White guilt, white hypocrisy
White guilt, from central Minneapolis to both coasts, serves as convenient cover. The high-minded statements that come out of Minnesota's law schools, for example, are part of a big con, pervasive in other states and in other departments.
Our academics pontificate about white privilege, systemic racism, police brutality, sentencing disparities, affirmative action, and reparations. They buzz with words, using self-righteous rhetoric to distract critics from something easy, a specific act, that would immediately reform law schools. If we really believe that the "rule of law" promotes democracy, we should all support a remedy that could quickly improve on the American experiment.
It may take a rebel or a spy to blow down the castle's walls. Going local in Minnesota, I say the tired liberals should be pushed, even forced, to resign their positions — now. Let's not wait for them all to retire or die. Clear them out for African-Americans to be hired in their spots. End the privilege of hypocrisy.
Research the issue on your own. Start with supposedly liberal Minnesota. The internet, as much as cell phone cameras, provides easy accountability. Click the links for faculty pages at the law schools of Mitchell Hamline, Minnesota, and St. Thomas. Count the full-time faculty. (There are over 140.) Count the black persons. (I see no more than five.) Do the math. Blacks, thirteen percent of our population, are way underrepresented. Exclude me. Sure, I'm darker than some African-Americans, but my brown face doesn't count on either side of the white-black divide that festers here. Examine the University of Minnesota carefully. Does the black dean above a sea of old white faces come across as tokenism? Or a bold step for change? You decide. Avoid the snarky; it's obvious we're not a handsome bunch. Then look at the law schools at other states.
My colleagues, if pressed, will identify various flaws in the argument for mass retirements. Obfuscating as much as justifying, they might say there is an inadequate supply of qualified black candidates. That's a lie. Lawyers — white, black, and brown — dream of these positions. Where else can you get a fat paycheck with benefits for teaching a couple classes per semester and for writing an occasional piece of "scholarship"? Think, I might convince my new dean to count what I'm writing in this piece toward the requirements. Talk about paying for the noose.
My colleagues might stress credentials. That's a smokescreen, a bias against those with street experience. We have an ample supply of Harvard and Yale graduates. They don't offer anything profound. You could take every article in their Harvard Law Review and their Yale Law Journal for the last fifty years, and those contributions to humanity would weigh less than that from one Anton Chekhov story. I'm not saying what we do is meaningless; I'm saying it doesn't mean much when we are off in the clouds, far from flat reality.
The surface is sometimes more important than the underlying substance. Symbols matter. We need more graduates from historically black colleges on our faculties. Under my reckoning, three Harvard graduates would gladly be traded away for a Howard graduate.
At my law school, during a dark time, we took tuition dollars from underqualified African-Americans to pay the bills. We never made inroads for diversity, though, on the faculty. While we touted a class that was thirty percent "diverse," we lost one of our two African-American faculty members. United, the faculty eventually stopped the dean's exploitation.
Some white colleagues might say we don't need to address our black deficit because they can speak for blacks. At my law school, during "diversity training," a white lesbian said she could speak for a black heterosexual two decades her senior who didn't want any part of her group indoctrination. Left unsaid was her possible belief that she was more "articulate" than he was, that her experiences with discrimination based on sexual orientation could fill in for ethnic or racial discrimination. Unlike her, I readily acknowledge the gaps in my own perspective. I am begging for more authentic people to have the protection of tenure to add their voices to our national discussion on race.
My colleagues, trying to hoist me on my own petard, might save the personal for last. Why don't I resign first? Well, you see, I'm more endangered than the white liberal. How many do you suppose voted for Trump in 2016? I did, in large part to annoy them by being able to say I did. My identity group — obnoxious, heterosexual, balding Iranian-Americans — is certainly underrepresented. Even so, as soon as I learn that nine great white saviors have resigned their positions, I will give mine up, no more questions asked.
Afsheen John Radsan teaches constitutional law at Mitchell Hamline School of Law.