Wednesday, September 5, 2018

A Good Read: Jackson on Sander’s Mismatch Theory

With the beginning of the new law school year, I have found myself rethinking the literature I use for classes and research. This has led me to encounter new, interesting—and, I think, broadly helpful—books and resources that can further my teaching and research.

In this sprit, and in the spirit of this blog’s efforts to advance scholarship in Critical Race Theory, Race and the Law, and related fields, I want to occasionally share “Good Reads” that may help readers of this blog in advocacy, scholarship, and/or teaching.

Today’s “Good Read” is Black Men in Law School: Unmatched or Mismatched (Routledge 2018) (Amazon link) (CRC Press link) by Darrell D. Jackson at the University of Wyoming.

In this qualitative study, Dr. Jackson critiques Richard Sander’s (in)famous mismatch critique of affirmative action. Critiques of Sander are nothing new, but Jackson’s core (and I think novel) approach is rooted in a straightforward and powerful question:

"What can the experiences and voices of African American male former law school students reveal about race and how it functions in law schools?”

Jackson aptly observes that this question was left out entirely of Sander’s mismatch analysis, and thus he effectively critiques Sander and recognizes a gap in the voluminous literature that attacks the mismatch argument.

Jackson then uses narratives based on interviews of law school students, alumni, and faculty; Critical Race Theory; and other threads of his own research on race in higher education to argue for an alternative framework. His frame is based on demonstrating the reality of struggles of African Americans in law school as well as illustrating the wholistic nature of African American progress in law school—which leads Jackson to offer a lens on the question of understanding African American progress in higher education premised on inclusion in contrast to Sander’s frame of exclusion. Ultimately, Jackson argues that the more appropriate approach to understanding genuine African American progress in law schools is to look at the wholistic development process for historically marginalized students, what Jackson calls his “Process of Progress” heuristic.

Jackson’s book in its grounding in the voices and experiences of African American men offers an important contribution to the ongoing affirmative action debates. Rather than be mired in abstraction, Jackson’s effort seeks to be concrete about the realities of race in law school and to articulate how inclusive practices can nonetheless overcome those negative forces and dispel the mismatch myth (and the stereotyping assumptions behind it). Jackson’s insights would be of use for courses regarding race and the law, education law, and related courses as well as for advocates and professionals who are working on issues of inclusion in law school and the legal profession.

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