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Course Descriptions
USC Gould School of Law

Race, Racism, and the Law     LAW-789

This course sets out in pursuit of answers to two questions: How have race and racism shaped and influenced American law? and How has American law shaped and influenced what we understand by “race” and “racism”? The reader may have noticed that in the first formative question the terms race and racism appear without quotation marks; this is because they are positioned as if they were prior to law and constituted either by natural or social facts. They are, however, problematized by the second question, because that question hypothesizes that, in some sense, the content of these terms is either constituted or determined by their intersection with law.


In this course, we will set out to understand the complex and reciprocal relationship between race, racism, and law. Our approach will be first historical and then topical. We will proceed with the aid of two premises: that law is a social process, inextricable from the society in which it operates, and that race is a social construction impacted by social processes, such as law. Our two part approach will allow us to observe that what we understand by race did not originate, and does not arrive to us, without making meaningful contact with law. We will also observe that law is not immune from influence by racial concepts or from corruption by racist ideals.

Units 3
Grading Options Numeric or CR/D/F
Exam Type A series of papers
Writing Requirement Yes, with submission of the Upper Division Writing Requirement Form
Skills/Experiential Requirement No

Grading Options: vary with the professor

Professors Teaching This Course