Fordham Law professor says civil rights laws need renewed emphasis on protecting multiracials during UH Law Center’s Rosenberg Lecture

Professor Tanya Katerí Hernández of the Fordham University School of Law, during the recent Yale L. Rosenberg Memorial Lecture at the University of Houston Law Center.

Professor Tanya Katerí Hernández of the Fordham University School of Law, during the recent Yale L. Rosenberg Memorial Lecture at the University of Houston Law Center.

March 12, 2019 — An expert on race relations and anti-discrimination law described how the legal system mischaracterizes mixed race people who make discrimination claims in the annual Yale L. Rosenberg Lecture held last week at the University of Houston Law Center.

Professor Tanya Katerí Hernández, the Archibald R. Murray Professor of Law at Fordham University School of Law, said that courts and judges often reframe multiracial plaintiff's self-identities as monoracial, thereby reducing the complexity of the plaintiff's nuanced racially-mixed identity.

"The claims by mixed race plaintiffs are more accurately characterized as part of the overall challenge of bringing discrimination claims in the United States," Hernández said.

"There are struggles, but they are the same struggles that people who are single-race identified experience, rather than a whole unique emerging issue thus requiring a whole new conception of civil rights law."

Hernández drew upon several court cases to demonstrate that multiracial people face the same discrimination as other minority groups because of their “non-whiteness.” Instead of changing the current legal structure, she called for a renewed focus on existing civil rights laws.

"The increase in the number of individuals who identify as mixed race, multi-racial or bi-racial, don't present a unique version of challenge to the pursuit of political equality," Hernández said. "We need further support of our current structures that are rooted in our historic white vs. non-white binary."

Dr. Guillermo De Los Reyes, UH associate professor of Latin American Cultures and Literatures, Dr. Mark Goldberg, director of Jewish Studies, UH History Department, and Dr. Amy Lucas, assistant professor of Sociology and Women’s Studies at UH Clear Lake, served as commentators. Law Center Dean Leonard M. Baynes and Dean Antonio D. Tillis, UH College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, delivered welcoming remarks.

Hernández received her A.B. from Brown University, and her J.D. from Yale Law School. She has taught at the Université Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense, in Paris, and the University of the West Indies Law School, in Trinidad.  She has previously served as a Law and Public Policy Affairs Fellow at Princeton University, a faculty fellow at the Institute for Research on Women at Rutgers University; a faculty fellow at the Fred T. Korematsu Center for Law and Equality, and as an Independent Scholar in Residence at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. She is a Fulbright Scholar, a fellow of the American Bar Foundation, the American Law Institute, and the Academia Puertorriqueña de Jurisprudencia y Legislación.

Her research on comparative race relations and anti-discrimination law has been published in numerous university law reviews and news outlets, including the New York Times. She is the author of “Racial Subordination in Latin America: The Role of the State, Customary Law and the New Civil Rights Response” and “Multiracials and Civil Rights: Mixed-Race Stories of Discrimination.”

The Yale L. Rosenberg Memorial Fund was established to fund a student writing prize and to bring distinguished speakers to the Law Center. Rosenberg joined the University of Houston Law Center faculty in 1972 after a distinguished career in government. His teaching of Civil Procedure, Federal Jurisdiction, Professional Responsibility, and Jewish Law earned him the UH Teaching Excellence Award in 2000. An award-winning scholar, Rosenberg has been called "America's prophet" for his analysis of the decline of federal habeas corpus. An alumnus of Rice University, he graduated from New York University Law School in 1964.

To view and download COMPARATIVE AMERICAN AND TALMUDIC CRIMINAL LAW by Irene Merker Rosenberg and Yale L. Rosenberg, a book published electronically by the University of Houston Law Center, please visit: law.uh.edu/rosenberg/jewishlaw/.

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