Law;Family Law;Race


Changes in law and policy—not to mention developments such as the COVID-19 pandemic and its devastating effects on families—raise important questions about how to define parental rights and how to best support parents and children during these challenging times. The Symposium also presented important questions about issues of race, gender, sexuality, and class in our modern context. Even more salient in this space are issues of race. Here, as in other contexts, Black families, like my grandmother’s and so many others, are the “canaries in the mine.” Their experiences provide us with important insight into the signs of danger facing Black and Brown families. To that extent, the concerns of families, like my grandmother’s, should be at the center of our discussion around families and the challenges they face in this moment. This Essay intervenes in the conversation hosted by the Fordham Law Review by focusing on issues of race, which, as I have indicated elsewhere, remain underexplored in family law scholarship.1 More specifically, it endeavors to give greater context to the term “parenting while Black,” which I utilized in the narrative that launched this iniquity. In the wake of George Floyd’s death at the hands of police in 2020,2 people of all walks of life are all too familiar with the phrase “driving, or even walking, while Black.”3 These phrases reference the scores of Black and Brown people killed or badly injured at the hands of white law enforcement officers, often when the need for such action was plainly unwarranted.4 In deploying the term “parenting while Black,” I mean to invoke not only the criminal justice context, but also all the systems that inform the functioning and well-being of families of color. Enumerating such systems provides us with a deeper appreciation of the obstacles that parents of color must navigate in trying to provide for their children.

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