American Studies 350/550
UNM, Spring 2008
Thursdays, 4 p.m.
Prof. Laura E. Gómez, J.D., Ph.D.
This course explores how the American legal system has responded to race and racism, sometimes as a tool for enforcing white supremacy and sometimes as a tool for combating it.
The course should be of interest to students who want to explore race relations in a comparative (looking at multiple racial groups), multi-disciplinary way. It may be of particular interest to undergraduates considering attending law school in the future.
The course will survey the legal history of several American racial groups: African Americans, American Indians, Mexican Americans, and Asian Americans (Chinese Americans and Japanese Americans). A major theme is the law’s role in creating and reproducing racial categories and racial inequality. The legal histories of these groups will be framed within a sociological discussion of the concepts of “race” and “racism,” as core concepts we will encounter throughout the semester.
The course also considers the 20th century context, focusing on the World War II and the post-Civil Rights Movement era and the evolution of anti-discrimination law and equality jurisprudence. This part of the course compares the experiences of these diverse, non-White groups with each other and with Whites in various areas of the law, such as employment discrimination, voting rights, educational segregation, and affirmative action.
The text for the course is Race and Races: Cases and Resources for a Diverse America, Second Edition, edited by law professors Juan Perea, Richard Delgado, Angela Harris, and Stephanie Wildman. The structure of the casebook follows the law school model: it is built around published decisions by appellate courts (mostly by the U.S. Supreme Court but also by state supreme courts and federal appellate courts). In addition, excerpts of articles and books from legal scholars as well as scholars in the social science and humanities are interspersed throughout the casebook. The reading will be challenging, and students should expect to devote substantial time to preparing for class meetings and, after class, re-reading and reviewing course material for the midterm and final exams.