Law scholars take on racism, democracy in April 18 lecture

Gerald Torres, Cornell’s Jane M.G. Foster Professor of Law, and Lani Guinier, the Bennett Boskey Professor of Law at Harvard Law School, will deliver the Robert L. Harris Jr. ADVANCEments in Science Distinguished Lecture, “‘The Miner’s Canary’ and Black Lives Matter,” April 18 at 3:30 p.m. in Alice Statler Auditorium, Statler Hall. The event is free and open to the public.

In 2002, Torres and Guinier wrote the influential book “The Miner’s Canary: Enlisting Race, Resisting Power, Transforming Democracy.” They will revisit their argument that black people and other people of color are first to experience normalization of resource inequality that results in stunted lives, deformed democratic institutions and a market-national security state.

Torres is a leading figure in critical race theory, environmental law and federal Indian law. He previously served as the Bryant Smith Chair in Law at the University of Texas School of Law and taught at the University of Minnesota Law School, where he served as associate dean. Torres is also a former president of the Association of American Law Schools. He has served as deputy assistant attorney general for the Environment and Natural Resources Division of the U.S. Department of Justice and as counsel to former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno ’60. Torres has also served on the board of the Environmental Law Institute, the National Petroleum Council and on the Environmental Protection Agency’s National Environmental Justice Advisory Council. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the American Law Institute.

Guinier’s work addresses race, gender and democratic decision-making and calls for candid public discourse on these topics. She is the first woman of color appointed to a tenured professorship at Harvard Law School and has worked in the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice and headed the voting rights project at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. She has published many scholarly articles and books, including “The Tyranny of the Majority” (1994), “Lift Every Voice: Turning a Civil Rights Setback into a New Vision of Social Justice” (1998) and “The Tyranny of the Meritocracy: Democratizing Higher Education in America” (2015).

Sponsored by the Office of Faculty Development and Diversity, the annual ADVANCEments lecture brings nationally known researchers to Cornell for campuswide discussions on diversity and women in science.

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Melissa Osgood