Diversity and Inclusion in Law School and Higher Education

Title

The Way of ColorInsight: Understanding Race and Law Effectively Through Mindfulness-Based ColorInsight Practices

Document Type

Law Review Article

Publication Date

10-2016

Keywords

diverse campus environment, campus climate

Abstract

Despite much good effort to the contrary, reports from a wide variety of fields and locations serve daily to remind us that race still matters in America. To many legal scholars, these reports are not only not news but they suggest work that must be done within the legal academy to minimize racial bias within contemporary law. For example, in his groundbreaking Article, Trojan Horses of Race, Jerry Kang highlighted the research identifying and confirming implicit bias as a pervasive cognitive, interpersonal dynamic, and placed on the research agenda that should follow this revelation scholarship by law professors examining “teaching strategies,” as well as “debiasing programs, and [educational] environments.” More recently, Margalynne Armstrong and Stephanie Wildman have argued that educators, especially those in law, must move from “colorblindness to color insight,” developing approaches to teaching law which increase our capacity to understand race, and in particular Whiteness, and its pervasive operation in the law. This is so even though teaching and learning about race, and especially about Whiteness, is notoriously difficult for all of us.

To teach about race in ways that increase understanding and minimize bias, and to do so in increasingly diverse classrooms requires that we each continually explore new methods and be radically open to adopting what works. This Article breaks ground by importing analyses and findings from the interdisciplinary literature on the pedagogy of race into the legal education literature, a body of scholarship which elaborates how both colorblindness and implicit bias may impact performance in law school classrooms and in practice beyond, and by identifying ways that contemplative pedagogy may be an important component of effective corrective responses.

Specifically, in this Article, I argue that educators may increase capacity to understand the impacts of race and color on law and legal education, minimize implicit bias, improve student performance and better promote the interests of justice in a diverse society by working to incorporate and blend these two important pedagogical trends: the theory and practice supporting inclusive and identity-safe classrooms; and the theory and practice of mindfulness in teaching and learning. Building on the work of Armstrong and Wildman, DiAngelo, and other scholars of the pedagogy of race, I identify mindfulness as essential to teaching and learning in this area. Specifically, I introduce and describe the Practices of ColorInsight as a set of mindfulnessbased and compassion-based pedagogical practices which support the development of such awareness and the building of the capacity and stamina necessary to cross-racial engagement notwithstanding the challenging issues that routinely arise across personal, interpersonal, and systemic domains.

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