Law, Race, and the Epistemology of Ignorance

47 Pages Posted: 3 Apr 2020

See all articles by George A. Martinez

George A. Martinez

Southern Methodist University – Dedman School of Law

Date Written: 2020


Philosophers and other theorists have developed the field of epistemology which is the study of human knowledge. Critical race theorists have begun to explore how epistemological theory and insights may illuminate the study of race, including the analysis of race and the law. Such use of epistemology is appropriate because theoretical work on knowledge can be used to advance one of the key goals of critical race theory which is to understand how a regime of white supremacy and its subordination of people of color have been created and maintained in America. In this regard, philosophers and other theorists have recently begun to develop an “epistemology of ignorance” which is an examination of the complex phenomenon of ignorance that seeks to describe different forms of ignorance, examining how they are produced and sustained, and what role they play in knowledge practices. In particular, theorists have begun to apply an epistemology of ignorance to issues of race, racism and white privilege and are exploring how forms of ignorance operate in enabling racial oppression or domination. Legal scholars have begun to use some of the insights of the epistemology of ignorance in analyzing certain aspects of law and the legal profession. No one, however, has sought to examine the epistemology of ignorance at work in the area of race and law in as comprehensive a fashion as this article. This comprehensive treatment makes it possible to reveal the magnitude of the negative impact of the production of ignorance in the legal context on various racial minority groups. Accordingly, this article seeks to explore the epistemology of ignorance at work in the context of law and race and reveal how the production of ignorance has helped enable the dominant group to subordinate racial minorities in America.

Keywords: Epistemology of ignorance, Racism, Critical Race Theory, Race discrimination – law and legislation, Minorities, Native Americans, Mexican Americans, Muslims, White privilege, Law – social aspects, Federalism, Trump

Suggested Citation

Martinez, George A., Law, Race, and the Epistemology of Ignorance (2020). 17 Hastings Race & Poverty L.J. 507 (2020), SMU Dedman School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 466, Available at SSRN:

George A. Martinez (Contact Author)

Southern Methodist University – Dedman School of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 750116
Dallas, TX 75275
United States
214-768-3065 (Phone)
214-768-3142 (Fax)

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics