Lecture challenges students to reframe civil rights issues

March 12, 2014 4:30 PM

Maggy Baccinelli

Devon Carbado

UCLA law professor Devon Carbado discussed colorblindness and equal protection in the 40th Dreyfous Lecture on Civil Liberties and Human Rights at Tulane Law School. (Photo by Linda Campbell)

“Colorblindness is a racial ideology we love to love, but should it be?” UCLA law professor Devon Carbado asked Tuesday (March 11) in his discussion of equal protection at Tulane Law School’s Dreyfous Lecture on Civil Liberties and Human Rights.

Carbado was the 40th in a continuing series of lecturers — including U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg — who have challenged law students and faculty to look at civil rights in new ways. Carbado asked attendees to reframe their ideas of affirmative action, colorblindness and what it means to be “race-neutral.”

Colorblindness, Carbado argued, is not race-neutral, as many people have perceived it. And while affirmative action could result in racial preferences, it should not be accepted as fact that affirmative action always leads to preferences, he argued.

Though Carbado focused on key Supreme Court precedents, such as those involving internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II and the use of race in college admissions, he also underscored his discussion of unequal opportunity with video clips from Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report” and the African American Policy Forum. 

He also contrasted the U.S. Supreme Court confirmation experiences of Justice Sonia Sotomayor with that of Justice Samuel Alito. While Alito said life experience influenced his perspective on judging, Sotomayor was more harshly criticized for saying the same thing.

Colorblindness, Carbado argued, could distort personal stories instead of promoting neutrality. 

“When you excise race from someone’s story, you remove a texture and context, so that the story no longer makes sense,” he said. 

The Dreyfous Lecture was established in 1965 to honor George Abel and Mathilde Schwab Dreyfous, community activists who dedicated their lives to advancing civil rights and liberties.   

Maggy Baccinelli is a communications specialist in the Tulane Office of Development Communications.

Citation information:

Page accessed: Tuesday, May 31, 2016
Page URL: http://tulane.edu/news/newwave/031214_carbado.cfm

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