Insights and Impact Fall 2020
three faculty headshots
Fordham University The School of Law logo


Dean Matthew Diller headshot
Dean Matthew Diller
We are all too familiar with the pattern. Another fatal encounter involving the police. Footage from iPhones shakily held by bystanders. Furious tweets and hashtags in our feeds. All of this gives us pause at first and then leads us to grieve, reflect, and demand action. But this time is different. The national awakening around race has led to a historic public expression of protest for equality and an end to systemic racism.

Ultimately, to achieve real, lasting changes, we need to go beyond the tweets, hashtags, and slogans. In this respect, law schools have a special and important responsibility. Legal scholars have the luxury of thinking deeply about legal issues of the moment for extended periods of time. To effectively address the serious problems of systemic racism and violence against Black Americans, we must gain an understanding of how and why we ended up here, and we must have a vision for a better world.

Multiple faces with city landscape mask
Bennett Capers headshot
Professor of Law; Director of Center on Race, Law and Justice
Scholarship Shaped by Identity
Professor Bennett Capers’ expansive intellectual appetite ranges from criminal law to Andy Warhol and the television series The Wire, but at bottom is always personal. “I’ve always been interested in issues of race, gender, and sexuality—really, I’ve always been interested in aspects of my own identity,” says Capers of what drives his scholarship. “[S]peaking about my identities is liberating, a way to write myself into an academy that too often feels like a ‘white space,’ and into a conversation where people like me have long been the object of discussion, but rarely the subjects doing the discussing.”
Afrofuturism, Critical Race Theory, and Policing in the Year 2044
94 NYU LAW REVIEW 1 (2019)
I. Bennett Capers
By 2044, the United States will likely be a “majority-minority” country, with people of color making up more than half of the population. And yet in the public imagination—from Robocop to Minority Report, from Star Trek to Star Wars, from A Clockwork Orange to 1984 to Brave New World—the future is usually envisioned as majority white. What might the future look like in the year 2044, when people of color make up the majority in terms of numbers, or in the ensuing years, when they also wield the majority of political and economic power? And specifically, what might policing look like? This Article attempts to answer these questions by examining how artists, cybertheorists, and speculative scholars of color—Afrofuturists and Critical Race Theorists—have imagined the future. What can we learn from Afrofuturism, the term given to “speculative fiction that treats African-American themes and addresses African-American concerns in the context of . . . technoculture”?1 And what can we learn from Critical Race Theory (CRT) and its “father” Derrick Bell, who famously wrote of space explorers2 to examine issues of race and law?3 What do they imagine policing to be, and what can we imagine policing to be in a brown and black world?
Doctor checking patient blood pressure
Kimani Paul-Emile headshot
Professor of Law; Associate Director of Center on Race, Law and Justice; Faculty Co-Director, Stein Center for Law & Ethics
At the Intersection of Race and Health
Professor Paul-Emile has long focused her research on issues of race and inequality in health care. “Health law and biomedical ethics have historically failed to acknowledge or effectively address intersectional racial equality concerns, and this inspired me to pursue a doctoral degree and to direct much of my research to examining matters that occur at the nexus of biomedical ethics, race, structural inequality, and the law,” says Paul-Emile. She uses multiple methodologies—legal doctrinal analysis, critical race theory, and qualitative research methods—to explore discrimination and inequality in a range of health care contexts, from the regulation and criminalization of drugs to the operation of racial categories in biomedical research and the physician-patient relationship.
Race and Health Law
The Oxford Handbook of Race and Law in the United States, Oxford University Press, forthcoming 2020
Several citations have been removed for brevity. Readers will find a complete list of references in the published chapter.
Kimani Paul-Emile
Since the founding of the United States as a slave-owning and settler nation, race has been a factor in individual and population health. Race plays a role in who gets care, the quality of the care received, and who remains sick while others are healthy. Health law has operated to create, perpetuate, and, at times, alleviate these effects. A wide-ranging category, health law includes public health law and healthcare law. Public health law’s scope is broad, encompassing a diverse array of policies, strategies, and protocols, including disease testing, quarantine, contact tracing, mandatory treatment, and vaccinations, among many others. Healthcare law focuses on the relationship between healthcare providers and their patients, and is shaped by concerns about the obligation to provide care, the liability of healthcare institutions and providers; informed consent; and health insurance, including issues of access, equity, choice, cost, and quality. As this chapter demonstrates, both healthcare law and public health law have implications for race, particularly racial formation, racial inequality, and racial justice.
Illustration of five ethnically diverse women
Catherine Powell headshot
Professor of Law
Belonging, Inclusion, and the Boundaries of Race and Gender
Professor Catherine Powell brings a background in human rights to her innovative research on race, gender, and poverty. “I’m most interested in questions of belonging and inclusion against the backdrop of the ways race, gender, and poverty are pathologized to roll back on rights, both civil and economic, of marginalized individuals and communities,” she says. “In my work, I have demonstrated how race and gender are woven together to produce marginalized, liminal status and create boundaries that separate who is worthy (of entry, the vote, and other rights of citizenship) from those who are not; who belongs as members of our community and who does not.”
The “Welfare Queen” Goes to the Polls: Race-Based Fractures in Gender Politics and Opportunities for Intersectional Coalitions
Geo. L.J. 19th Amend. Special Edition 105 (2020) (with Camille Gear Rich)
Catherine Powell* & Camille Gear Rich**
As Americans celebrate the 100-year anniversary of the Nineteenth Amendment’s ratification, our celebration would be premature if we failed to reflect on the ways that race has been used to fracture women’s efforts at coalition politics and our understanding of women’s rights. Indeed, a careful reading of U.S. history and contemporary politics shows that although similar rights claims are made across a diverse community of American women, women’s shared interests are often obscured by the divisive manipulation of race. Notably, 2020 is also the 150-year anniversary of the Fifteenth Amendment, which granted the right to vote to Black men. In this Article, we use the coinciding anniversaries of the two amendments as a critical opportunity to direct feminist attention to intersectional questions—to frame this historical moment as a pivot point that explores the mutually constitutive nature of gender and racial subordination in American politics.

In service of these goals, we use this Article to explore a toxic racial construct often used to distract American women from our shared rights claims—the political trickster known as the “welfare queen.” This construct was born as a result of fiscal conservatives’ attacks on government anti-poverty subsidy programs in the 1980s. It relied on antipathy toward Black women—characterized as “welfare cheats” or frauds—and pathologized women of color to call for aggressive cuts to social-safety-net programs. This Article explores the remobilization of this construct in present-day electoral politics and the ways in which it compromises cross-racial coalitions and obscures the path to reform. We take as our object the 2016 presidential election and its aftermath, for in 2016, then-presidential candidate Donald Trump and his surrogates reanimated the welfare queen construct and alleged that she was stealing American democracy through voter fraud. The visceral power of this construct allowed this group of Republicans to transform Americans’ understanding of voting rights and American democracy. In so doing, their representations simultaneously sidetracked feminist efforts to build strong cross-racial coalitions. This Article explores the various paths out of our current discourse, dispelling the distracting haze generated by the welfare queen construction. In the process, we also hope to advance our conceptual understanding of intersectional identities and their relationship to political change.