Volume 25.1 (Fall 2019)
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Content titles below link to full text on the MLaw Scholarship Repository.
Race & Education
The Right to Be and Become: Black Home-Educators as Child Privacy Protectors
Article by Najarian R. Peters
The right to privacy is one of the most fundamental rights in American jurisprudence. In 1890, Samuel D. Warren and Louis D. Brandeis conceptualized the right to privacy as the right to be let alone and inspired privacy jurisprudence that tracked their initial description. Warren and Brandeis conceptualized further that this right was not exclusively meant to protect one’s body or physical property. Privacy rights were protective of “the products and the processes of the mind” and the “inviolate personality.” Privacy was further understood to protect the ability to “live one’s life as one chooses, free from assault, intrusion or invasion except as can be justified by the clear needs of community living under a government of law.” Case law supported and extended their theorization by recognizing that privacy is essentially bound up in an individual’s ability to live a self-authored and self-curated life without unnecessary intrusions and distractions. Hence, privacy may be viewed as the right of individuals to be and become themselves. This right is well-established; however, scholars have vastly undertheorized the right to privacy as it intersects with racial discrimination and childhood. Specifically, the ways in which racial discrimination strips Black people—and therefore Black children—of privacy rights and protections, and the ways in which Black people reclaim and reshape those rights and protections remain a dynamic and fertile space, ripe for exploration yet unacknowledged by privacy law scholars. The most vulnerable members of the Black population, children, rely on their parents to protect their rights until they are capable of doing so themselves. Still, the American education system exposes Black children to racial discrimination that results in life-long injuries ranging from the psychological harms of daily racial micro-aggressions and assaults, to disproportionate exclusionary discipline and juvenile incarceration. One response to these ongoing and often traumatic incursions is a growing number of Black parents have decided to remove their children from traditional school settings. Instead, these parents provide their children with home-education in order to protect their children’s right to be and become in childhood.
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Regarding Narrative Justice, Womxn
Article by Geeta Tewari
The story within this article explores how narrative justice can be applied as a form of advocacy for persons seeking access to justice. The questions—what is narrative justice? How do we define it?—deserve a separate space, which will be shared in a forthcoming article. Meanwhile, in short, narrative justice is the power of the word—written, spoken, articulated with the emotion or experience of an individual or collective, to shape or express reaction to law and policy.
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Race & Monuments
Symbolism and the Thirteenth Amendment: The Injury of Exposure to Governmentally Endorsed Symbols of Racial Superiority
Article by Edward H. Kyle
One of the debates often encountered by native southerners centers around our historical symbols. There are heated opinions on both sides of the issue as to what these symbols mean and whether they should be allowed to be displayed. The latter question has begun making its way into the courts, with many southern symbols and memorials being accused of promoting the philosophy of racial supremacy. Despite the growing public concern, modern courts refuse to rule on the question. They claim they are forestalled by Article III’s standing requirement that plaintiffs must have suffered a concrete injury in fact. They state that merely asserting offense at a message does not meet this requirement, even if the message is offered by the Government. In this article, I show that holding to be incorrect.
The Constitution provides certain absolute rights that the government may not infringe upon. One of those rights is the right to be free from slavery, which the courts have expanded to include all of its badges and incidents. Though courts have gone back and forth on what constitutes a badge of slavery, a historical look at the Thirteenth Amendment shows that amongst the things the drafters intended the definition to include was the philosophical message of racial supremacy if it is communicated by the government. In my article, I demonstrate that the scope of the Thirteenth Amendment includes a ban on the governmental endorsement of racial supremacy, including endorsements made in the form of symbols. I show that mere exposure to such a message is the unique form of injury that a violation of that right creates and, as such, is a concrete harm on which Article III standing can be based. Finally, I provide a workable test for determining whether a particular exposure to a symbol of racial superiority possesses all the elements necessary to constitute an injury in fact for the purposes of standing.
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Race & History
Equality at the Cemetery Gates: Study of an African American Burial Ground
Article by William A. Engelhart
In Charlottesville, Virginia, the University Cemetery serves as the final resting place of many of the most prominent community members of the University of Virginia. In 2011, the University planned an expansion. During archaeological research to this end, sixty-seven previously unidentified interments, in both adult and child-sized grave shafts, were discovered on the proposed site of expansion, to the northeast of the University Cemetery. Further archival research revealed that “at least two late nineteenth century references note that enslaved African Americans were buried north of but outside the enclosed University, in an adjacent wooded area.” In one, Col. Charles Christian Wertenbaker recalls: “in old times, the University servants were buried on the north side of the cemetery, just outside of the wall.” Current research suggests that at least as late as 1898 the area of land was recognized as historically utilized by the University of Virginia for “servant” burials. Since these discoveries, a commemoration ceremony has been held. Some beautification measures have been undertaken: a specially designed fence has been installed; some trees have been planted; and at both entrances an informational sign is posted explaining the significance of the plot. Still, this newly rediscovered sacred space stands in stark contrast to the marble tombs and gilded cenotaphs of the University Cemetery and adjacent Confederate monument.
Typically, descendants of the dead reserve rights in a cemetery in the form of some kind of property interest. Mourners and the children of mourners may return from time to time to pay their respects and tend to the graves of their dearly departed. In general, this is a well-established right (though further investigation will reveal that it somewhat less clear than one might expect). However, slavery in America has frustrated many rights, and its long shadow continues to disrupt others. Because of the nature of this property interest, today in Charlottesville, the cemetery rights of the descendants of those slaves interred to the northeast of the University Cemetery are arguably extinguished, or at best unclear. The owner of the cemetery, the University of Virginia, has made no attempt to exclude or to sell the land, nor likely would they, but it is unclear that they could not should they so desire. There are likely other slave cemeteries, on public and private land, that find themselves in a similar situation: specifically, slave cemeteries and African American burial grounds that, because of systemic oppression and discrimination, are rendered unprotected and abandoned—descendants’ rights vanished into nothing.
In exploration of this problem, this paper lays out the historical legal landscape of cemeteries, the special issues that arise in slave cemeteries generally, and the application of these doctrines to the African American burial ground in Charlottesville. Additionally, it presents a suggested legal treatment of this special type of property interest: namely, that there should be legislative reform that, in the case of abandoned slave cemeteries, creates both a public easement allowing access and broad statutory standing so that communities can work together to maintain these sacred sites and police against desecration. Further, the development of the rights of sepulture in American common law and the accompanying legal solicitude would allow judges to read this regime into existence, even in absence of formal legislative measures.
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