Symposium Introduction

Justice Steven C. Gonzalez, Symposium Introduction, 47 Gonz. L. Rev. 241 (2011)


Chief Justice Madsen gave the keynote speech at the Conference on Race and Criminal Justice in the West on September 24, 2011. Her comments on racial bias in the criminal justice system were remarkable. Today, prominent representatives from all three branches of government acknowledge that racial disparity exists in the criminal justice system. It persists in our juvenile and civil justice systems as well. We must decide what we are willing to do to address it. How hard will we work to keep the promise of our democracy—that we all are equal before the law? Let us engage in the discussion and strive not to call each other names or get defensive. The solutions are to be found in collaboration and hard work.

Race is not biology. It is something we made up and continue to redefine. Our increasingly intermingled America challenges the social construct of race. Yet race and the perception of race still matter. From the founding of our nation, race, ethnicity, skin color, and national origin have influenced social perceptions and selfidentity. These features, as significant social phenomena, have heavily influenced our legal structure, relationships, and our liberty. Indeed, at times they have even affected the definition of a person. Today we still think about race and race still influences our perceptions and legal relationships. This undeniable social fact remains critically important in the context of our criminal justice system—a system that changes lives, disrupts and protects communities, and represents a key part of our struggle for justice, both as a means and as a measure.. . . .

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