Randall Kennedy, Wednesday, February 3, 2016

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The Race Line in American Life

Professor Kennedy canvasses the many ways in which racial lines have been drawn overtly and, covertly, self- consciously and unconsciously in American life.

Randall Kennedy is the Michael R. Klein Professor at Harvard Law School where he teaches courses on contracts, criminal law, and the regulation of race relations.

Kennedy attended Princeton University, Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar, and Yale Law School. He clerked for Judge J. Skelly Wright of the United States Court of Appeals and Justice Thurgood Marshall of the United States Supreme Court. Awarded the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award for Race, Crime, and the Law (1997) in 1998, Kennedy writes and speaks on a wide range of topics. His books include For Discrimination: Race, Affirmative Action, and the Law (2013), The Persistence of the Color Line: Racial Politics and the Obama Presidency (2011), Sellout: The Politics of Racial Betrayal (2008), Interracial Intimacies: Sex, Marriage, Identity, and Adoption (2003), and Nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word (2002).

Both in the classroom and in lecture halls, Kennedy is admired for his wit and accessibility. He is known for his fearlessness in tackling sensitive racial issues and for challenging audiences to confront their own racial prejudices and the prejudices embedded in society. Frank conversations include the ongoing linguistic and historical baggage of loaded words like the n-word and “sellout,” interracial intimacies and adoptions, and overt (and covert) racial lines.

Using results of audits involving automobile transactions, employment applications, the receipt of tips by cab drivers, and the provision of medical care, in his talk Kennedy will examine the claim that, with certain exceptions (such as affirmative action or racial profiling by law enforcement authorities), relatively little invidious discrimination impedes the forward progress of racial minorities.

Professor Kennedy’s Athenaeum talk is co-sponsored by the President’s Leadership Fund.

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