Race and the law in the age of Stevens and Sotomayor

Featured, Politics — By Duchess Harris on April 19, 2010 at 08:00

For the members of William Mitchell’s Law Raza Journal Editorial Board, the appointment of Puerto Rican judge Sonia Sotomayor’s nomination and ascension to the Supreme Court, along with the subsequent news that Justice Stevens is retiring and will be replaced forthwith, are key indicators that affirm the need for this journal.

Justice John Paul Stevens

The significance and the symbolism of the Sotomayor appointment are profound; the first African American president conferring the mantle of Supreme Court Justice on the first Latina to hold such a position represented a formal and critical acknowledgment that public life in the United States is no longer merely black and white.  Yet we also recognize and emphasize emphatically that Justice Sotomayor’s appointment to this nation’s highest bench is not merely a token action, a nod to the increasing diversity of this nation.

Indeed, even the most casual observer of Justice Sotomayor’s confirmation hearings can confirm the fact that the very nomination of Sotomayor raised urgent questions about Latinos’ participation in public life, in decision-making, in shaping public policy.  And her confirmation did not resolve these questions; it merely admitted her to a bench of influencers to engage these questions on an ongoing basis through the formal discourse of the Supreme Court.

Law Raza fills a gap in the existing canon of scholarly legal journals is because to date, few journals have incorporated the voices of Latino scholars and other academics of color.  Furthermore, they have largely failed to reach out actively to quite literally cross borders.  Journals published in the United States are generally preoccupied only with what is happening here, overlooking the ways in which legal issues in neighboring countries intersect with and influence our own and vice versa. To that end, you can expect to see Law Raza’s editorial board inviting participation from legal scholars both here in the United States and in the “other” America.

Law Raza is a welcome and critical addition to the range of legal journals currently published is because the United States, both it’s government and it’s citizens, are growing ever-more aware that we, the “neighbors to the North,” know disturbingly little about our neighbors to the South.

Law Raza, then, is an academic, intellectual taking up of arms.  The articles you can expect to see in the pages of this virtual journal are inarguably scholarly, but they are also unapologetic in their insistence that the supposed objectivity with which legal issues tend to be treated in journals is just that: supposed, more aspirational fantasy than real-life possibility.

The editorial board demands that the critical issues that affect our communities be engaged critically. What this means, with respect to the content of Law Raza, is that a representative sample of articles we publish will be conveyed by a first-person narrator who is the author, working through legal issues and dilemmas in which first-hand experience and knowledge produce both nagging questions and the need to find answers by engaging an issue critically in a public forum where the audience—namely, you, the readers—can shape the narrative and its resolution.

The contributors to Law Raza are diverse, but they share the desire to take their own experiences, both personal and professional, and to hold them up to the light, turning them over and over, examining them to determine what, exactly, they are seeing, and how their observations can be useful and relevant to others.  You, readers, are a vital part of the meaning-making process, and we invite you to engage critically in dialogue with us.

The Law Raza editorial board invites you, your identity and your voice to participate alongside ours. We look forward to engaging in discussion from across the legal spectrum—and from across geographical borders and other boundaries of identity, to contribute scholarly articles that advance our collective understanding of the historical and contemporary legal concerns that affect us all.  Legal issues of special interest to Latinos are our focus, but the journal is not dedicated exclusively to these experiences.  The editorial board recognizes that most issues of importance to any society are systemic and are far-reaching; the purview of the journal reflects such dynamics.

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Author: Duchess Harris (8 Articles)

Duchess Harris

Duchess Harris is an Associate Professor of American Studies at Macalester College, author of the forthcoming Black Feminist Politics from Kennedy to Clinton, and co-editor with Bruce D. Baum of the forthcoming Racially Writing the Republic: Racists, Race Rebels, and Transformations of American Identity. She is also a J.D. candidate at the William Mitchell College of Law.


  • LoloReads LoloReads says:

    A legal journal of this kind is essential and long overdue. In an L.A. Times article on April 16th, Antonio Gonzalez, Southwest Voter Registration Education Project said “Demography is destiny.” We all need to do the math and understand this: Latino issues = American issues.

  • betty tisel says:

    Congratulations and what a terrific name for the journal!

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