Monday, June 21, 2010

Hierarchical Identity in the Americas Explored in New Book

Professor Tanya K. Hernandez, a professor of law at Fordham University School of Law, where she teaches Comparative Employment Discrimination, Critical Race Theory, and Trusts & Estates, has written a new book with Professor Robert J. Cottrol, a professor of law at George Washington University Law School, where he teaches constitutional and criminal law. The new book is entitled, The Long Lingering Shadow: Law, Liberalism and Cultures of Racial Hierarchy and Identity in the Americas(UNC Press, 2010). Professor Hernandez and Cottrol collaborated on the book because although they teach in relatively different areas of the law their research focuses on the influence of legal institutions and social processes on race relations in the United States and Latin America.

I had the opportunity to hear excerpts and commentaries regarding The Long Lingering Shadow at an Author Meets Reader Session at the recent Law & Society Association Annual Meeting, as a side bar, our very own Professor Laura E. Gomez, University of New Mexico is President of Law Society for the next two years (viva Laura!). The readers commented on the relevant, and important contribution that The Long Lingering Shadow will make to the existing body of legal, sociological, and historical literature. The readers were Professors Raymond T. Diamond, Louisiana State University, Paul Finkelman, Albany Law School, Seth Racusen, Anna Maria College, and D. Wendy Greene, Samford University.

I was particularly intrigued by Professor Finkelman’s comment. He stated that the law governing slavery in the Americas altered from the British common law by designating that the race of a child would be determined by the race of the mother not the father. This legal change resulted in a denigration and objectification of a dark woman’s body, and it removed any legal consequence from a white man engaging in sexual relations, consensual or otherwise with a dark woman. The result of such a legal definitional change was that--there would be no ramification for the use or misuse of a dark woman’s body. Professor Finkelman believes that unfortunately, remnants of this socio-legal paradigm are still in existence today. The Long Lingering Shadow addresses many of the socio-legal paradigms that are remnants of colonial power in the Americas. However, according to Professor Cottrol, the book does not discuss the gender power dynamics that is endemic within the Latin American culture, and to a large extent, the American culture, but perhaps that is a topic for a different book.

Lydie Nadia Cabrera Pierre-Louis

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