A group of Thomas Jefferson students, faculty and staff gathered on Tuesday afternoon April 9 to hear three TJSL students present their research on race and law at a Diversity Week panel.
(3L) Frank Arebalo spoke about being Hispanic in a white-dominated society, and how Mexican-Americans face messages of inferiority that are created by a mix of law and culture. Adeyinka (Yinka) Glover (3L) discussed eyewitness identification across color lines, citing to studies showing that many people have difficulty identifying members of other racial groups, and pointing out ways that this phenomenon especially impacts African-American defendants. And Randy Abreu (2L) explained how cultural factors create racial stereotypes, and argued that openly racist pornography, which creates damaging stereotypes about women of color, ought to be legally restricted, like child pornography.
Each student’s presentation was based on a 25-page paper they researched and wrote as part of the Critical Race Theory class last fall. Students chose their own topics and presented their work to the class. The Critical Race Theory course, offered once per year, examines ways that law interacts with and sometimes reinforces societal racism.
Attendees were very impressed with the panelists’ work. “Each of the presenters spoke about such intriguing topics,” said acting librarian Leigh Inman. “Attending made me miss being a law student and wish I had been able to take your Critical Race Theory class.” She had high praise for the student panelists, noting that the discussion “was very informative and thought provoking . . . I was especially impressed with how you all handled the Q&A portion.”
Professor Kaimi Wenger, who teaches the course and who organized the panel, concurred. “It was a fantastic set of presentations. Our students are doing groundbreaking work, and that was on display today.”
Students agreed. “I was really impressed with Adeyinka’s method of laying out what she would be speaking on and introducing concepts,” said Christina Herbert (2L) one of many students who actively participated in the Q&A.
“I enjoyed Frank’s discussion of Mexican cultural identity in America,” said Tim Seeger (2L). “I think it opened my eyes to the difficulties that many Mexican-Americans face when coming to terms with their past, their present and their future.” Seeger also thoroughly enjoyed Randy Abreu's discussion about racism in porn, noting that “I strongly supported his view that this type of pornography is overly obscene, holds no artistic merit and is dangerous to society. ”
Bryana Carey (2L) summed up what everybody seemed to thinking: “It was a good discussion about three relevant issues that I was not even aware of beforehand, but I walked away feeling a little bit more educated about the subjects the students talked about, as well as made some connections with maybe why there are so many stereotypes.”