Robert Chang discusses the evolving nature of segregation at annual Derrick Bell Lecture

Robert Chang
Robert Chang

On November 10, Robert Chang, professor of law and founding executive director of the Fred T. Korematsu Center for Law and Equality at Seattle University School of Law, delivered the 26th annual Derrick Bell Lecture on Race in American Society. In his remarks, presented virtually, Chang examined both racial segregation and desegregation efforts in the United States, and argued that white American identity has changed over time in a way that stifles new efforts for minority groups to achieve equity.

This annual lecture honors the legacy of the late civil rights activist Derrick Bell, a visiting professor at NYU Law. It was co-hosted by NYU Law’s Center on Race, Inequality, and the Law and the Office of Development and Alumni Relations.

Watch video of the Bell Lecture: 

Selected remarks by Robert Chang:
“The notion of American whiteness will continue to evolve as it has since the creation of the American republic… Race is not static, it’s continuing to evolve. And in some ways, this idea or thesis of the intensification of white racial identity occurs at certain moments during history, and in a way that I think is happening now.” (video, 50:53)

“When we think about why America looks the way that it does, it’s not accidental. It is by design. So the annual quota for [immigrants from] Europe in 1963 was 103,000 people. For all of Asia—and these are annual numbers—Asia was 2,000-some and Africa was 1,000-some. There was a deliberate construction and maintenance of this country as a white country.” (video, 01:08:36)

“[Professor Bell] called racial realism this mindset or philosophy that requires us to acknowledge the permanence of our subordinate status. But he says that the acknowledgement enables us to avoid despair and frees us to imagine and implement racial strategies that can bring fulfillment and even triumph. So in some ways he’s saying is: if you accept this, it pushes us to think about new directions [about] the goal that in some ways is not just formal equality achieved through desegregation, but…equity.” (video, 1:15:50)

Posted December 16, 2021. Chang photo credit: Seattle University School of Law