Examining White Privilege

Today I am hosting a guest blog from alumnus Michael B. Goldenkranz ‘78.


Part of what drew this Jewish boy from Brooklyn to BC Law in the mid 70’s was prior Dean Robert Drinan S.J., who left to become a U.S. Congressman shortly before I began law school. Both his and the School’s continuing and unwavering commitment to human rights and social justice, and the mission to “prepare students to not only be good lawyers but lead good lives,” still resonates with me today.

I have tried to instill those values in my now grown children, and to remind them to always question assumptions, as I remember doing during my time at BC Law.  My son David, a former primary/secondary school teacher who has also worked on documentary filmmaking, is taking the opportunity to use today’s calls for racial justice and equality to examine his status as a privileged white male in ways that may be sometimes viscerally painful, but certainly necessary. His recent essays include “Pajamas are a Privilege,” “White American PTSD,” “A Black and White Matter,” “What Kind of a Dog are You?” and “Colorblindness: The Façade of Equality.”

Like the cases we studied at BC Law and the discussions we had in our classes, I find David’s writings thoughtful and provocative. They make me think about uncomfortable but really important issues in ways that I think would please Fr. Drinan. My hope is that we may continue to strive to lead good lives and fight for social justice and equality for all.

David’s website can be found at https://davidgoldenkranz.com.

-Michael B. Goldenkranz, BC Law ‘78

Remembering Bobby Joe Leaster: Saving Boston’s Youth

Guest blogger Rita Muse ’15 comes from a line of BC Law graduates. Her grandmother, Judge Mary Beatty Muse, graduated in 1950, her aunt, Patricia Muse, in 1990, and her cousin, Julie Muse-Fisher, in 2005. Her uncle, Christopher Muse, though not a BC Law grad, has been a longtime adjunct professor at the Law School. He and Rita’s grandfather, Robert Muse  were instrumental in the release of the wrongly convicted Bobby Joe Leaster. Their engagement with Leaster in the 1980s had a lasting impact on the Muse family, including on Rita, who, as a law student, helped to free another innocent man.  


Bobby Joe Leaster: A Remembrance
By Rita Miuse ’15

When Bobby Joe Leaster spoke to BC Law students and faculties, his story was the same but his message never got old; he was wrongfully convicted of murder and unjustly imprisoned for almost 16 years, but he dealt with injustice in his own profoundly special way. This past April 26, one of BC Law’s favorite guests and a beloved citizen of Boston, passed away from the severe burns he suffered in a home fire three weeks earlier.

Bobby Joe Leaster, with his lawyers, Robert and Christopher Muse

Bobby Joe Leaster, with his lawyers, Robert and Christopher Muse, teaching Judicial Youth Corps students in the courthouse where he was convicted.

This is my remembrance of the person who motivated me as a student, inspired me as a lawyer, and became a friend of my family, two of whom, my grandfather Robert Muse and my uncle Christopher Muse, a longtime adjunct professor at BC Law, helped to free Bobby Joe.

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SCOTUS: Employers Can’t Discriminate on Basis of Sexual Orientation

On June 15, the Supreme Court ruled that Title VII, the federal anti-discrimination statute, explicitly protects against discrimination on the basis of one’s sexual orientation. To reach its answer, the Court consolidated three cases that all touch on this issue, including Bostock v. Clayton County Board of Commissioners. The plaintiff in Bostock was a gay man who worked for the County as the Child Welfare Services Coordinator for over a decade. In January 2013, Bostock joined a gay recreational softball league, and in June 2013 he was fired from this position.

As a member of Boston College’s Law Review, I spent the Fall semester drafting a comment on the Bostock case, which was published by the journal’s online supplement. My comment ultimately argued that the Supreme Court should follow the guidance of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the federal agency that enforces Title VII, and definitively hold that sexual orientation discrimination in the workplace is prohibited by Title VII.

Although our reasonings were not identical, both the Supreme Court and I agreed that LGBTQ individuals cannot be discriminated against in the workplace. There are still many changes that must be made before sexual orientation discrimination is completely eliminated, but this decision is definitely a historic milestone worthy of celebration.

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All Hands On Deck: Silence is Violence

A couple of weeks ago, Dean Rougeau quoted Martin Luther King in his powerful letter to the BC Law community: “We may all have come on different ships, but we are in the same boat now.”

What does this mean? 

It means that not a single person in America can remain silent or apathetic in this fight for racial equality. Racism is pervasive and comes in many forms. Racism is police brutality. Racism is microaggressions. Racism is “color-blindness.” Racism is silence. 

And silence is violence. 

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Black Lives Matter.

I grew up in a pretty traditional South Asian household. I’ve tried talking about the Black Lives Matter movement numerous times before, but my family just didn’t seem too invested in it. Most of the time, I would just give up. Because it was just too frustrating.

But that’s the problem, right? These are just events that we hear about or see in the news, just optional conversations that we can opt in or out of. But for black people in America, this is reality. It’s not just another life lost; it is yet another manifestation of the unhinged, systemic racism that we all allow to continue and continue to allow.

Black people in America don’t get to choose to live in constant fear. They don’t get to choose that law enforcement dehumanizes them. So it feels inherently wrong that my community gets to choose whether or not we care.

 

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Together in a Time of Crisis

BC Law Dean Vincent Rougeau sent the letter below earlier this week to the BC Law community, and I thought it was important enough to share here on BC Law Impact. I have also written about this issue in my recent post Black Lives Matter.

Dear members of BC Law community:

I know the pain that you are feeling because I am feeling it too. And I am tired. So very, very tired. I am tired of writing these letters over and over again. As a Black man with three sons, I am tired of the fear I must carry when they are out moving through their lives in a country where the lives of people of color are so easily extinguished. I am tired of the sickening legacy of racism in this county and of being told not to talk about it because it makes people uncomfortable. Our nation is in crisis and we cannot continue to ignore the fact that the fabric of our society is being shredded by many among us who refuse to recognize our shared humanity.

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The Pandemic, Prisoners, and the Commonwealth: Cruel and Unusual?

Today I am hosting a guest blog from third-year student Eric Jepeal.


This past August I was fortunate to be appointed to serve on the Massachusetts State Advisory Committee (SAC) to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (USCCR). USCCR is a federal agency established by Congress to advance “civil rights through objective and comprehensive investigation, research, and analysis on issues of fundamental concern to the federal government and the public.” USCCR is Congressionally mandated to have SACs in each state and the District of Columbia. The members of these SACs advise and facilitate the work of the USCCR, and are colloquially referred to as the “eyes and ears” of the USCCR. 

Prior to my time at Boston College, I interned for the USCCR and worked on various projects related to solitary confinement, bail reform, and fair housing. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, our SAC released a statement of concern regarding incarcerated persons. As you may be aware, the Supreme Judicial Court recently issued an opinion regarding litigation in Massachusetts brought by prisoners’ rights advocates and organizations to provide relief to incarcerated persons in the Commonwealth (CPCS v. Chief). Unfortunately, the SJC found it lacked authority to provide relief to prisoners who are more than sixty days into serving their sentences. 

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Earth Day in the Midst of the COVID-19 Pandemic

I am pleased to host a guest blog on Earth Day from Claudio Ferreira Ferraz, BC Law LLM ’15, of Ferraz, Pinto, Lino & Nemer. As a student, Claudio taught in BC Law’s unique seminar program, where senior law students teach their own individualized course in environmental law and policy to Boston College undergraduates, under the supervision of BC Law professor Zygmunt Plater.

This post was also published today at the Bar Association of Espirito Santo State, in Brazil.


Claudio Ferreira Ferraz, BC Law LLM ’15

On April 22, the Earth Day is celebrated all over the world.

The idea started 50 years ago in the United States, when activist Senator Gaylord Nelson, influenced by the environmental disaster caused by the oil spill in Santa Barbara, California, in 1969, decided to unite the energy of student movements against the Vietnam War and the growth of environmental awareness in the country

Nelson initially devised an educational event on university campuses aimed at fostering academic discussions focused on environment protection. He chose April 22nd as the ideal date to maximize student participation, since it was a Wednesday, that is, in the middle of the week, and it was located between Spring Break and the final exams.

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Visiting the Inter-American Court of Human Rights

Impact is running a series of posts on student reflections from their Spring Break Service Trips and experiential work last month. Find the first post here, and the second post here. These posts were postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but we think the messages are too important to go unshared. Today’s post is from Marija Tesla, who writes about her experience as part of BC Law’s International Human Rights Practicum visit to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

Stay safe everyone, and please reach out to us at bclawimpact@bc.edu if we can do anything to help, or if you would like us to consider publishing a guest post on your own experiences during the outbreak.


When Professor Daniela Urosa chose me to be a part of the inaugural International Human Rights Practicum, to say that I was elated would be an understatement. It was a dream come true for me! She told me that it was a dream come true for her as well. Having guided instruction from her in our weekly meetings and in her seminar is the best part of my law school experience thus far. I am truly grateful to her and to Boston College Law School for making this clinic a reality. I know that it involved many years of hard work on the part of many, including Professor Judith McMorrow and Professor Daniel Kanstroom. 

My partner in the clinic is Nadia Bouquet, who is an LL.M. student from Paris, France, studying at Université Paris Nanterre. We are working on writing an amicus brief to submit to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) which relates to a case that is going to be heard by the Court in San José, Costa Rica later this year. There are six of us in the clinic, and we work in pairs of two on one amicus brief, each amicus relating to a different case and a different set of issues. Four of us are J.D. candidates and two are LL.M. candidates, which makes the conversations and the work that much richer. Most of us are also transnational thinkers, speaking multiple languages and having lived in different parts of the globe. We recognize the importance of IACtHR, which is an amalgamation of both the civil and common law, while also being its own unique regional system. It is why it is great to have students with such diverse backgrounds and different lived experiences who also come from both of the legal systems in the clinic, and who appreciate both the importance and complexity of international law and regional systems. 

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Miami Service Trip: Catholic Legal Services

Impact is running a series of posts on student experiences during their Spring Break Service Trips last month. Find the first post here. These posts were postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but we think the messages are too important to go unshared. We will share our third post tomorrow.

Stay safe everyone, and please reach out to us at bclawimpact@bc.edu if we can do anything to help, or if you would like us to consider publishing a guest post on your own experiences during the outbreak.


Spring break is often seen as a way to relax from the rigors of law school and recharge for the sprint to the end of the school year. But for 65 first-year students, Spring Break was a way to get a taste for what working in the public interest field entails. The trips ranged from helping Native American legal offices to aiding asylum-seeking immigrants living in Miami.

In addition to raising their own money to go on these service trips, students were broken up into teams assigned to these different cities, working for different pro-bono organizations.

Four students traveled to Miami to volunteer at Catholic Legal Services in Miami. Below they reflect on their favorite parts of the trip.

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