The Soft-Shoe and Shuffle of Law School Hiring Committee Practices
16 Pages Posted: 23 Feb 2021 Last revised: 18 May 2021
Date Written: February 21, 2021
“The way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them. ”
-Ida B. Wells
It is in the spirit of Ida B. Wells, that we seek to turn the light upon the systemic racism of hiring practices. We believe these practices are indicators of the systemic failures on campuses and in workplaces that prevent them from being antiracist. We seek to use this piece as a “tool for exposing, analyzing, and challenging the majoritarian stories of racial privilege.”
Our specific intention is to recognize the largely performative nature involved in claiming to be committed to an idea while substantively and concretely ensuring the opposite. This piece is written with specific experiences, patterns, and practices in mind that are directly connected to broader contexts and phenomena. The data and trends on law school faculty hiring, and on the performance of students of color in law school and on bar exams show that acts of discrimination are often obscured by the outcomes of systemic oppression misconstrued as academic achievement. We wrote this not in the often fraught and silencing tradition of typical legal scholarship; but instead drew from diverse traditions that center narrative, storytelling, and satire (both classical and modern). We wrote this to speak truth to who we are, the roles played, and compromises made.
Most of all, we wrote this with students in mind. Students are very involved on their campuses and contribute an immense amount of time and effort listening to law faculty candidates. Students speak up when faculty use their teaching platforms to espouse harmful rhetoric and when decisions disproportionately and negatively harm marginalized people. Marginalized students often lead the service and contributions on these issues, while also dealing with the everyday challenges law school presents to the average law student. We want students to know that we hear them and see them. We also want students to know that the burden of these structures is not theirs to carry. We hope that by illuminating faculty recruiting and hiring practices we can empower students to refocus and conserve their energy. Ill-conceived meetings and discussions called by administrators and faculty are distractions that devour precious time. All of our students’ time and energy matter because their lives matter.
We recognize but do not accept or assume the risk in writing this piece. We have thought about and have been reminded of how we may face retaliation and other insidious responses. We do not know any Black or otherwise marginalized person in the legal academy whose silence or complicity has allowed them to escape these kinds of harms. Could writing this create more or intensify those barriers? Certainly. But that is why we have said we acknowledge but do not accept or assume the risk.
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