Race, Speech, and Violence in U.S. Education: Lessons on Democracy, Dignity, and Equality

A disturbing rise in racist speech and violence on university campuses in the United States is occurring at the same time legal challenges threaten the future of existing tools to combat racial isolation, provide equal educational opportunity, and foster racial diversity in colleges and universities. The escalation in racist speech and acts of violence on campuses harkens back to civil rights era challenges to state-mandated apartheid, racial segregation in schools, and concurrent acts of state-inspired violence. Historically, such state-inspired violence had a direct and pernicious effect on inculcation of constitutional values and civic engagement for American students. This paper examines how, without a direct focus on the social, psychological, and legal harm of such racial violence in educational spaces, traditional liberal frameworks for constitutional interpretation merely replicate intergenerational educational disenfranchisement.