New Article: Lauren Sudeall Lucas, Undoing Race? Reconciling Multiracial Identity with Equal Protection, 102 Calif. L. Rev. 1243 (2014). Abstract below:
The number of multiracial individuals in America, many of whom define their racial identity in different ways, has grown dramatically in recent years and continues to increase. From this demographic shift a movement seeking unique racial status for multiracial individuals has emerged. The multiracial movement is distinguishable from other race-based movements in that it is primarily driven by identity rather than the quest for political, social, or economic equality. It is not clear how equal protection doctrine, which is concerned primarily with state-created racial classifications, will or should accommodate multiracialism. Nor is it clear how to best reconcile the recognition of individual identity with the continuing need to address group-based racial discrimination and subordination. In this Essay, I explore the potential impact of multiracialism — and multiracial identity in particular — on the future of racial classifications under equal protection doctrine.
As a framework for its analysis, the Essay invokes two theories used to interpret the meaning of equal protection: antisubordination and anticlassification. Viewed solely through the lens of multiracial identity, the common normative understanding of these two approaches contorts. While antisubordination is often perceived as more beneficial for groups battling entrenched racial hierarchy, it may facilitate unique harms for multiracial individuals seeking to carve out a racial identity distinct from traditionally defined racial categories. And although anticlassification is often viewed by progressives as detrimental to the pursuit of true racial equality, it may lend more support to policies of racial self-identification and the recognition of a unique multiracial identity. A looming danger, therefore, is that anticlassification advocates wishing to dismantle frameworks rooted in traditional notions of race may exploit multiracialism to “undo” race and to undermine the use of racial classifications altogether.
In response to that possibility, this Essay argues that although law and identity inevitably inform and impact one another, they also serve distinct purposes that should not be improperly conflated in the context of multiracialism. The construction of identity is ultimately a very personal endeavor, and although legal recognition may be one aspect of identity, in the area of race, the law has a more powerful function to play in preventing racial subordination. Where possible, the law should accommodate multiracial individuals who wish to define their own racial identity, but as long as it remains more aspirational than realistic, the individual’s perception of race should not be used or manipulated to undermine the use of racial classifications to counter societal race discrimination.
New Book: Karl Alexander et al., The Long Shadow: Family Background, Disadvantaged Urban Youth, and the Transition to Adulthood (2014). Overview below:
West Baltimore stands out in the popular imagination as the quintessential “inner city”—gritty, run-down, and marred by drugs and gang violence. Indeed, with the collapse of manufacturing jobs in the 1970s, the area experienced a rapid onset of poverty and high unemployment, with few public resources available to alleviate economic distress. But in stark contrast to the image of a perpetual “urban underclass” depicted in television by shows like The Wire, sociologists Karl Alexander, Doris Entwisle, and Linda Olson present a more nuanced portrait of Baltimore’s inner city residents that employs important new research on the significance of early-life opportunities available to low-income populations. The Long Shadow focuses on children who grew up in west Baltimore neighborhoods and others like them throughout the city, tracing how their early lives in the inner city have affected their long-term well-being. Although research for this book was conducted in Baltimore, that city’s struggles with deindustrialization, white flight, and concentrated poverty were characteristic of most East Coast and Midwest manufacturing cities. The experience of Baltimore’s children who came of age during this era is mirrored in the experiences of urban children across the nation.
For 25 years, the authors of The Long Shadow tracked the life progress of a group of almost 800 predominantly low-income Baltimore school children through the Beginning School Study Youth Panel (BSSYP). The study monitored the children’s transitions to young adulthood with special attention to how opportunities available to them as early as first grade shaped their socioeconomic status as adults. The authors’ fine-grained analysis confirms that the children who lived in more cohesive neighborhoods, had stronger families, and attended better schools tended to maintain a higher economic status later in life. As young adults, they held higher-income jobs and had achieved more personal milestones (such as marriage) than their lower-status counterparts. Differences in race and gender further stratified life opportunities for the Baltimore children. As one of the first studies to closely examine the outcomes of inner-city whites in addition to African Americans, data from the BSSYP shows that by adulthood, white men of lower status family background, despite attaining less education on average, were more likely to be employed than any other group in part due to family connections and long-standing racial biases in Baltimore’s industrial economy. Gender imbalances were also evident: the women, who were more likely to be working in low-wage service and clerical jobs, earned less than men. African American women were doubly disadvantaged insofar as they were less likely to be in a stable relationship than white women, and therefore less likely to benefit from a second income.
Combining original interviews with Baltimore families, teachers, and other community members with the empirical data gathered from the authors’ groundbreaking research, The Long Shadow unravels the complex connections between socioeconomic origins and socioeconomic destinations to reveal a startling and much-needed examination of who succeeds and why.
Article Review: Toni Williams, “By All Means Possible,” Jotwell, Oct. 6, 2014 (reviewing Thomas Mitchell, Growing Inequality and Racial Economic Gaps, 56 How. L. J. 849(2013)).
NOTE: it is great to see that Jotwell has expanded its coverage such that there is more space for coverage of poverty related articles.
Available here and on the Yale L.J. website. The symposium includes a great number of articles of interest, but to highlight one: David A. Super, Protecting Civil Rights in the Shadows, 123 Yale. L.J. 2806 (2014). Abstract below:
Beyond grand constitutional moments such as the New Deal and the civil rights era, the American people also remove other, less prominent issues from majoritarian politics. This process of petit popular constitutionalism resolves numerous important issues of government structure and is crucial for vulnerable groups seeking to implement and expand gains they made during grand constitutional moments.
In our two-party system, this gives groups three options. They may join one party’s core constituency, attempt to position themselves as a swing constituency, or seek to establish their concerns as moral imperatives outside of partisan debate with the leadership of a few mainstream politicians of each party. Exerting influence as a core constituency or swing group requires coherence, communication, and group identity that many sets of vulnerable people lack. The alternative petit constitutional route typically requires paring back a group’s objectives to essential aims that can win wide acceptance as moral imperatives across the political spectrum.
Since the 1960s, policy for means-tested public benefit programs has been torn between a partisan “welfare rights” track and a petit constitutional “anti-poverty” theme. The 1996 welfare law represented the final defeat of welfare rights in partisan politics. This leaves low-income people dependent on petit constitutionalism, following the same path that death penalty abolitionists and others took after being disowned by one or the other political party.