Notice & Comment

Introduction to Symposium on Racism in Administrative Law, by Kathryn E. Kovacs

I sat in my apartment hearing the helicopters overhead and smelling the fires burning blocks away. I felt fear, anger, frustration, and hopelessness. Like so many white people in America, I wondered how I could do more to help. I’ve dedicated my career to legal issues that often intersect with race, but don’t deal with racism head on. I don’t avoid racial issues when they arise, but I’ve often thought of administrative law as being structural and procedural, not substantive. Racism has been someone else’s topic, not mine. 

Recent events have convinced me that my head was in the clouds. I go through life in white skin. I can go birdwatching without someone calling the cops. I can drive through a posh neighborhood without being pulled over. People don’t cross to the other side of the street when they see me coming. If I ever got arrested, I’m confident that I would get through it alive. 

In my scholarship, my head also has been in the clouds. Racism infects every bit of U.S. law. It is not enough to discuss it when it arises. We need to take it head on, including in administrative law. Pretending that racism is a tangential issue is a cop out that solidifies racism’s hold on our society.

I sent an email to the administrative law professors list serve, and with Chris Walker’s encouragement, this symposium was born. 

Contributors will discuss the racial aspects of cases in the administrative law canon, the structural aspects of administrative law that exacerbate racism, critical theories of administrative law, historic racism in administrative law, and racist aspects of current regulatory policies. In this symposium, we will hear many voices and messages that we don’t usually hear in administrative law but should. Contributors include:

I hope this symposium broadens our conception of what administrative law is and our understanding of the role racism plays in that law. And I hope it marks the beginning of a longer and fruitful conversation. Please contact me if you’d like to participate in this symposium.

Kathryn E. Kovacs is a Professor at Rutgers Law School. Follow her on Twitter here.

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