A few days ago, Elie Mystal wrote about recent allegations of racist student conduct at the UCLA School of Law. I invite readers unfamiliar with the background to catch up by reading Elie’s post and, if you’ve the stomach for it, some of the many comments on his post. (It’s okay. I’ll wait.)
UCLA Dean Rachel Moran called for a police investigation. She alerted the student body. She agreed to meet with student leaders. From all I can see, the law school administration has so far handled the events appropriately. The official response balances the risk of dismissing the allegations or their importance with the risk of over-reacting and potentially polarizing the campus further.
I disagree with much of Elie’s criticism of the law school as a whole, as I disagreed with him about the Team Sanders situation at UCLA last fall.
Still, I didn’t originally want to write about UCLA this week. I drafted a post on another topic, in fact. But something about the UCLA situation, Elie’s post, and, perhaps most of all, the responses from many readers gnawed away at me. It hurt my heart. And when the desiccated husk that passes for my world-weary heart hurts, there’s usually something to it . . . .
It started with “Team Sander.” In November, we told you that some students at UCLA Law School started wearing T-shirts in support of UCLA law professor Richard Sander, whose scholarship is racially divisive. Some people argued that the shirts were not racially motivated, and even some of my colleagues argued that they needed to “know more” about the intentions behind the shirts before they started calling people racist.
Well… now we know more, and “racist” seems like the only appropriate way to describe at least some students at UCLA Law. Now the question becomes: does the law school administration give a crap?
Because if you are, you might be a douche. The ATL gang didn’t all agree on how to respond to the story of students at UCLA Law donning Team Sander shirts and decided to record their real-time reactions to the story.
Was it intentionally racist? Unintentionally racist? Is unintentional racism even worse than intentional racism because of how it tries to excuse itself? Is UCLA Law racist for employing this guy?
My colleagues think that there are going to be some law students who didn’t know that the t-shirts they were wearing were offensive to some of their African-American classmates, and when they find out they’ve caused offense they’re going to be all sorry. I think that people knew exactly what they were doing with their offensive shirts and, at best, you’ll hear some after-the-fact rationalization from students who claim to be just stupid enough to “not even see race.” And of course they’ll be some who don’t even think these t-shirts are offensive at all, because why would evidence that minorities were offended matter to people who don’t care about black people? So this is going to be a really fun post.
You see, it’s a subtle thing. A few students wore t-shirts emblazoned with the image of one of their professors. And it’s not like the professor is David Duke. Hell, he’s employed by a respected law school, so at least some people think the professor isn’t intolerably racist. Just not black people….
Ed. note: The Asia Chronicles column is authored by Kinney Recruiting. Kinney has made more placements of U.S. associates, counsels and partners in Asia than any other recruiting firm in each of the past seven years. You can reach them by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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