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The Law School as a White Space

By Bennett Capers. Full Text.

In this moment when the country is undergoing a racial reckoning, when law schools have pledged to look inward and become anti-racist and truly inclusive, it is past time to acknowledge how law schools function as “white spaces.” For starters, there are the numbers. There is a reason why just a few years ago, The Washington Post ran a headline describing law as “the least diverse profession in the nation.” But the argument goes beyond numbers. This Essay argues that law schools—even law schools at HBCUs—function as white spaces. They are white spaces in what they teach, in how they teach, and even in their architecture.

The end goal of the Essay, however, is not solely to describe law schools as white spaces—nor is the goal simply to challenge law schools to do better. Given that this country is slated to tip from being majority white to majority minority in the year 2044, it should already be a given that law schools must step up. Rather, the end goal is to check, and even disturb, the very foundations upon which most law schools are built. It is to reexamine the walls and the insulation that allow some students to thrive while keeping others out. It is to dare law schools—to dare all of us—to imagine a new construction, an entirely new law school. In short, the end goal of this Essay is to imagine the law school no longer as a white space (in terms of demographics, or what is taught, or how it is taught), but as a white space (as in a blank page, at once empty and full of possibilities). What would it mean to rethink, from the bottom up, what is taught, how it is taught, and to what end? More broadly, what would it mean to create a law school that is cosmopolitan and then some, a place where intellectual curiosity thrives, where change and challenge are celebrated, where education itself is a practice of freedom, and perhaps most importantly, where there is no need to tout inclusivity, because everyone already belongs?