Center Sparks Dialogue
Initiative Has Promising First Year
• Denise Forster
Members of the Law School community were taken by surprise in November when the new Center for the Study of Race and Law invited a self-proclaimed “liberal against racial preferences” as its inaugural speaker. But the Center’s director and student board members understand that the study of diversity and race-related issues warrant dialogue from many perspectives.
The inaugural speaker, University of Michigan Philosophy Professor Carl Cohen, presented “The Liberal Case Against Racial Preferences”—not what one might expect from an intellectual with solid liberal credentials. His presentation spurred much discussion. Mission accomplished.
The Center, active since fall of 2003, provides opportunities for students, faculty, community members, and practitioners to engage and exchange ideas related to race and law. It coordinates and promotes the substantial array of existing Law School programs on race and law, and its members work toward enhancing offerings on pertinent issues through faculty presentations, panel discussions, and guest speakers. The Center also aims to promote research and scholarship through faculty workshops, scholarly symposia, and student research projects under faculty supervision.
“The Center invites students to pursue their initiatives and creativity,” said Center Director and Law Professor Kim Forde-Mazrui. Appointed director before visiting at Michigan for the 2003–2004 year, Forde-Mazrui also holds the newly created Thurgood Marshall Research Professorship (see related story).While Forde-Mazrui serves as director, he deflects laudatory comments about the Center to its student members, Law Professor Anne Coughlin, who directed the Center in his absence, and to Dean John C. Jeffries, Jr. ’73, for his guidance and support.
“The students played a crucial role in bringing this effort about. They also bring their ideas, facilitating intellectual programs about race,” said Forde-Mazrui.
The Center developed rapidly in response to an assault with racial overtones against an undergraduate on Grounds in early 2003. Students, professors, and community members came together to found the Committee for Progress on Race.
A few months later, Law School students approached Dean Jeffries with a proposal for an initiative on the study of race and law. Dean Jeffries expanded on the concept and founded the Law School ’s Center for the Study of Race and Law. “In less than a year, our students made the Center into a visible, significant institution in the Law School landscape,” Coughlin said. “And folks around the country are sitting up to take notice. When I interviewed applicants for teaching positions at a hiring conference in Washington, D.C., last fall, the one thing most of the candidates asked me was for more information about the work being done by our Center for the Study of Race and Law.”
While issues presented in Center events focus on race, they are generated by the differing perspectives around these societal touchpoints. “The Center is an academic enterprise, not an indoctrination center. There is no mission to reform thoughts, but rather to inform thoughts,” said Dean Jeffries.
“The Center is a new institution at the Law School, bringing new resources and fresh commitment to the study of race and social justice. But it also builds on our pre-existing strengths. Some of the stars on our faculty—for example, Mike Klarman, Kim Forde-Mazrui, and Risa Goluboff—are devoting their scholarly careers to the study of race and law. The Center aims to support work like theirs,” said Coughlin.
Plans abound for future events on affirmative action, racial profiling, employment discrimination, and other aspects of civil rights affecting the nation—and not just surrounding black/white relations, but other ethnicities as well.
The Center also facilitates a formal concentration on Race and Law in the Law School ’s curriculum in core courses, including courses on race and law, employment discrimination, civil rights history and litigation, constitutional history, critical race theory, Indian law, school finance, and local government law.
Other offerings that involve race-related topics include Refugee Law, Family Law, Immigration Law, International Human Rights Law, Land Use Law, and War Crimes, Crimes Against Humanity, and Genocide.
“Race has been one of the most significant influences on the development of American public law, and should therefore figure prominently in any sound legal education. With the Center, the Law School seeks to strengthen its commitment to the study of race and law. The Center’s success this past year demonstrates that interest in this area among faculty and students runs deep and broad. The support for this enterprise from Dean Jeffries, the faculty, students, staff, and numerous alumni has been truly inspiring,” said Forde-Mazrui. Find up-to-date information on the Center and its events at: www.law.virginia.edu/race
A Sampling of
News and Events Promoted by the
Goluboff Wins Law and Society Award for Scholarship on Civil Rights in the 1940s
When looking at the history of civil rights, scholars tend to zero in on one significant moment—Brown v. Board of Education (1954)—but the 1940s offer a rich foundation as well, as Law Professor Risa Goluboff discovered while writing her doctoral dissertation in history, “The Work of Civil Rights in the 1940s: The Department of Justice, the NAACP, and African-American Agricultural Labor.” Goluboff’s scholarship was recently awarded the Law and Society Association’s Annual Dissertation Prize. More
Grutter Litigators Explain Strategies Used to Win Affirmative Action Case
Students and professors got a lesson in the anatomy of a Supreme Court case, as attorneys who worked on one of the most publicized cases before the Court in years, Grutter v. Bollinger—which upheld use of affirmative action in higher education admissions decisions—dissected their strategic approach in arguing the case. Latham & Watkins attorneys Maureen Mahoney and Scott Ballenger ’96 spoke at the event. More
50 Years of Brown v. Board of Education Symposium
Brown v. Board of Education encouraged the Civil Rights Movement and paved the way for key civil rights legislation in the 1960s, forever weakening Southern politicians’ hold on Congress, according to former NAACP lawyer and director-counsel Jack Greenberg in his keynote address at a symposium honoring Brown. Greenberg, who was just shy of his 28th birthday when he argued before the Supreme Court in Brown, worked for the NAACP Legal and Educational Defense Fund (LDF) for over 30 years and headed the organization when Thurgood Marshall left to join the Supreme Court. He discussed the questions he most frequently faces about the strategy of the LDF and the consequences of Brown at the event. More
Brown, Lawrence Prove Justices Weigh Their Own Beliefs, Public Opinion
One case struck at the heart of the segregated South by proclaiming schools could not be separate but equal, while the other offered a mild opening feint at state laws targeting homosexuals—but Brown v. Board of Education and last year’s Lawrence v. Texas reveal how Supreme Court justices weigh their own beliefs in controversial cases that are not necessarily supported by conventional legal sources, according to Law Professor Michael Klarman, who compared the two cases at an event co-sponsored by the American Constitution Society and Lambda Law Alliance. Although the Lawrence decision avoided the issue of gay marriage—just as Brown avoided interracial marriage—Klarman predicted the Court eventually would deem classifications by sexual orientation unconstitutional, as public support for gay rights continues to increase. More
“The Effects of the Federal Income Tax Marriage Penalty on Women of Color”
Federal tax laws that hurt dual-income married couples disproportionately hurt African-American households, said visiting Law Professor Dorothy Brown, noting that married black women account for 40 percent of their household’s income, while married white women's income accounts for only 29 percent. Although tax laws are written to be neutral, they can have varying impacts on households of different races, Brown explained at a luncheon sponsored by Women of Color. The discrepancy may result in part because African-American employees don't earn wages equal to whites, which may encourage black women to work in support of the family income. More
“Race, Identity & Self-Segregation at UVA Law: A Student Panel”
Panelists included Tim Clinton ’05, Adrian Guy ’04, Berin Szoka ’04 and Eric Wang ’06. Moderated by Professor Anne Coughlin, interim director of the Center for the Study of Race and Law. Sponsored by the Student Bar Association Diversity Committee, American Constitution Society, Virginia Law Republicans, National Lawyers Guild and the Student Legal Forum.
“The Liberal Case Against Racial Preferences” with University of Michigan Professor Carl Cohen
Affirmative action programs corrode minorities’ long-term aspirations and should be abandoned because they violate basic American democratic values of equality and merit, according to University of Michigan Philosophy Professor Carl Cohen. That point of view is not novel, but it is unusual in an intellectual with a solid liberal background, and that was one reason Cohen was asked by students and Law Professor Kim Forde-Mazrui to deliver the inaugural lecture of the Law School ’s Center for the Study of Race and Law. Cohen presented “The Liberal Case Against Affirmative Action,” in Caplin Pavilion to a large audience. More
“Blackface and the First Amendment”
Panelists included Robert O’Neil, Professor of Law, Director of the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression; and Stephen Railton, UVA Professor of American Literature and author of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin and American Culture: A Multi-Media Archive.” The panel discussed two conflicting cases involving blackface: Iota Xi v. George Mason and Tindle v. Caudell.
How to Achieve a Colorblind Society: A Debate
Roger Clegg, VP & General Counsel of the Center for Equal Opportunity; and visiting Marquette Law Professor Gordon Hylton, Senior Research Fellow of the Carter G. Woodson Institute for Afro-American and African Studies at UVA, debated issues such as affirmative action in education and the workplace, legislative redistricting on the basis of race, and the collection of racial data by the Census Bureau.
“Professional Lives of Black Lawyers in Post-Civil War Virginia ”
The number of black lawyers in Virginia rose steadily during Reconstruction, when there were virtually no criteria for admission to the bar, but stagnated once the state passed its Jim Crow constitution in 1902, visiting Law Professor J. Gordon Hylton told a small group on hand for a student/faculty workshop. More
The Future of Latinos and the Legal Community
Law School student organization, Voz Latina, presented Robert Raben, the President of the Hispanic Bar Association of D.C., who discussed the future of Latinos and the law.
Law School Diversity: The Students’ Perspective
A panel and audience of students debated the meaning of diversity and its role at the Law School, while documenting their own struggles and successes in finding a place in the community during an event sponsored by the Student Bar Association. Panelists expressed the perceptions they had about the school’s diversity before starting law school. “I saw that there were a lot of viewpoints and political diversity at this school—more than a lot of other law schools at this level,” said Lillian Omand ’04, president of the Federalist Society, in explaining why she chose Virginia. She said she would include life experiences in her definition of diversity, as well as social situations such as being married, and having a variety of viewpoints. More
*For a full listing of the news and events of the Center for the Study of Race and Law visit: www.law.virginia.edu/race.