The summer of 2020 was a time of racial reckoning. As half a million people took to the streets in early June, The New York Times announced that Black Lives Matter “may be the largest movement in US history.” Like so many other cities, downtown Madison erupted in protest in the wake of the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, and thousands of earlier victims of police violence, including Tony Robinson, an unarmed teenager shot by police on Willy Street in 2016.
Law schools felt the urgency of the moment. Over 100 law deans issued Black Lives Matter statements and the American Association for Law Schools created the Law Deans Antiracist Clearinghouse Project, focused on education and anti-racist actions. At UW Law, we focused with more intention on revealing and struggling against structural racism. We held public fora and anti-racism trainings, created reading groups and working groups, and many professors added readings on race to their syllabi.
This guide seeks to build on this anti-racist momentum by providing resources on teaching about race in the law classroom, and in the legal system more generally. Race is difficult to talk about and keep in view, particularly in majority-white spaces. We want to make sure that at UW we keep openly talking about race and the law. It is not enough to engage these issues only during moments of societal upheaval. Keeping race constantly in view is the only way to counter its pernicious effects on the legal system, and on our students, faculty, and staff. And it is the best way to prepare our students for practice in a diverse world.
The guide is divided into two main parts. The first is about pedagogy: it is directed at law school professors, instructors and clinicians and all others who teach law students. It collects how-to readings focused on pedagogy, and readings that discuss race in the different subject areas that we teach. It includes sections on first-year courses, upper division courses, Legal Research and Writing, and clinical teaching. While the emphasis is on race, other issues of diversity, such as ethnicity, disability, and gender orientation, are included. Through the 2020-2021 year, our students taught us anew the lessons that the unjust exclusion of one vulnerable group affects all marginalized groups, and that those who embody more than one type of vulnerable identity are affected in unique ways.
The second part of the guide steps outside the classroom and collects readings about the way race shapes the legal profession and the academy, with emphasis on law in the University of Wisconsin and the state of Wisconsin, and the Midwest. Our region holds particular challenges for anti-racist work in the classroom, something that has been under-thematized in the debates around race and legal pedagogy. This area of the guide seeks to be of use to the entire law school community.
The guide will always be a work in progress. We welcome all of our students, faculty and staff to send in suggestions, comments and, above all, new readings and resources. Please email us if you want to be more involved in its construction. We hope that this guide ultimately contributes to revealing and thereby allowing us to counter the harmful effects of race and exclusion in our legal system and beyond.
Created by: Alexandra Huneeus, Brittani Miller, Katie Dunn, and Sunil Rao, with help from Linda Green, Gwyn Leachman, Tonya Brito, Richard Monette, Ion Meyn, Asifa Qurashi, and many others.
Maintained by: Alexandra Huneeus, Katie Dunn, Sunil Rao