Tuesday, September 15, 2020

I thought I never personally experienced racism. Then I realized I just normalized it. (by Prof. Njeri Rutledge)


Recently, I realized that my success comes from my ability, as a Black woman, to normalize and dismiss the racism I face everyday.

I am a graduate of Harvard Law School; a law professor; a municipal judge; a wife and mother. By any measure, my life is an example of success. But that success has come at a steep price, paid for by denying my pain.

As a Black woman in America, I make the daily decision to either call out and challenge the routine subtle racism I experience — and as a consequence be labeled as angry — or ignore the racial cuts, pretending with a smile that the resulting wound doesn’t hurt. This choice is exhausting, yet until recently, it’s one I didn’t even realize I was making.  

This summer, a white colleague recently asked if I had ever personally experienced racism. I instinctively said no. I didn’t have any singular life-threatening racial incident, nor been the victim of police abuse. Sure, crosses had been burned in my neighborhood when I was a child in Nashville, but not on my yard. I later found myself inexplicably angry — first at my colleague, and later, at myself.

Why, in that reflexive denial, was I equating the absence of violent racism with the absence of all racist slights directed my way? In a sobering moment, I realized that my success (and that of many people of color) stems from our ability to normalize daily racism. Indeed, our survival as healthy adults depends on it, even if — or perhaps because — it means denying the resultant pain. Like others, I had become a master of wearing a mask.

Children learn racism early

Racism has long been a dangerously regular part of American life. So interwoven in our nation’s fabric, its pervasiveness has made it seem normal — hence deniable. The normalization of racism props up a powerful façade of acceptability, even to its victims. Minimizing the daily abusive reality of people of color is in many ways more corrosive to the ideals of equality, and harder to eliminate, than the violent extremes

For me, normalizing racism began when I was 7 years old. I cried when my mother told me she would be fired for being late to work, because I thought she meant she would actually be set on fire, just like the house of the other Black family a few blocks away.

A few years later, when I was only a 10 year old playing in my front yard, I was referred to as the N-word. This was the first time but not the last. And, like WNBA superstar A’ja Wilson, I too was "uninvited" from a birthday sleepover in the fourth grade. My friend told me her dad didn’t like Black people. I was heartbroken, but I simply smiled to hide the hurt. I learned the painful lesson that I was not her friend, I was her Black friend. I have experienced countless examples of similarly-hurtful treatment.

Beyond mere survival

Witnessing violent racism against other people of color also contributes to the insidious normalization of racism, and is equally traumatic. Whenever my husband and I visit Jasper, Texas, we visit the memorial to his relative, James Byrd Jr., the Black man chained to the back of a pickup truck and dragged to his death in 1998. Byrd’s heinous death, plus the vandalism that continues to demean his memorial, inflicts collateral damage on us, our family, and our nation.

Have I ever personally experienced racism? Every. Single. Day. I am soul-achingly tired. Tired of denying, minimizing, and dealing with racism. Tired of waking my daughter up from nightmares where she’s asking me if the police are going to kill us. Tired of a lifetime of conversations about racism, service on diversity committees, and participation in anti-racism workshops. Tired of being terrified every time my gentle, educated Black husband leaves our house, he will be the victim of police violence.

It is time for me — and others — to take off our masks. For the sake of survival, I would minimize racism and hide its pain. But I can no longer normalize the unacceptable. None of us should. If Americans want to build a society that truly reflects our nation’s "self-evident" truths in our Declaration of Independence, we must all identify racism for what it is, working together to ensure a new normal.


This article originally appeared in USA Today on 9/15/20. Read it here.

Njeri Mathis Rutledge is a professor of law at South Texas College of Law Houston. Follow her on Twitter: @NjeriRutledge 


September 15, 2020 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, September 12, 2020

New Book: Islamophobia and the Law


This is a new book, Islamophobia and the Law (Cambridge University Press 2020), edited by Cyra Akila Choudhury and Khaled Beydoun. Here is the description:

Islamophobia and the Law is a foundational volume of critical scholarship on the emerging form of bigotry widely known as Islamophobia. This book brings together leading legal scholars to explore the emergence and rise of Islamophobia after the 9/11 terror attacks, particularly how the law brings about state-sponsored Islamophobia and acts as a dynamic catalyst of private Islamophobia and vigilante violence against Muslims. The first book of its kind, it is a critical read for scholars and practitioners, advocates and students interested in deepening their knowledge of the subject matter. This collection addresses Islamophobia in race, immigration and citizenship, criminal law and national security, in the use of courts to advance anti-Muslim projects and in law and society.

Chapter contributions by: Khaled Beydoun, Leti Volpp, Susan Akram & Kevin Johnson, Karen Engle, Cyra Akila Choudhury, Sahar Aziz, Abed A. Ayoub, Amna Akbar, Aziza Ahmed, Muneer Ahmad, Karen Ellis Rhone, Faisal Kutty, and SpearIt.

September 12, 2020 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 11, 2020

California Western School of Law Hiring in Criminal Law, Contracts and Legal Writing

 The California Western School of Law is soliciting applications for these positions and welcomes applications from individuals who would contribute to the vibrancy and diversity of the law faculty.

From the hiring committee:
California Western School of Law (CWSL) is seeking applications from entry-level and lateral candidates for two tenured or tenure-track positions and one to begin on or about August 1, 2021. We are looking for candidates with strong academic backgrounds, a commitment to excellence in teaching, and demonstrated potential to be productive scholars. We are especially interested in candidates with a strong desire to teach Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure, or Contracts.
We are also seeking applications for a full-time Legal Skills Professor. The initial appointment is for two years, with possible re-appointment and long-term non-tenure-track status. Responsibilities include teaching two sections of Legal Skills I (objective analysis, writing, and research) in the fall and two sections of Legal Skills II (persuasive writing and oral advocacy) in the spring. Legal Skills Professors participate in the faculty governance of the law school.
Application materials should include a cover letter, C.V., research agenda, and a diversity statement that addresses how you will contribute to CWSL’s goal of creating a diverse faculty. Please direct application materials and questions to the chair of the Appointments Committee, Professor Ken Klein, at kklein@cwsl.edu.


September 11, 2020 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Critical Race Studies & Williams Institute Richard Taylor Law Teaching Fellowship


From the Fellowship organizers:

UCLA Law’s Williams Institute and Critical Race Studies Programseek applications for the Richard Taylor Law Teaching Fellowship for 2021-2023. Applicants who intend to pursue a career as an assistant professor of law are invited to apply if their research interests concern topics at the intersection of race/racism, sexual orientation, and gender identity.

We invite applications from those working in law, policy, and other disciplinary traditions such as the various social sciences, ethnic studies, history, etc. Applicants should have a research agenda that centers questions of sexuality (broadly defined), gender identity, race, and racism in any of the diverse law and policy domains, such as criminal justice, family law, employment discrimination, housing discrimination, to name just a few. We seek candidates who will bring our two programs together, infusing each with the ideas and work of the other.

The law teaching fellowship programs of The Williams Institute and Critical Race Studies at UCLA Law are some of the oldest in the nation. Together, they have supported over twenty law teaching fellows secure tenure track jobs. Past fellows have secured faculty positions at top law schools including Georgetown, Michigan, UCLA, UC Irvine, Wisconsin, and Yale.


For more information and to apply, please see here: https://recruit.apo.ucla.edu/JPF05837

September 10, 2020 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Critical Race Studies 2020-21 Book Series

From the Series organizers:

We’re thrilled to invited you to the first two events in our CRS 2020-21 Book Series. We hope that you can join us for what we know will be timely and engaging conversations on some of today’s most pressing issues:

Wednesday, Sept 16, 12-1:30pm PST: Inventing Latinos: A New Story of American Racism by Laura E. Gómez, in conversation with Cheryl I. Harris


Please join us for the inaugural event in our CRS 2020-21 Book Series, where Cheryl I. Harris will be in conversation with author and Critical Race Studies Faculty Director Laura E. Gómez on her recently released book, Inventing Latinos: A New Story of American Racism. Please RSVP here to receive the Zoom link.

““In this thoughtfully argued study . . . Gómez provides much-needed insight into the true complexity of Latinx identity while revealing the ways in which the dominant culture continues to mask the many racist currents within American society. An insightful and well-researched book.” — Kirkus Reviews

“Written with exceptional clarity and drawing on deep research, Inventing Latinospresents not only a brilliant account of the changing position of Latinxs, but also a nuanced understanding of racism in the U.S. today.” — Howard Winant, co-author of Racial Formation in the United States.


Wednesday, Oct 14, 12-1:30PM – CRS Book Series: Settler Colonialism, Race and the Law: Why Structural Racism Persists by Natsu Taylor Saito, in conversation with E. Tendayi Achiume


Settler Colonialism, Race, and the Law provides a timely analysis of structural racism at the intersection of law and colonialism. Noting the grim racial realities still confronting communities of color, and how they have not been alleviated by constitutional guarantees of equal protection, this book suggests that settler colonial theory provides a more coherent understanding of what causes and what can help remediate racial disparities. Please join us for an conversation with author Natsu Taylor Saito, in conversation with E. Tendayi Achiume, UN Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance and Professor of Law, UCLA School of Law. You may RSVP here to receive the Zoom link.

September 8, 2020 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Supreme Court Justice Mildred Lillie: What Might Have Been (Prof. Bernard Bell)

Lille and five other shortlist candidates for Court

(Mildred Lillie is second from rights and Sylvia Bacon is third from left)

A leading torts casebook, Franklin, Rabin, etc., Tort Law & Alternatives, begins with a California appellate decision, Hammontree v. Jenner, 20 Cal.App.3d 528 (Ct. App. 1971).  The case focuses on whether a driver who has a history of controlled epilepsy and suffers a sudden-onset epileptic seizure is subject to liability without fault or only negligence liability.[1]  Professors, and no doubt students, pay little attention to the name of the judge who authored the opinion, which appears as “Lillie, J.”  But in thinking about whether the identity of the judicial authors of the decisions included in the Franklin & Rabin casebook might help me give students an understanding of the diversity on the bench,[2] I decided to look into the identity of “Lillie, J.”  The judge’s full name was Mildred L. Lillie.  Judge Lillie’s gender is noteworthy by itself, given the limited opportunities for women in the legal profession at the time.  But there’s a story beyond that.  It turns out Judge Lillie could have been an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court instead of either Lewis Powell or William Rehnquist.

Lillie graduated from Boalt Hall in 1938.  Her pre-judicial career included positions as a deputy city attorney in Alameda California, and an Assistant U.S. Attorney, as well as some time in private practice.  Lillie was first appointed to the bench in 1947 by California’s Republican Governor, and soon to be Chief Justice of the United States, Earl Warren.  In 1958, Governor Goodwin Kinght elevated her to the Second District Court of Appeal.  Lille wrote the opinion in Hammontree v. Jenner in 1971 — the opinion was issued on October 14 to be exact. 

Meanwhile President Richard Nixon, himself having been a California politician before becoming President, was attempting to fill two vacancies on the U.S. Supreme Court left by the retirements of Justices John Marshall Harlan II and Hugo Black.  His first two nominations Clement Haynesworth and G. Harold Carswell had failed, largely because of opposition from the Democratic majority in the U.S. Senate.  The President was getting pressure to appoint a woman to the Court (particularly from his wife), though privately he was reluctant to select a woman.  See here and here.

Nevertheless, two women were among the six lawyers rumored to be on Nixon’s shortlist for the vacancies, Mildred Lillie and Sylvia Bacon, whose work in the U.S. Department of Justice had earned her a reputation for being tough on crime.

Nixon’s Attorney General, John Mitchell, believed Lillie a particularly good choice for one of the vacancies. She was a Democrat, and thus might be more palatable to Senate Democrats, but also conservative.  Mitchell noted that California’s Democratic Governor, Pat Brown, had already rejected Lille for a seat on the California Supreme Court as too conservative.  (In 1962, Nixon had lost his bid to unseat Governor Brown, one of the low points in Nixon’s career.[3])

However, Harvard Law School Professor Laurence Tribe harshly criticized Lillie’s qualifications.  (In a 2009 interview recalling that time, he described Lillie as “both right wing and stupid”).  Even worse for Lillie, the American Bar Association Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary found Lillie was unqualified for the U.S. Supreme Court by an 11-1 vote.  After the ABA Committee vote, Nixon had the following exchange with Attorney General John Mitchell.

RN: The woman thing, that's got to get out [to the press] some way. I mean, naturally the [ABA] vote will get out, won't it? Everything else has leaked out of there. Now believe me, we're going to leak this out if they don't.

JM: You can rest assured we'll get it out one way or the other. And Walsh knows it's coming. He's been well programmed -

RN: And the eleven to one [vote]?

JM: Yes.

RN: And I think the eleven to one is brilliant, because it's a stacked jury. All men. Huh?

JM: Absolutely.

RN: And [the committee said] she's the best qualified woman but she's not qualified for the Supreme Court. Jesus, that's great.

On October 21, 1971, a week after the decision in Hammontree, Nixon nominated Lewis Powell and William Rehnquist for the Supreme Court vacancies.  Both were confirmed.  Lillie continued serving on the California appellate court until her death in 2002.

A book published by the NYU Press earlier this year, Hannah Brenner Jonhson & Renee Knake Jefferson, Shortlist: Women in the Shadows of the Supreme Court, discusses Judge Lillie, Sylvia Brown, and several other potential female Supreme Court nominees before the nomination of Sandra Day O’Connor. 

Jefferson & Johnson: It was in the midst of our Supreme Court media study that we stumbled upon that article. We were shocked to learn that Nixon had shortlisted Sylvia Bacon, a judge from Washington, D.C., and Mildred Lillie, a judge from California, as he was faced with two vacancies on the court. We had never heard of these women and were unaware that any women had been considered for the court before O’Connor. We were shocked at the way Lillie was described by the author as having “maintained a bathing beauty figure.” It was absurd that an individual considered as a nominee for the nation’s highest court would be critiqued based on her appearance in a swimsuit. We also were struck by the author’s reference to her childless status.

Although we understood that this commentary was consistent with the pervasive sexism of that era (and the findings of our media study), we were more curious about the notion that other women had been shortlisted before O’Connor. And so began our journey through presidential papers, news accounts and private archives. We learned that indeed, nine women had been shortlisted but never selected for the Supreme Court, dating back as far as the 1930s.


-- By Professor Bernard Bell, Rutgers Law School


[1] The case has civil rights implications in terms of the opportunities for the disabled to participate fully in society.  I discuss using the case to have such a conversation in Bernard W. Bell, The Wide World of Torts: Reviewing Franklin & Rabin's Tort Law and Alternatives, 20 Seattle U. L. Rev. 1, 20-22 (2001). https://digitalcommons.law.seattleu.edu/sulr/vol25/iss1/1/

[2] The judges most often featured in traditional torts casebooks, such as Holmes, Cardozo, Hand, Traynor, and Posner, tend to be white men, and students could easily assume that all the judges authoring opinions have a similar background.  I have decided to look into the identity of authors of the opinions in my casebook to falsify that assumption.  For some time I have known that Justice Alan Page of the Minnesota Supreme Court, and author of one of the decisions in Franklin & Rabin, is African-American and a former professional football player.

[3] In his press conference following his defeat, Nixon asserted: “as I leave you I want you to know—just think how much you’re going to be missing. You won’t have Nixon to kick around anymore, because gentlemen, this is my last press conference, . . .” (Emphasis added.)


September 8, 2020 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, September 7, 2020

Critical Race Studies Symposium


Please save the dates of September 24th and 25th, 2021 for the resecheduled CRS symposium honoring the work and legacy of our own Jerry López and a belatedly celebrating the 20th anniversary of CRS.

Gerald P. López published Rebellious Lawyering: One Chicano's Vision of Progressive Law Practice in 1992. For three decades, the book has reverberated across the United States and other countries too—challenging the color-blind, experts-rule approach of conventional "public interest law" and providing an alternative radical vision for how to practice problem solving. That radical vision has triggered fundamental changes in progressive work of all sorts, in clinical and, more broadly, legal and university-wide education, and in how bloggers, journalists, professionals, and scholars debate how lawyers might most likely become co-eminent allies with clients, communities, and movements militant in their efforts to transform the world. Race, racism, and anti-racism – challenging subordination and authoritarianism in all forms – are at the center of López's vision, and UCLA Law's Critical Race Studies program (CRS) is honored to devote its 20th Anniversary Symposium to looking at rebellious lawyering past, present and future.


September 7, 2020 | Permalink | Comments (0)