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Seeing Color, Seeing Whiteness, Making Change: One Woman's Journey in Teaching Race and American Law

38 Pages Posted: 22 Jul 2010  

Judith A.M. Scully

Stetson University College of Law

Date Written: 2008


In this article Judith Scully, a law professor, who identifies as a member of the Caribbean and African Diaspora , shares her personal and academic perspective of the experience and challenges faced in teaching Race, Racism, and American Law in a predominantly white institution. The article describes the emotional challenges of teaching this course and suggests ways to help students deconstruct their own belief/value systems. It also provides key ingredients needed in teaching this course such as empathic listening, allowing students to set the ground rules for dialogue and it includes a description of a typical first class meeting and how ground rules set the stage for an honest dialogue on race and American jurisprudence. Central to this discussion about race and American law are the legal history of the doctrine of colorblindness as established in Plessy v. Ferguson, and the concept of “white privilege” which is necessary for white students to understand when they are attempting to examine their own racial identity. This article includes a discussion of how white privilege is confounded by poverty and how the students often prefer to analyze the effect of poverty on one’s identity rather than have to wrestle with the impact that race has on one’s privilege and access to power. The article concludes that teaching a course such as this is a welcome challenge and is essential to raising race consciousness, to building sensitivity to the role of law in redressing and enforcing racial inequalities, and to examining the essential role of lawyers in both the justice system and community action initiatives.

Keywords: Race, racism, colorblindness, Diaspora, white privilege, Plessy v. Ferguson, teaching race

JEL Classification: K10, K19

Suggested Citation

Scully, Judith A.M., Seeing Color, Seeing Whiteness, Making Change: One Woman's Journey in Teaching Race and American Law (2008). University of Toledo Law Review, Vol. 39, No. 1, 2007-2008. Available at SSRN:

Judith A. M. Scully (Contact Author)

Stetson University College of Law ( email )

1401 61st Street South
Gulfport, FL 33707
United States
727-562-7382 (Phone)

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