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Racial Justice Resources

Introduction

Law faculty are often race-avoidant in teaching would-be lawyers, despite the role race has played in the construction and maintenance of the legal system in the United States. When race is absent from class discussions, that silence sends the message that the law is neutral and operates equally for all, when that is plainly not the lived experience for so many in this country. When we fail to incorporate issues of race and racism as a through line in core law school courses, we impede the professional development of future lawyers, who graduate without grappling with difficult but essential questions of how the law can operate to subordinate on the basis of race (and gender, class, age, sexual orientation, gender identification, religion, and ability). Our silence about how race informs law and its application does real damage to students and can be particularly alienating for students of color.

Incorporating race into class assignments or discussions will likely lead to difficult, and even uncomfortable, conversations. As the professor, you too may be offended and offensive at times. Give yourself and your students the space to have brave and respectful discussion and ask questions that will raise awareness of bias and how it operates in the law.

This non-exhaustive list of resources is intended for law faculty teaching core (1L) courses, who want to include assignments, readings, and discussion touching on issues of race and the law.  As such, the resource list does not reflect materials touching on the full range of underrepresented and historically marginalized groups.  This is a work in progress that we hope to update continually.  We welcome your constructive feedback and suggestions.

This resource list is a project of the Center for Access to Justice at Georgia State University College of Law, compiled by Center Assistant Director, Darcy Meals, with support from Caambridge Horton (J.D. ’21), Leah Ritter (J.D. ’23), Todd ("T.C.") Deveau (J.D. '23), and law librarians Pam Brannon, Meg Butler, and Gerard Fowke. Special thanks to Mary Whisner and the University of Washington Research Library, Rutgers Center for Security, Race and Rights’s Annotated Bibliography on Race and Racism in Higher Education, and the Civil Procedure Professoriate for their subject-matter-specific compilations of materials like these.

Planning Considerations

In planning your course/syllabus, consider:

  • Your textbook or assigned readings. Are you primarily amplifying voices of color? Do you have a variety of perspectives represented, across race, gender, gender identity, and socioeconomic status?
  • Who is telling the story, and how does that shape the narrative your students absorb? Can you incorporate stories not just from the professionals (lawyers, judges, professors) but from those directly affected by the legal decisionmaking you’re interrogating?
  • How do “neutral” laws maintain/further systemic inequality?
  • What is the lawyer’s role in upholding systemic inequality? What is the lawyer’s role in disrupting that?
  • Challenging your students to consider assigned texts, rules, cases through the lens of how poverty or identity may change a litigant’s access to or relative exclusion from the legal system
  • Providing historical context students may not have gotten in high school courses
  • Assigning expository writing in response to a short video or article to get experience writing about race (and grade on a check/check plus/check minus scale and limit to your eyes only if preferable to open classroom discussion as a first step)
  • Asking students to bring in relevant material from pop culture or current events that highlight marginalized groups’ experiences and race operates in the law/topic you’re discussing
  • Utilizing guest speakers, court observation, visits in the community to bring the concepts out of the text and back to life

Sample Language

Sample Language for Syllabus Learning Objectives: Include a learning objective in your syllabus re: your focus on access to justice, or social justice, or anti-racism. Prime students for the fact that your class discussions will incorporate these questions.

  • Access to Justice
    • Gain a basic understanding of how the criminal and civil court systems operate for indigent litigants on the superior, state, and/or municipal court level;
    • Achieve a broader understanding of and empathy for the issues lower-income individuals face in attempting to utilize the court system;
    • Understand the role of lawyers in providing access to justice as well as the role of non-lawyer means of increasing access;
  • Anti-racism
    • Develop skills in questioning historical mythology around the founding principle of America’s democracy: “that all men are created equal…,” as appears in the United States Declaration of Independence;[i]
    • Be able to recognize, articulate, and criticize arguments about the existence and legitimacy of human hierarchy and the support for racist ideas and institutions built on the perpetuation of racism, sexism, and bias;[ii]
    • Understand the ways in which law and legal systems are built on and perpetuate racism, sexism, classism, and elitism;[iii]
    • Identify antiracist, antisexist, and antibias approaches to further the objective of equity, equality, fairness, and transparency of the law and legal systems in America’s democracy;[iv]


[i] Language provided by Professor Danielle M. Conway, Dean and Donald J. Farage Professor of Law, Penn State Dickinson Law

[ii] Language provided by Professor Danielle M. Conway, Dean and Donald J. Farage Professor of Law, Penn State Dickinson Law

[iii] Language provided by Professor Danielle M. Conway, Dean and Donald J. Farage Professor of Law, Penn State Dickinson Law

[iv] Language provided by Professor Danielle M. Conway, Dean and Donald J. Farage Professor of Law, Penn State Dickinson L 

Disclaimer: The views and opinions of the authors expressed herein do not necessarily state or reflect those of the State of Georgia, and shall not be used for advertising or product endorsement purposes. Georgia State University College of Law and the authors of the works contained on this website do not assume or accept any legal liability or responsibility for the accuracy, currentness, or comprehensiveness of the content on this website. The content on this website does not in any manner constitute the issuance of legal advice or counsel. The information on this website is intended to provide resources that may aid the research of the topics presented, and are in no way a comprehensive list of sources one should consult on the topics presented. Please note that case law, statutory law, and administrative law may be modified and/or overturned. Additionally, because the laws vary between jurisdictions, the laws referred to herein may or may not be applicable to the law within the reader’s jurisdiction.