Pioneer of Critical Race Theory to Receive Highest Honor in Legal Education

  • The Association of American Law Schools Lifetime Service Award is presented every three years

(Reuters) – The Association of American Law Schools will bestow its highest honor on Kimberlé Crenshaw, who established the concept of intersectionality and helped advance and define critical race theory.

Crenshaw, who is on the faculties of Columbia Law School and the University of California at Los Angeles School of Law, will receive the 2021 AALS triennial award for Lifetime Services to Legal Education and the Legal Profession. His recognition is particularly relevant amid mounting attacks on critical breed theory by Conservatives in recent months, Crenshaw noted in a statement that accompanied the AALS announcement on Thursday of his selection.

“I would have been delighted to have received the triennial award from the AALS under any circumstance, but it is especially heartening to be honored by my colleagues at a time when critical race theory and intersectionality have become targets of censorship and legal prohibition in many parts of our country, ”Crenshaw said.

This award marks the second time in two months that the world’s largest legal education organization publicly supports Critical Race Theory, which argues that racism and prejudice are ingrained in legal and other societal systems, and which have emerged law schools in the 1980s. The AALS issued a public statement in early August defending critical race theory and warning that laws prohibiting its teaching set a dangerous precedent for government censorship. This was an unusual step for the group, which rarely addresses issues outside of legal education.

Republican lawmakers in more than 20 states have introduced legislation that would prevent schools from teaching critical race theory and structural racism, with supporters of the measures claiming the concepts divide and lead to intolerance.

“Thinking back to today’s conditions, I do not take for granted how much the freedom I enjoyed as a young scholar has been protected not only by those who have found value in the substance of my life. work, but also by critics who have defended my right to think, teach, and write, ”Crenshaw said.

Crenshaw graduated from Harvard Law School in 1984 and began teaching two years later. She was one of the small group of legal scholars who drew on the work of the late law professor Derrick Bell in the 1980s, lecturing and writing on race and the law. Crenshaw coined the term “critical race theory”.

She also pioneered the concept of intersectionality, which concerns how the overlap of race, gender, class, and other characteristics can intensify structural and systemic inequalities and discrimination.

“Professor Crenshaw incredibly deserves this honor because of her contributions to legal research, her commitment to diversity in the legal academy, her decades of inspiration and mentorship for students and faculty, and her contributions to the legal program, ”Boston University said. Law Dean Angela Onwuachi-Willig in a prepared statement.

Previous recipients of the AALS Lifetime Service Award include Michael Olivas, professor of retirement law at the University of Houston, who has helped open doors for a generation of Hispanic jurists; Herma Hill Kay, who was one of the country’s first female tenured law professors; and former Yale Law dean, Guido Calabresi. Derrick Bell also received the award in 2012.

Crenshaw’s award will be presented at the AALS annual meeting in January, which will take place virtually.

Read more:

Association of Law Schools: Banning Critical Race Theory is Censorship

Partisan war over history teaching and racism fuel tensions in American schools

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