7th CRITICAL RACE STUDIES SYMPOSIUM: WHITENESS AS PROPERTY: A 20-Year AppraisalCEN_CRS_2014_Symposium-small

OCTOBER 2-4, 2014

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See also: Concurrent Sessions

In 1993, the Harvard Law Review published Cheryl Harris's now seminal article, Whiteness as Property.   Over the past two decades, the article has had tremendous impact inside and outside of legal academia, as well as within and beyond the borders of the United States. Broadly articulated, the purpose of this conference is to map and critically examine this impact. More precisely, the conference will explore the multiple trajectories along which Whiteness as Property has travelled and query whether and to what extent its conceptual framework has been re-constituted or re-articulated in the process.  Over two and a half days, the conference will reflect on the political, legal, and intellectual context out of which Whiteness as Property emerged, explore how, if at all, its theoretical arguments have been revised, interrogate the impact of Whiteness as Property  across academic disciplines, consider its relevance for a range of civil rights debates, as well as its implications globally, and examine the mobilization of the ideas in Whiteness as Property as pedagogy, legal practice, and social movement organizing.  Our hope is to foster a conversation not only about where Whiteness as Property has gone but also about where it might have traction and still needs to go.

Thursday October 2, 2014

Welcome and Introduction to the Annual Symposium

  • Dean Rachel Moran, Dean and Michael J. Connell Distinguished Professor of Law, UCLA School of Law
  • M. Belinda Tucker, Professor of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, Center for Culture and Health, Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, David Geffen School of Medicine, Vice Provost, Institute of American Cultures, Faculty Associate, Bunche Center for African American Studies, UCLA

Whiteness As Property:  Critical Foundations

Moderator:

  • Devon W. Carbado, The Honorable Harry Pregerson Professor of Law, UCLA School of Law

Panelists:

  • Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, Distinguished Professor of Law, UCLA School of Law; Professor of Law, Columbia Law School
  • Neil Gotanda, Professor of Law, Western State College of Law
  • Robin D.G. Kelley, Distinguished Professor of History, Gary B. Nash Endowed Chair in United States History, UCLA
  • Margaret Jane Radin, Henry King Ransom Professor of Law, The University of Michigan Law School
  • Angela R. Riley, Professor of Law, Director, UCLA American Indian Studies Center, Director, MA/JD Joint Degree Program in Law and American Indian Studies, Co-director, Native Nations Law and Policy Center, UCLA School of Law

Panel Description:

When the Harvard Law Review published Whiteness as Property in 1993, Critical Race Theory was still in a formative moment, though already influencing and being influenced by other legal discourses, including feminist legal theory and critical legal studies.  By this time, the Supreme Court had solidified its retreat from race conscious remedies, affirmed and undermined Native American sovereignty, and continued to normalize male and heterosexual baselines in adjudicating sex discrimination claims.  The domain of ordinary politics was no less fraught.  The very year Whiteness made its debut, Bill Clinton became the 42nd President of the United States, inaugurating a new kind of racial liberalism that sought to “mend but not end” affirmative action, “reform” (essentially gut) welfare, and facilitate legislative efforts to broaden law enforcement powers, furthering the “War on Drugs” and enabling the removal and deportation of undocumented persons from the United States.  The foregoing developments were crucial predicates for the continued criminalization of poor communities and people of color, the expansion of the apparatus of incarceration, and the inauguration of the War on Terror in the aftermath of 9/11.  On the other side of the globe, Africa’s newest democracy was emerging from apartheid oppression—a system that came into being alongside and in concert with its counterpart in the United States: Jim Crow.  Understanding the apartheid/Jim Crow genesis and genealogies, including the extent to which their effects on both regimes transcend their formal demise, is crucial to understanding both the initial articulation of Whiteness as Property and the way in which the concept would travel.

Friday October 3, 2014

Plenary: Whiteness as Property and Contemporary Civil Rights Debates

Moderator:

  • Laura E. Gómez, Vice Dean and Professor of Law, UCLA School of Law

Panelists:

  • Noura Erakat, Assistant Professor, George Mason University
  • Russell Robinson, The Distinguished Haas Chair in LGBT Equity Professor of Law, UC Berkeley School of Law
  • Rose Cuison Villazor, Professor of Law, UC Davis School of Law
  • Robert St. Martin Westley, LOCHEF Professor of Legal Ethics & Professional Responsibility, Tulane University School of Law
  • Noah D. Zatz, Professor of Law, UCLA School of Law

Panel Description:

Paradoxically, the fact that Barack Obama is the President of the United States has made the pursuit of racial justice harder than ever.  His ascendance to the forefront of U.S. politics ushered in the rhetoric of “post-racialism” or, roughly, the idea that we have overcome the racial problems that once plagued our nation.  Significantly, proponents of post-racialism do not deny that racial inequality persists; rather, they locate those inequalities in the choices, or “cultural pathologies,” particularly of Blacks and Latin@s.  Other communities of color--Asian and Muslim specifically-- are differentially racialized, as “foreign” and “dangerous” respectively, similarly justifying discriminatory treatment as logical, necessary, and normatively legitimate.  This framing of the racial landscape as one that occludes and normalizes racial inequality is precisely what Whiteness as Property sought to foreground—the subtle but significant ways in which legal regimes, political discourses, and cultural practices entrench and render invisible the cumulative advantages of whiteness.  This panel considers how these advantages shape and affect a range of important contemporary civil rights debates in order to reveal and disrupt the instantiation of whiteness as the unarticulated racial default against which legal disputes are articulated, adjudicated, and culturally understood.


Plenary: Teaching Whiteness as Property: Pedagogical Implications of the Theory

Moderator:

  • Jerry Kang, Professor of Law, Professor of Asian American Studies, Korea Times-Hankook Ilbo Chair in Korean American Studies, UCLA School of Law

Panelists:

  • Sumi Cho, Professor of Law, DePaul University College of Law
  • Lisa M. Fairfax, Leroy Sorenson Merrifield Research Professor of Law, Director of Conference Programs, C-LEAF, The George Washington University Law School
  • Charles R. Lawrence, III, Professor of Law, University of Hawai'i at Mānoa Centennial Professor, University of Hawai'i at Mānoa William S. Richardson School of Law
  • Daniel Solórzano, Professor of Education, Director, All Campus Consortium on Research for Diversity (UC/ACCORD), UCLA
  • Valerie Purdie-Vaughns, Assistant Professor of Psychology, Columbia University

Panel Description:

Most law schools in the United States offer a basic course in Race and the Law and most universities offer at least one ethnic studies course or a course that engages race through a particular disciplinary frame.  Yet, scholars who teach race in various disciplines have had few opportunities to engage each other about the substantive ways in which they teach racial inequality and the pedagogical challenges of doing so.  This panel will explore the extent to which the ideas advanced by Whiteness as Property are useful frames for interrogating race in the classroom and for challenging the disciplinary conventions around which colleges and universities are organized.  The panelists will also take up questions of institutional culture, with particular attention to how Whiteness as Property might be used to highlight the ways in which colleges and universities function as racialized spaces and institutions, as well as how the professions themselves reinforce exclusionary logics.  This examination is necessary for developing interventions that disrupt these patterns and facilitate the elimination of racially-biased structures and practices.


Plenary: Global Engagements with Whiteness as Property

Moderator:

  • Asli Ü. Bâli, Professor of Law, UCLA School of Law

Panelists:

  • E. Tendayi Achiume, Assistant Professor of Law, UCLA School of Law 
  • George Bisharat, Professor of Law, University of California Hastings College of the Law
  • Tanya Hernández, Professor of Law, Fordham University School of Law
  • Aileen Moreton-Robinson, Professor of Indigenous Studies, Queensland University of Technology, Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation Member
  • Albie Sachs, Visiting Professor of Law and Gruber Global Constitutionalism Fellow, Yale Law School

Panel Description:

The problem of race and racial inequality transcends the United States.  Across the globe, different nations have promulgated different legal regimes to combat the racial vulnerabilities of non-white populations.  As in the United States, these efforts have met with various levels of success, but none has eliminated the operation of whiteness as a baseline that embeds racial hierarchy.  In this respect, it is fair to say that the normalization and privileging of whiteness is a global phenomenon with which scholars and practitioners have had to contend.  At the same time, there are distinctions between how whiteness is constituted in and across different contexts and how it intersects with broader contestations concerning human rights, indigeneity, national formations, and conflict.   How they have done so is the subject of this panel.  Close attention will be paid to whether there are lessons for the United States in the ways in how whiteness operates outside of its borders—and whether contestations of whiteness as property “at home” can be usefully redeployed to challenge legal and political regimes in other national contexts.

Saturday October 4, 2014

Plenary: Whiteness as Property and Legal Praxis

Moderator:

  • Jyoti Nanda, Lecturer in Law, UCLA School of Law

Panelists:

  • Margaret A. Burnham, Professor of Law, Northeastern University School of Law
  • Mari J. Matsuda, Professor of Law, University of Hawai'i at Mānoa William S. Richardson School of Law
  • Tracy L. McCurty, Executive Director, Black Belt Justice Center
  • Hiroshi Motomura, Susan Westerberg Prager Professor of Law, UCLA School of Law 
  • Saúl Sarabia, Lecturer in Law, UCLA School of Law

Panel Description:

This panel explores how Whiteness as Property functions as praxis—that is, as an asset of ideas that shape legal practice, policy interventions, political and legal discourse, and community engagement.  Through examining historical and contemporary contestations implicating race, the article identified an inherent tension between the continued valorization of whiteness as treasured property in law and the uneven and partial apparatus of law reform that both targeted and legitimated racial inequality.  This panel seeks to broaden the lens to consider a range of other locations that manifest these themes, as well as possibilities for their disruption through theoretically informed action.  Litigation, public policy debates, and social movements are all sites in which praxis is both possible and necessary.  This panel considers how the themes explored in Whiteness as Property can shape both analysis and action in contemporary law and policy debates involving social justice issues such as immigration, affirmative action, restitution, and interracial community engagement and organizing.


Keynote:  Cheryl I. Harris, Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Professor in Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, UCLA School of Law


Whiteness as Property Across the Disciplines

Moderator:

  • Sherod Thaxton, Assistant Professor of Law, UCLA School of Law

Panelists:

  • Eric Avila, Professor of Chicana/o Studies, UCLA
  • George Lipsitz, Professor, UC Santa Barbara
  • Michael Omi, Associate Professor, UC Berkeley
  • Daria Roithmayr, George T. and Harriet E. Pfleger Chair in Law, USC Gould School of Law
  • Leti Volpp, Robert D. and Leslie Kay Raven Professor of Law in Access to Justice, UC Berkeley School of Law

Panel Description:

Whiteness as Property argued that the ruthless enforcement of racial boundaries via law and legal institutions featured as an essential aspect of racial subordination. This central claim, though fundamentally grounded in law and legal doctrine, had implications for the study of racial inequality more generally.  In particular, the argument that whiteness was a rigorously policed resource from which people could derive material benefits proved crucial to broadening the study of race from the question of what racism takes away to the question of what it confers.  This panel considers how the ideas Whiteness as Property advanced have circulated and shaped the framing of racial inequality across disciplines. This engagement will include a discussion of whether the way in which Whiteness as Property has travelled outside of the law can shape how we understand subordination, power, and identities in the context of law.


Closing: Jasleen Kohli, Director, Critical Race Studies Program, UCLA School of Law