing, we will select papers that cover a broad range of topics within the area of Equality Law.  Leading senior scholars will provide commentary on each of the featured papers in an intimate and collegial setting.  The Equality Law Scholars’ Forum will pay transportation and accommodation expenses for participants and will host a dinner on Friday evening.  

This year’s Forum will be held on November 9-10, 2018 at UC Davis Law School.

Junior scholars are invited to submit abstracts of proposed papers, 3-5 pages in length, by July 1, 2018.   Full drafts must be available for circulation to participants by October 19, 2018.

Proposals should be submitted to: Tristin Green, USF School of Law,  Electronic submissions via email are preferred.


May 11, 2018 | Permalink | Comments (0)