Leading scholars and activists from across the country will convene at Boston College to participate in a symposium on structural racism in the United States, presented by the University's Center for Human Rights and International Justice.

The aim of the event, which will be held October 6-7 in Gasson 100, is to explore the nature and history—legal, institutional, societal—of structural racism, with a focus on struggles for self-determination, claims for reparations, and immigrants’ rights claims, according to organizers.

“We've invited scholars and activists whose work is grounded in the lived experiences of individuals and communities directly affected by these issues and who are well-known and respected in their fields of study, advocacy, and activism,” said CHRIJ Co-Director Daniel Kanstroom, a professor and the Thomas F. Carney Distinguished Scholar at BC Law School.

The symposium—“Structural Racism in the United States: Engaging the Interstices of Migration, Indigenous Peoples’ Rights, and the Legacies of Settler Colonialism”—will begin with by Natsu Taylor Saito, Regents’ Professor Emerita at Georgia State University’s College of Law, who will frame the symposium with a keynote address titled “Settler Colonialism, Race, and the Law: Why Structural Racism Persists.” The presentation, part of the Lowell Humanities Series, will be held at 7 p.m. October 6.

“The CHRIJ was founded to educate interdisciplinary scholar-activists who seek to redress gross violations of human rights and to accompany grassroots organizers and social movements who draw on local knowledge systems and partner with scholar advocates towards transformative change,” said CHRIJ Co-Director and BC Lynch School of Education and Human Development Professor Brinton Lykes. “Ongoing and increasing threats to these commitments compel us to seek new and renewed strategies and to work collaboratively to undo structural injustices. This is especially true as we work with—and take leadership from—migrants, Indigenous peoples, and African Americans who demand redress for colonialism and enslavement and its multiple legacies.”

On October 7, BC faculty members and other prominent speakers will participate in three topical panel presentations: “Settler Colonialism, ‘Race’ and Indigenous Survivance and Resistance,” moderated by Nell Jessup Newton, Wake Forest University Law School professor and interim dean; “Structural Racism and Redress,” moderated by BC Sociology Department Associate Professor Zine Magubane; and “Migration, Rights and Reclamations,” moderated by Lynch School Associate ProfessorRaquel Muñiz, who also has an appointment as an assistant professor at BC Law.

The day's concluding panel, in which Saito will participate, will be co-chaired and moderated Kanstroom and Lykes.

Panelists include noted legal scholar Aziz Rana, Cornell University’s Richard and Lois Cole Professor of Law, who will join the BC faculty as the Provost’s Distinguished Fellow in 2023-2024, and then as the J. Donald Monan, S.J., Chair in Law and Government in 2024; and BC Law School Drinan Professor Thomas Mitchell, a national expert on property issues facing disadvantaged families and communities.

CHRIJ worked with University colleagues on the symposium, noted Kanstroom and Lykes, who expressed appreciation to the African and African Diaspora Studies Program as well as to faculty collaborators n the Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences, Lynch School, and Law School.

Organizers hope the event will draw attendees from across the University, as well as from Boston and beyond, who include “not only specialists within these fields but also those who seek to learn how these issues affect our daily lives. The panels have been organized to facilitate collaborative discussions among speakers as well as with audience members. The final panel includes experts who work in interdisciplinary contexts and who will comment within and across the other three panels. In the words of Latina feminist scholar activist Gloria Anzaldúa, we seek to build bridges towards nos/otras (we) through centering the praxis and the leadership of those whose voices are all too often missing and/or marginalized.”

The symposium, which is free and open to the public, is co-sponsored by the African and African Diaspora Studies program and supported by BC’s Institute for the Liberal Arts. Registration is encouraged for the daylong Friday program, which includes a continental breakfast and lunch. For information on speakers and presentation topics, and to register, visit the symposium website.

Rosanne Pellegrini | University Communications | October 2022