Russell Robinson—one of the few scholars in the country focused on the intersection of race, sexuality, and the law—has joined the UC Hastings Center for Racial and Economic Justice (CREJ) as its inaugural Wiley Manuel Visiting Scholar and Professor. His arrival signifies a pivotal step in realizing the vision for CREJ, launched in February 2020 and led by professors Alina Ball and Shauna Marshall.
Robinson said students who enroll in his class this fall on Race, Sexuality & Law will have a unique opportunity to think deeply about how their sense of self has been shaped by racist stereotypes in the news media and in their personal lives. He developed the course while teaching at UCLA Law and brought it to Berkeley Law in 2010.
“Students are bringing their life experiences with race, gender, and sexuality to the class and hopefully leaving with a different lens,” he said. “I’ve had white students leave my class with a whole new perspective on how race impacts their lives.”
Robinson’s course also aims to set the record straight about critical race theory at a moment when an increasing number of legislatures across the country are trying to ban its use in K-12 classrooms.
“It’s an opportunity to learn the truth about critical race theory as opposed to the distortion on social media and Fox News,” he said. “It’s painful to hear people distort CRT. It’s not racism against white people. It is a mode of legal analysis for understanding the ways we are divided based on race and proposes ways to dismantle racism.”
Ball said Robinson’s presence will enrich the UC Hastings community. “He is the preeminent scholar on issues of race, sexuality, and the law,” she said. “CREJ is not just bringing a fabulous scholar in residence, but we’re bringing the best in the field. I hope students recognize this unique opportunity and take advantage of it by engaging with him.”
Besides teaching the course, Robinson will deliver a campus-wide lecture. He will also mentor CREJ Visiting Assistant Professor Evelyn Rangel, a budding scholar exploring the enforcement and policing of documentation status and its discriminatory impacts on citizens and noncitizens of color.
Ball said she knows firsthand that Robinson will be a great mentor at UC Hastings. When she was a student at UCLA Law, he was on the faculty and provided edits to her first law review article, on community economic development. Both Ball and Robinson started as corporate lawyers before transitioning into academia. “His patience, encouragement, and steadfast belief in our talent was truly transformative, as I believe it will be for students in his course this fall,” Ball said.
Robinson earned his J.D. from Harvard Law in 1995 and clerked for Judge Dorothy Nelson of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and Justice Stephen Breyer of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Recently published works include “‘Playing it Safe’ with Empirical Evidence: Selective Use of Social Science in Supreme Court Cases About Racial Justice and Marriage Equality,” 112 Northwestern Law Rev. 1565 (2018); “LGBT Equality and Sexual Racism,” 86 Fordham L. Rev. 2739 (2018); “The Afterlife of Homophobia,” 60 Ariz. L. Rev. 213 (2018); and “Unequal Protection,” 67 Stan. L. Rev. (2015).
Marshall said Robinson is a welcome addition to the school: “As our nation grapples with the enduring effects of a system built, in part, on genocide, slavery and racism, Professor Robinson’s visit brings to the UC Hastings community the voice of one of the nation’s premier race and sexuality scholars. His writings not only help us understand our troubling legacy, but they deconstruct the myths surrounding that history.”