Thurgood Marshall School of Law
ClassCrits XIII: Unlocking Inequality: Revisiting the Intersection of Race and Class
The Civil Rights Era of the mid 20th century brought about some reforms, it did not achieve substantive equality for people of color, and in particular for African American, Latinx and Native American communities. The wealth and income of these communities are far below that of whites, their poverty and unemployment rates are far above the national average, and they are far underrepresented among college graduates and in professions requiring higher education. There is still widespread de facto racial and ethnic segregation in schools and residential living patterns. And people of color are often harassed and brutalized by police and private citizens when engaged in normal human activities.
For several decades, scholarship in Critical Race Theory and LatCrit Theory has examined the role of ongoing racial discrimination in perpetuating persistent injustices and inequalities against African Americans and other people of color. A somewhat different perspective is found in the literature on “racial capitalism.” Inspired by scholars in the Black radical tradition such as W.E.B. DuBois, Cedric Robinson, and Sylvia Wynter, historians and theorists of capitalism have begun to trace the relationship between global capitalism and white supremacy. From the dispossession of indigenous people in the “New World” to the establishment of Atlantic slavery, through the construction of empires of cotton, sugar, bananas, and other commodities that pulled colonized and racialized peoples around the globe into new supply chains designed to serve the European metropoles, the cheap land and labor produced by white supremacy has been central to the emergence of capitalism. The climate crisis, which currently threatens the well-being of the entire world and of which people of color and other marginalized communities bear the brunt, is an outcome of a globalized economic system based on extraction from and exploitation of these communities and of the planet at large. Indeed, new historical research suggests that capitalist tools and mechanisms—from accounting and management practices to mortgages, the corporate form, and private property itself—are the products of a mindset that has distributed the privileges of “humanity” unequally. This account refuses the conventional question of “Is it race or class?” and suggests that the two are intimately intertwined.
This backdrop poses several questions. Is it possible to overcome white supremacy with the existing tools of American law? Can white supremacy and capitalism be disentangled? Is it possible, given what DuBois called the “wages of whiteness,” to build a more egalitarian society with minimal wealth and income disparities, high quality education and guaranteed employment for all, and comparable opportunities to seek fulfillment in life? Despite the enormous power of the moneyed elite, is it possible and what would it take to transform our society from one based on competition, profit, and individual satisfaction to one whose core values are working cooperatively, meeting people’s needs, and fairly sharing what society collectively produces among all its members?
We invite proposals for individual paper presentations and panels that speak to this year’s theme of Unlocking Inequality: Revisiting the Intersection of Race and Class as well as to general ClassCrits themes. We anticipate at present that our conference will be live and in-person, although that could easily change with new developments in the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
Individual Proposals. Individual paper proposals should include a title and short abstract, along with the presenter’s name, contact information, institutional affiliation (if any), and a short speaker bio (1-3 sentences). Individual papers (other than works-in-progress submissions, see below) will be grouped by the conference organizers into panels.
Panel Proposals. Panel proposals may use a variety of formats, including traditional paper presentations, roundtables, and audience discussions. Please indicate the format of the proposed panel, and include a proposed panel title, a short description of the overall topic, and a list of confirmed panelists, with contact information. For panels comprised of individual presentations, please include titles and short summaries of each presentation and a short bio (1-3 sentences) for each panelist or panel organizer.
Works in Progress. We extend a special invitation to junior scholars (i.e., graduate students, aspiring faculty members, or faculty member with less than two years of experience in a full-time position) to submit proposals for works in progress (WIPs). A senior scholar as well as other scholars will comment upon each work in progress in a small, supportive working session. Due to the increasing popularity of our WIPs program, we may need to limit capacity. We anticipate selecting WIP papers on a first-come, first-served basis. Scholars submitting WIPs who are not selected to workshop their paper will have the opportunity to participate on a regular conference panel. Works-in-progress submissions for junior or emerging scholars seeking individualized presentations and comments should be clearly identified as “Work-in-Progress” and should similarly include a title, short abstract, name and contact information, and a 1-3 sentence bio identifying their current status as a student or new or aspiring faculty member (see details on previous page).
Submit Proposals at www.classcrits.org.
For more details about ClassCrits XIII, including sponsors, logistics, and fees, please see the full conference description on our website––www.classcrits.org.
 ClassCrits themes include:
The legal and cultural project of constructing inequalities of all kinds as natural, normal, and necessary.
The relationships among economic, racial, and gender inequality.
The development of new methods (including the interdisciplinary study and development of such methods) with which to analyze and criticize economics and law (beyond traditional “law and economics”).
The relationship between material systems and institutions and cultural systems and institutions.
The concept and reality of class within the international legal community, within international development studies and welfare strategies, and within a “flattening” world of globalized economics and geopolitical relations.