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Law, Race and Equity
USC Gould School of Law

USC Gould School of Law is committed to advancing justice, affirming the dignity and equality of all persons, and rejecting racism and bigotry in all its forms.

Faculty, staff and students are taking steps to acknowledge and combat the inherent racism of our legal system, and to ensure the law school, the legal profession and our justice system are more representative of, and accessible to, individuals who identify as Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC). Below are some of the ways we are taking action in and outside of our community.

Research & Contributions

Several of our faculty have devoted their careers to studying the intersection of law and systemic racism - and its many branching pathways, including racial politics, voter disenfranchisement, policy brutality, bias in criminal justice, and the history of how we got to where we are today. In addition, they use their voices and expertise to give informed context to current events - making daily headlines.

Books

N*gga Theory: Race, Language, Unequal Justice, and the Law (2020, LARB Books) - Professor Jody David Armour calls for bold action: electing progressive prosecutors, defunding or dismantling the police, and abolition of the prison industrial complex.

Becoming Free, Becoming Black (2020, Cambridge University Press) - Professor Ariela Gross and Harvard University Professor Alejandro de la Fuente explore the efforts of free people of color to employ the law in asserting their freedom and rights to citizenship.

Reproducing Racism: How Everyday Choices Lock In White Advantage (2014, NYU Press) - Professor Daria Roithmayr argues that racial inequality lives on because white advantage functions as a powerful self-reinforcing monopoly, reproducing itself automatically from generation to generation even in the absence of intentional discrimination.

Articles & Op-Eds

Democracy As A Slogan (2010, American Constitution Society) - Professor Franita Tolson discusses the sometimes fleeting commitment to democracy demonstrated by the U.S. throughout its history.

Congress Has Constitutional Power to Set National Police Conduct Standards (2020, Bloomberg Law) - Professor Rebecca Brown and Lecturer Omar Noureldin call for Congress to pass legislation creating federal oversight over local police.

A Grassroots History of Colorblind Conservative Constitutionalism (2019, Law & Social Inquiry) - Professor Ariela Gross argues that colorblind conservative constitutionalism has its roots not only in Supreme Court jurisprudence and the machinations of national political actors, but also in the deliberate campaigns of opponents of integration at the grassroots.

Where Bias Lives in the Criminal Law and its Processes: How Judges and Jurors Socially Construct Black Criminals (2018, American Journal of Criminal Law) - Professor Jody David Armour focuses on how flawed judgments about character contribute to fundamental problems in the American criminal justice system.

The Dynamics of Excessive Force (2016, University of Chicago Legal Forum) - Professor Daria Roithmayr argues that patterns of excessive force dynamically emerge from local interactions among individuals that aggregate to form more global patterns of escalation, contagion, and decay.

Nigga Theory: Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity in the Substantive Criminal Law (2014, Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law) - Professor Jody David Armour probes the intersection of morality, race, and class in matters of blame and punishment and politics.

Angela Harris and the Racial Politics of Masculinity (2014, California Law Review) - Professor Camille Gear Rich gives a new take on how race and gender intersect in policing cases, and how threats to masculinity drive police violence separate from racism and the ways racial identity issues intersect with race.

Inferred Classifications (2013, Virginia Law Review ) - Professor Stephen M. Rich discusses a fundamental problem in constitutional law: that equal protection doctrine commands strict scrutiny of all racial classifications but does not specify what constitutes a racial classification.

Race Ipsa Loquitur: Of Reasonable Racists, Intelligent Bayesians, and Involuntary Negrophobes (1994, Stanford Law Review) - Professor Jody David Armour explores some of the legal implications of the disturbing notion that, given the perception that blacks are more prone to commit violent acts than nonblacks, it is rational for criminal defendants claiming self-defense to consider race in assessing the risk of violence posed by a supposed assailant.

Videos & Podcasts

Is voting enough? (2020, Free and Fair with Franita and Foley) - In response to the Black Lives Matter protests, some are calling for people of color to "just vote." But in a country with a history of voter suppression and disenfranchisement, is voting enough? Professor Franita Tolson responds to the hypocrisy of this suggestion and discusses racial equality as an ongoing commitment.

The Truth of Being Black in America (2020, USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences) - Professor Jody David Armour joins experts and activists to discuss the ways the health and lives of some Americans are in jeopardy simply because they're black.

Black History Month: Discussions on Race, Media and the Law (2020, USC Facebook Live) - Professor Jody David Armour and USC Annenberg Assistant Professor Allissa V. Richardson discuss the intersections of journalism and justice regarding race in America.

Reflecting on the Legacy of MLK Jr., Equity & Inclusion in Today's America (2020, USC Facebook Live) - Professor Camille Gear Rich and USC Race and Equity Center's Dr. Shaun R. Harper discuss the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. and the challenges we still face today.

Speaking Out Loud: Enough is Enough (2020, Center for Black Cultural and Student Affairs) - Black USC students, staff, faculty and allies to decompress and discuss anti-blackness and systemic issues that plague the pan-African community in America.

The Time is Now: Rooting Out Racism (2020, NBCLA Virtual Town Hall) - NBCLA's Beverly White brings together some of the leading voices, including USC Gould Professor Jody David Armour, fighting for real reform and solutions in the battle against racism.

Understanding Black Lives Matter (reposted 2020, The Kyle Thiermann Show) - Professor Jody David Armour discusses Black Lives Matter with Kyle Thiermann.

Beating Mental Illness: A Dialogue on Race, Gender, and Disability in Use of Force Cases (2016, USC Gould Saks Institute for Mental Health Law, Policy, and Ethics) - Video playlist from 2016 conference featuring Black Lives Matter organizers, cross-disciplinary academic experts, activists, and representatives of ACLU, Los Angeles Police Department.

Recommended Resources

The Asa V. Call Law Library at USC Gould is compiling a comprehensive list of anti-racism readings and other information that will soon be available on its website. Below is a selection of these and other resources recommended by the Gould anti-racism working group.

Recommendations

How To Be Antiracist (2019, One World) - Historian Ibram X. Kendi's memoir and social commentary delve into active antiracism as a response to racial injustice.

The White Space (2015, Sociology of Race and Ethnicity) - Yale University Professor Elijah Anderson writes in response to whites and others who call the police to report Black people for seemingly minor social problems.

Police Racial Violence: Lessons from Social Psychology (2015, Fordham Law Review) - L. Song Richardson, dean and Chancellor's Professor of Law at UC Irvine Law, gives two perspectives: one on how systems might be reformed and one that calls for "The End of Policing."

The End of Policing (2018, Verso) - Brooklyn College Professor Alex Vitale's book discusses the origins of modern policing as a tool of social control.

Rebellious Lawyering: One Chicano's Vision of Progressive Law Practice (1992, Westview Press) - Gerald P. Lopez's book introduced a philosophy that changed civil-rights and poverty law.

Racism in America: A Reader (2020, Harvard University Press) - The excerpts in this volume-culled from works of history, law, sociology, medicine, economics, critical theory, philosophy, art, and literature-are an invitation to understand anti-Black racism through the eyes of our most incisive commentators.

Reimagining Equality: A New Deal for Children of Color (2018, NYU Press) - A thorough account of rights reforms that would make the world safer for black boys and all children of color, by Nancy E. Dowd, University of Florida law professor.

George Floyd, Minneapolis Protests, Ahmaud Arbery & Amy Cooper (2020, The Daily Social Distancing Show) - Trevor Noah responds to people confused about how the white dog walker Amy Cooper altercation with black bird watcher Chris Cooper is related to the George Floyd murder.

Read these books to understand race and privilege in America (2020, USC Dornsife) - USC Dornsife faculty offer their suggestions of books to read to understand the historical and cultural context of what is taking place.

On-the-Ground Lawyering

Both classroom education and experiential learning at USC Gould teach students to be advocates for justice. In clinics like the Post-Conviction Justice Project and Immigration Clinic, students represent clients and help draft legislation to offset the the disproportional impact punitive laws have on communities of color.

Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee

The USC Gould Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee is led by professor Jody David Armour and assistant professor Laura Riley.

Anti-Racism Working Group

The Anti-Racism Working Group consists of the faculty, staff, and student members of the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee, combined with the members of the Administration and Finance Committee, and the dean. This group is charged with developing actions and activities that the law school should take to address issues of racism and injustice. Contribute Your Ideas: Email ARWG@law.usc.edu.

Click to learn more

The Anti-Racism Working Group is working on the following action items:

  • Developing short and longer term action items in every department or group.
  • Revamping orientation for 1Ls to include discussions of equity, diversity and inclusion, and to ensure that every student knows of the resources available to them.
  • Revising our Academic Success Program to improve the student experience and academic outcomes, including by taking additional steps to ensure that all incoming students are aware that they can receive support and individual counseling starting in the Fall semester of their 1L year.
  • Offering support related to technology or space to work, for students who need it during the pandemic. If you need assistance, please reach out to Senior Law Librarian Paul Moorman (pmoorman@law.usc.edu).
  • Reintroducing the Gould Emergency Fund that was created in the spring to provide small grants to students most in need this fall due to pandemic-related issues.
  • Providing training for faculty, delivered by the USC Race & Equity Center, on facilitating discussions on race-related topics and fostering a sense of community and inclusion in the classroom.
  • Updating relevant parts of our website to reflect our commitment to confront historical inequities in our institution and to begin eliminating them.
  • Exploring participation in the Community Advisory Board being formed to work with USC's Department of Public Safety. President Folt agrees that the law school can and should play a central role in this effort and we will do so.
  • Evaluating the possible addition of a course on Race and the Law (in addition to our existing offerings) to our curriculum.
  • Organizing various educational events throughout the school year on topics related to racial justice.

These examples are only the beginning of our work, and we continue to seek ideas from the Gould community as to other things we should consider. We have a robust and still growing list of additional suggestions and ideas gathered from student groups as well as individual students, staff, faculty, and alumni.

Diversity at USC Gould

USC Gould recognizes how important a diverse academic community is for students, the legal profession and our broader society. Inclusiveness has been a critical part of our culture since the school's founding. We continue to strive toward making USC Gould an even more diverse and equitable learning environment.

Community Events

USC Gould community members are encouraged to participate in educational events on issues related to racial justice and related diversity, equity, and inclusion topics.

Learn more about previous and upcoming events.

Note: Registration and other information about upcoming public events can be found at our events calendar. For internal events, RSVP details will be sent to students, faculty and staff via email.

  • 11/20/20 - Professor David Cruz: The Future of Transgender Law (Faculty Lunch and Learns - open to students)
  • 11/18/20 - Anti-Blackness in a Multiracial World (hosted by the Center for Law, History and Culture Conversations on Racial Justice)
  • 10/21/20 - The Right to Vote: Reconstruction and Right Now (hosted by the Center for Law, History and Culture Conversations on Racial Justice)
  • 10/22/20 - Professor Jody Armour will discuss his new book N*GGA THEORY: Race, Language, Unequal Justice, and the Law (Faculty Workshop)
  • 10/20/20 - Professor Camille Rich: Racial Ambiguity Blues: Regulating Race in a Racially Fluid World (Faculty Lunch and Learns - open to students)
  • 10/16/20 - Professor Ben Carrington of USC Annenberg will speak on racial justice and sports (Speaker Series)
  • 10/9/20 - Professor Hannah Garry is organizing an event on how BLM has inspired international action to address police violence globally and anti-Black racism within the U.S.(Speaker Series)
  • 10/9/20 - Inner City Law Center features two relevant trainings as part of its Weekend to End Homelessness: Intersectionality of Racial Justice and Our Homeless & Housing Crisis; and The Right to Counsel: Put Your Actions Where Your Mouth Is (open to all)
  • 10/7/20 - Racial Justice Protest and Resistance Lawyering 09/30/20 - Not Even Past: The Memory of Slavery in Law, Politics, and Culture Today (hosted by the Center for Law, History and Culture Conversations on Racial Justice)
  • 10/2/20 - Professor Alex Capron: COVID-19, Law, and USC (Faculty Lunch and Learns – open to students)
  • 9/25/20 - Book Panel: "Becoming Free, Becoming Black: Race, Freedom, and Law in Cuba, Louisiana, and Virginia" Center for Law, History and Culture Conversations on Racial Justice (hosted by the Center for Law, History and Culture Conversations on Racial Justice)
  • 9/24/20 - Community Conversation: surge capacity (hosted by the USC Gould Student Support Office)
  • 9/22/20 - Professor Robert Saltzman: Police Shootings and Profiling, Police Reform and Oversight of the LAPD and of USC's DPS (Faculty Lunch and Learns - open to students)
  • 6/18/20 - USC Gould Community Conversation: A Discussion on Law, Race & Inequality
  • Summer 2020:

University Resources & Programming

The university offers many centers, organizations and institutes to further research and community engagement in racial justice and equity.

PRYSM: Initiative for the Study of Race, Gender, Sexuality and the Law

PRYSM is a multidisciplinary institute organized to facilitate and support USC scholars' research on race, gender, sexuality and the law. It is founded and directed by Camille Gear Rich, associate provost for faculty and student initiatives in the social sciences, and professor of law and sociology at USC Gould.

USC Race and Equity Center

The USC Race and Equity Center helps partners strategically develop and achieve equity goals, better understand and correct climate problems, avoid and recover from racial crises, and cultivate sustainable cultures of inclusion and respect.

Center for Education, Identity and Social Justice

The Center for Education, Identity and Social Justice at the USC Rossier School of Education uses rigorous research and legal analysis to empower educators to utilize laws and policies in order to identify and extricate bias and unequal distributions of power within educational institutions.

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