Law 792:  Race, American Society and the Law

When the Supreme Court delivered its 1954 opinion in Brown v. Board of Education, it inaugurated the Desegregation Movement.  Neither America nor her descendants from Africa had undergone the Civil Rights Movement, the Black Consciousness Movement, the Multicultural Movement, the Diversity Movement nor the Post-Racial Era.  America has now lived with the Court's opinion in Brown for over 65 years.  In that time, Americans have witnessed significant progress in the battle against racial subordination.  Nevertheless, blacks in the US still lag far behind non-Hispanic whites in terms of political, economic, educational, and social power.  Thus, the almost always concomitant acknowledgment with regard to race in American society is that despite undeniable progress, there is still a long way to travel before we reach our ultimate goal.

At the heart of the struggle for racial equality is the legal system.  In that regard, Justice O’Connor’s 2003 opinion for the Court in Grutter v Bollinger noted that the benefits of enrolling a critical mass of underrepresented minority students are substantial.  As she wrote of the University of Michigan Law School’s affirmative action admission policy,

“The Law School’s admission policy promotes ‘cross-racial understanding,’ helps to break down racial stereotypes, and ‘enables [students] to better understand persons of different races.’  These benefits are ‘important and laudable,’ because ‘classroom discussion is livelier, more spirited and simply more enlightening and interesting’ when the students have ‘the greatest possible variety of backgrounds.’”

This course shall further the educational benefit recognized by a majority of Supreme Court in Grutter.  It will probe the meaning of racial equality by discussing racial issue through a Post Desegregation Awareness.  The Post-Desegregation Awareness is the conscious awareness that important social phenomena-including racial phenomena-are more enlightening when they are comprehended from multiple perspectives or points of view. 

In accomplishing its objectives, this course will present and discuss the legal history of American society with regard to its treatment of blacks, including slavery, segregation, and the rise and fall of school desegregation.  It will also focus on other important contemporary racial issues, including affirmative action, definitions of race discrimination, religious and philosophical basis for dominant American culture, and the theoretical basis for African-American culture.  In discussing contemporary racial issues this course will not only use legal cases, but also historical, philosophical and sociological writings with a particular emphasis on the writings and insights from critical race theory.  In drawing upon critical race theory, the course will benefit from the comments of one of the original participants in the workshops that launched this intellectual movement.

Sequence and Prerequisites: Successful Completion of Law 606:Constitutional Law. 

Evaluation: Administered Final Examination--Multiple Choice.

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