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Course Descriptions

Course Descriptions

Critical Race Theory (Spring 2018)

Course Description

This 3-credit class focuses on an intellectual and political movement called Critical Race Theory, a radical left position on race and law that emerged in law schools in the late 1980s. Critical Race Theory scholarship is unified by two major intellectual and political commitments. First, CRT scholars argue that liberal legal approaches to race, even and especially laws that demand racial neutrality, serve to reproduce white supremacy and racial inequality. For example, the civil rights laws of the 1960s narrowly focused on intentional discrimination and took off the table any legal remedy for structural processes like residential segregation, labor market segmentation and disparate public school financing. Second, CRT scholars argue that law should be used to advance a political commitment to racial empowerment and anti-subordination (for example, by broadly reading the equal protection clause to require a remedy for structural inequality). We will spend much of our time tracing the intellectual history of the movement by reading the key writings that formed the center of the movement. The course will explore the movement's central commitments, as well as its political split-offs, renegades, and disgruntled fellow travelers. In addition, we will explore the trenchant critique of identity politics developed by liberal and conservative scholars in the legal academy, and the debate over the movement's critique of merit. In the context of theoretical argument, specific topics to be covered will include: police brutality, affirmative action in education, hate speech and immigration reform. Students should have a basic understanding of equal protection in Constitutional Law. 

Students will write a twenty-five page paper on a topic of their choice, and will be asked to submit an early draft for comments and suggestions. Students will also be asked to write short half-page reaction pieces to some portion of the course reading, to be submitted before class. Twenty-five percent of the course grade will come from class attendance and student participation in a vigorous and stimulating discussion.  This class is not available for CR/D/F credit.

Course Details

  • Unit Value: 3
  • Grading Options: Numerical Only
  • Schedule: M/W 8:30 am - 9:45 am
  • Room Number: Room 12
  • Exam: Paper
  • Writing Requirement: Yes with submission of the Upper Division Writing Requirement Form.
  • Skills/Experiential Unit Requirement: No
  • Participation: Required and graded
  • Enrollment Limitation: 20 students