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UCLA Law Review



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Freire, race, reflection, student, Brown v. Board of Education


"New voices" of future lawyers are particularly important in the area of civil rights because racial problems are theirs to confront in the next decades. Teaching techniques developed by Paulo Freire have facilitated the enlistment of students in the racial struggle. By these techniques teachers, as well as students, learn through sharing, and students become active participants, rather than passive observers, in the learning process. The educational process, Freire counsels, ''must begin with the solution of the teacher-student contradiction, by reconciling the poles of the contradiction so that both are simultaneously teachers and students. In the fall of 1988, two dozen students enrolled in a Harvard Law School seminar Civil Rights at the Crossroads, a course ap-plying the Freire thesis in structure and spirit. The students were determined to think and write seriously about the slow stagnation of the once vibrant civil rights movement. In a process developed by Professor Charles Lawrence, students prepared for weekly class sessions by writing a two-page paper of "reflections" responding to that week's assigned readings. Legal education, as well as legal scholarship, must create a place for these voices-for thinking and writing that develop consciousness about today's complex issues. This consciousness will, in turn, help to ensure that the legal system supports basic human needs and a democratic vision. This collection of writings is intended to make a small start toward what must become a large literature. This Article groups student pieces into five general categories. These categories derive from the content of the student pieces and do not reflect the original organization of the course. Part I of the Article explores the universality of prejudice and its implications for understanding racism in America. Part II suggests a theory of a property right in whiteness as a means of understanding the Supreme Court's civil rights decisions and includes students' assessments of the explanatory power of this theory. Part III examines the Supreme Court's decision in Brown v. Board of Education, which required the desegregation of public schools, and evaluates the successes and failures of integration from the viewpoint of students of all races. Part IV focuses on the psychological effects of racism; the student pieces describe these effects and suggest ways to "decolonize" the minds of victims of racism. Finally, Part V examines various strategies of change through activism.