Observing Black History Month


Dear Friends,

Black History Month prompts us to confront the erasure and elision that takes place within the academy and in social discourse, more broadly.

As Professor Michele Goodwin argued recently, “Law professors skip over the crucial ways in which slavery is linked to and foundational to first year law classes ranging from property to criminal law.” Law has been a primary tool used in the construction of social hierarchy in the United States and yet, notwithstanding the essential work of Derrick Bell and Critical Race Theory scholars, legal education as a whole has been largely silent on the co-constitutive nature of law, racism, and anti-Blackness.

If we view history “as an agonistic process still being made,” then we are obligated by our moral and intellectual commitments, in Professor Kaaryn Gustafson’s words, to do “future interpretive work [that] will help dismantle both the understandings and the state structures that promote subordination.” Academic institutions have to be rebuilt to meet this moral and intellectual challenge. We are fortunate at UCI Law to have the freedom and capacity to pursue this cause.

As we observe Black History Month this February, we must work together to end erasure and elision, and to begin to withdraw from complicity in structural subordination. I am grateful to share in and grapple with this challenge with UCI Law students, alumni, faculty, staff, and supporters. Together, let us aim to reconstruct legal knowledge and legal practice for liberation.

Sameer Ashar
Associate Dean for Equity Initiatives