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insist that students look hard at their own
assumptions. “I think people of all political
stripes could take my class and come away
with a more complicated view.”
It’s been several years since the law
school offered a full course on the legal
history of race in America, and Wilson
believes it was overdue. “At this moment,
given where we’re at politically, it’s almost
irresponsible not to have this kind of class
available for students to grapple with these
questions. We can stick our heads in the
sand and pretend we’re on the right path,
but I think recent events have shown that
we’re not. On the left and the right, I
think there’s consensus that we still have a
By the end of that Monday class, care-
ful reticence has evolved into a fascinating
debate about whether people are naturally
inclined to categorize by race and identity.
Is it an ingrained instinct or something
that’s been socially conditioned? Can we
get rid of racial identity? Do we want to?
The students can’t agree. They’re
asking one another questions, venturing
contradictory opinions, making reference
to the readings and drawing on stories from
their own lives.
Wilson isn’t offering answers, but she
— Eric Johnson ’08
looks pleased. “All right,” she says as the
class draws to a close. “What’s next? Where
do we go from here?”
It’s her students, she knows, who will
have to decide.
— and Misused — on Race