The Perils of Race and Gender in a World of Legal Abstraction

14 Pages Posted: 8 Feb 2013

Date Written: 2000


On my desk at school is a picture of Stephanie Wildman and me and our shared friend, Trina Grillo. It was taken at Stephanie's house several months before Trina died. The picture is there to remind me of who I am - both inside and outside the classroom. As an individual, my experience and judgment are profoundly affected by my own particular set of needs, desires, and aspirations. Yet, despite my normally clear understanding of this particular truth, I often find myself becoming someone else when I enter the classroom. I forget that I am an individual person with a unique set of attitudes, beliefs, and desires. Instead, I begin to think of myself as a more generic person, devoid of idiosyncrasy and able to speak from a place of universal truth and monolithic common sense. For example, I refer to justice as an abstract noun rather than acknowledge my feelings of fairness may or may not coincide with those of my students. My tendency in this regard is not surprising. I work in a profession that places a high value on abstract formulations, while heavily discounting individual feelings and experience.

Suggested Citation

Wells, Catharine P., The Perils of Race and Gender in a World of Legal Abstraction (2000). University of San Francisco Law Review, Vol. 34, No. pp. 523-535, 2000, Boston College Law School Legal Studies Research Paper, Available at SSRN:

Catharine P. Wells (Contact Author)

Boston College - Law School ( email )

885 Centre Street
Newton, MA 02459-1163
United States

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