American uncertainties and ambivalence about race go at least as far back as Tocqueville’s pained observations about the three races in America and their sad inability to live together as equals. In the intervening two centuries those uncertainties have not been resolved by civil war, legal prescription, mass protest, or inspiring leadership. Today, racial conflict between blacks and whites, and conflict about race is as vexing as it has ever been. Race, as Gunner Myrdal reminded us, is the “American Dilemma.”
Uncertainty is particularly acute in the legal domain where, over the last four decades, courts and judges have struggled to come to terms with the meaning of the Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection of the law. In that period the record of judicial interpretation and understanding of racial equality has taken the form of a back and forth movement in which first desegregation, then integration with its accompanying need for busing and affirmative action, and now “color blindness” have been the prevailing ideologies.
In both law and society the meaning of civil rights is hotly debated. At the same time, Americans take great pride in the progress made in opening up opportunities cross racial lines. The purpose of this symposium is to inquire about the place of civil rights in America’s post-Brown v. Board of Education story. How important has the story of civil rights “progress” been in the last half century? What have been the most important counter-narratives? What issues, e.g. affirmative action, immigration, have posed the greatest challenges to America’s embrace of the narrative of progress in civil rights?
Thursday, November 29, 2012
Civil Rights in the American Story
Civil Rights in the American Story, a conference at the University of Alabama School of Law, will be held Friday, March 8, 2013. The principal speakers are David W. Blight, Mark Brilliant, Richard Thompson Ford, and Susan Sturm: