EVENT CHANGE: The Family and Inequality

Robin Lenhardt, LAPA Fellow; Fordham University School of Law

Mon, 03/09/2020 - 4:30pm
LAPA Conference Room, 348 Wallace Hall
Event Category: 

UPDATE:  In lieu of a formal seminar today, we will convene a workshop to discuss Robin Lenhardt’s thoughtful and provocative paper and her larger project.  We are hopeful that we can reschedule her formal presentation, seminar, and dinner later this spring.  In the meantime, Robin has offered some important insights and is considering where she might take her project.  We can have this discussion without obviating the need for the formal seminar.

Today, we will convene at 4:30 pm in the LAPA Conference Room, Wallace Hall 348.  We will conclude by 6:00 pm.  There will be no dinner.

LAPA’s seminar format assumes that seminar participants have familiarized themselves with the paper in advance. The commentator opens the session by summarizing the main themes in the paper and presenting some topics for discussion. The author then has the right of first response before we open to the floor for questions. The seminar will end with a brief reception, giving everyone a chance to mingle and meet.

Abstract:  "The family is a key institution in society, but it has largely been omitted from current legal and social discourse about race and inequality in the United States. This Essay argues that using the family as a unit of analysis in understanding and addressing racial inequality can surface the mechanisms by which disadvantage operates. In advancing that claim, the Essay focuses primarily on African American families and uses the example of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Moore v. City of East Cleveland, a case that, although not often associated with race, provides important insights into families and structural racial inequality. With this, the Essay makes three important contributions. First, drawing on historical examples and current events, it shows how African American families have been “locked” into inequality over time. Second, drawing on my research on Moore – which I believe to be the most comprehensive file on the case outside of that developed by the lawyers involved – it reveals that the Justices intentionally avoided addressing race and missed an opportunity to address family inequality directly. Third, the Essay shows that the failure to attend to the link between family and inequality has adversely affected equal protection doctrine and our public discourse about racial inequality in the United States. The Essay begins by exploring how family inequality works and  then turns to consider Moore and the adverse consequences whitewashing the family and inequality has had on equal protection and public discourse about race in this country. "


Robin Lenhardt
2019-2020 LAPA Fellow
Fordham University School of Law

Robin A. Lenhardt is a Professor of Law at the Fordham Law School and the Founder and Faculty Director of the Fordham Center on Race, Law & Justice. Co-Editor of Critical Race Judgments: Rewritten U.S. Opinions on Race and Law, which will be published by Cambridge University Press, Professor Lenhardt explores issues race, identity, family, equality, and citizenship in her scholarship.  Her publications have appeared in numerous books and journals, including the California Law Review, the New York University Law Review, and the UCLA Law Review.  In addition to Fordham, Professor Lenhardt has held teaching positions at Columbia Law School and the University of Chicago Law School.  Before entering legal academia, Professor Lenhardt held a number of positions in the private and non-profit sectors.  A law clerk to U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen G. Breyer and Judge Hugh Bownes of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, Professor Lenhardt was formerly a Counsel in the Washington, D.C. office of Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering, where she was a member of the litigation team that defended the University of Michigan in the Grutter v. Bollinger and Gratz v. Bollinger affirmative action lawsuits.  Professor Lenhardt also received a Skadden Foundation Fellowship to work as a staff attorney for the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights; served as an attorney advisor in the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel; and was a member of President Obama’s DOJ Transition Team. Professor Lenhardt holds an A.B. degree in English from Brown University; a J.D. from Harvard Law School; an M.P.A. from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government; and an L.L.M. from the Georgetown University Law Center.  A 2019-20 Princeton Law and Public Affairs Program (LAPA) fellow, Professor Lenhardt recently received Fordham Law’s Dean’s Scholarship award for her scholarly work and was awarded the American Association of Law Schools’ prestigious Clyde Ferguson Award in 2019 for her teaching, scholarship, and service.  An American Bar Foundation Fellow, Professor Lenhardt currently sits on the Board of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice and the Bail Project.  She previously served as both a Trustee and a Fellow on the Brown University Corporation.