A Center on Race, Inequality, and Law panel looks at next steps in the struggle for racial justice

On November 5, as election workers were still tabulating votes for the US presidential election, the Center on Race, Inequality, and the Law (CRIL) hosted a conversation, “Where Do We Go From Here?,” to discuss the future of racial justice in the United States, and how that trajectory might be influenced by the election’s outcome.

The discussion took place among Kim Taylor-Thompson, professor of clinical law; Anthony Thompson, professor of clinical law and CRIL faculty co-director; and Candice Jones '07, president and CEO of Public Welfare Foundation, which supports criminal justice reform efforts. CRIL executive director Vincent Southerland served as the moderator.

Among other issues, the panelists agreed that regardless of the election outcome, the need remains for Americans to organize for racial equity at the state and local level, both within and outside of election cycles.

“We need to start working in communities,” said Taylor-Thompson. “To…help them and help us understand what they need, so that we can actually develop the policies that will move us forward.”

Watch video of their discussion here:

Selected remarks:

Candice Jones: “What I’d like to see is a lot of commitment to justice reform, because I think one of the things, especially for people who are hopeful about equity, racial equity, is that there’s so many issues to exhaust us. You can feel like just constantly being bombarded, that you want to run off towards all these different fires. But I think it’s so important for us to sort of have some focus and sort of say these are some issues that we want to advance in real time.” (video 24:58)

Kim Taylor-Thompson: “We constantly misunderstand the importance of that narrative battle—the narrative around black folks and criminality is just so culturally embedded in this country, and in our DNA almost, that we don’t even question it. And so we have to constantly fight against that narrative and constantly fight against the narrative of white supremacy and begin to help people understand that it’s wrong, it’s fundamentally in error, and it’s designed to actually divide us.” (video 27:43)

Vincent Southerland: “Being a lawyer or being someone who’s pushing for change means you have to use a whole range of tools. So, it’s not only voting, it’s not only litigation, it’s not only kind of fighting a narrative battle. It’s also teaching and educating folks. It’s a range of things that lead to change.” (video 35:47)

Anthony Thompson: “If you look at what happened with Ahmaud Arbery, if you look what happened with Trayvon Martin, without the power of social media, the work of those prosecutors and law enforcement would have gone unexposed. And so I think it is very important, as I say to my students all the time, to tell our clients and tell people in the community that, within a legal distance, to use video cameras on their phones to take video of police conduct.… I think it’s critically important that we use social media in ways that benefit exposure and accountability. But…I think we should demand a regulatory responsibility on what [social media companies’] responsibilities are in terms of putting forth that information.” (video 57:33)

Posted December 1, 2020