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Randall Kennedy

  • Clarence Thomas’ Long Battle Against Affirmative Action

    May 10, 2023

    When Clarence Thomas was accepted to Yale Law School in 1971, the school’s stated goal was for students of color like him to make up…

  • ‘So improbable, it’s a novel’: the strange story of Clarence and Ginni Thomas

    May 9, 2023

    Five days before Michael Kirk’s documentary about the love and lives of Clarence and Ginni Thomas was set to air on PBS, ProPublica dropped another…

  • Wooden gavel on conference table in a law firm.

    ‘In pursuit of an atmosphere in which ideas can be followed without fear that you’ll be punished’

    December 6, 2022

    Professors Jeannie Suk Gersen and Janet Halley lead the Academic Freedom Alliance, an organization that protects the rights of faculty to speak or publish without fear of sanction or punishment.

  • A Visit to the Banned-Book Bus With a Scholar Who Helped Develop Critical Race Theory

    October 31, 2022

    The buses are hard to miss. One is unusually elegant for a bus—deep, shiny black with deeper black windows and a cognac leather interior. One…

  • Rebroadcast: Scholar Randall Kennedy’s reflections on race, culture and law in America

    September 6, 2022

    For decades, scholar Randall Kennedy has been writing about race, culture and the law. “We are certainly much further from the racial promised land than…

  • Worried about democracy? Pay attention to the states

    March 28, 2022

    Washington obsesses over how many Republicans will vote for the eminently qualified Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson, or Joe Manchin's (D-W.Va.) latest attention-getting move, or the forever tribulations of Vice President Kamala Harris. There's a lot more real action out in the states, at least in the red states. They are shredding rights for voting, minorities, women, gays and people with disabilities. ... “This is political demagoguery,” says Harvard Law School professor Randall Kennedy, an expert on the subject. It's used mainly, he told me, by right-wingers to “smear any liberal who advances a progressive race agenda.” There are, he adds, critical race theorists who “spout implausible and sometimes downright ugly theories,” which serve to give “oxygen to the right-wing campaign of repression.”

  • A critic of critical race theory says the campaign against CRT is “abhorrent and dangerous and deeply disturbing”

    March 14, 2022

    Randall Kennedy is a Harvard law professor and author. He recently talked with Nathan J. Robinson, editor of Current Affairs, about his new book Say It Out Loud : On Race, Law, History, and Culture. Here is a taste of their exchange

  • Randall Kennedy on Why Critical Race Theory is Important

    March 3, 2022

    Professor Randall Kennedy of Harvard Law School is the author of a number of books, including For Discrimination: Race, Affirmative Action, and the Law, The Persistence of the Color Line: Racial Politics and the Obama Presidency, Sellout: The Politics of Racial Betrayal, and, most recently, Say it Loud!: On Race, Law, History and Culture. Kennedy recently came on the Current Affairs podcast to talk with editor in chief Nathan J. Robinson. This interview has been lightly edited for grammar and clarity.

  • What’s Useful and Correct About Critical Race Theory? (w/ Randall Kennedy)

    February 28, 2022

    Harvard Law School professor Randall Kennedy has been known for decades as a critic of Critical Race Theory, which was developed in part by his late colleague Derrick Bell. But Kennedy's critiques come from a position of intellectual respect, and over the years he has become more sympathetic to some of the central claims CRT makes about the pervasive and intractable nature of American racism. His new book Say It Loud! On Race, Law, History, and Culture collects his essays from the past several decades, many of which deal with the question of how American racism has functioned historically, how it has morphed over time, and what a rational way to think about it is.

  • Harvard Law professor weighs in on our nation’s most abhorred racial slur

    February 24, 2022

    This is the rundown for Radio Boston for February 23. Tiziana Dearing is our host. Curry College in Milton, MA is going remote for the rest of the week after swastikas and threatening messages targeting Black students were found on campus. This has become a fairly common occurrence at schools and universities. We speak with State Senator Barry Finegold and Sarah Granoff, VP of Simmons University Hillel, about how to talk about anti-Semitism with young people. Harvard Law Professor and author Randall Kennedy joins us to talk about the twentieth anniversary re-release of his book, which examines our nation's most abhorred racial slur, chronicling the word's history, the law and litigation around it and its cultural relevance.

  • Column: The N-word doesn’t belong in a fourth-grade classroom, even in poetry

    February 23, 2022

    San Diego teacher Amy Glancy thought she’d prepared her fourth-grade students for the day’s language arts lesson. She knew there was a land mine in the poem she planned to read, but she considered it essential to what she was trying to teach. The reading Glancy chose was Countee Cullen’s iconic Harlem Renaissance poem “Incident,” which poignantly renders a Black child’s painful encounter with racism, when a white boy calls him the N-word. ... I wanted to understand that, so I called Harvard Law professor Randall Kennedy, whose 2002 book, “Nigger: The Strange Career of a Troublesome Word” examines the word’s endurance and the shifting boundaries on its use.

  • ‘N-Word’ Should Not Be Banned, Harvard Law Professor Argues

    February 7, 2022

    Racial tensions and injustices across the U.S. and the globe are unfortunately nothing new, neither are the responses they can elicit. For Randall Kennedy, Harvard scholar and law professor, this has long been a concern. For the majority of his life he has been studying and writing about U.S. law and order, culture, and race. On February 8, the 20th Anniversary edition of his book N-word: The Strange Career Of A Troublesome Word will hit the bookshelves loaded with a new introduction, where Kennedy stands by his original rejection of the eradication and excessive censorship of the n-word, claiming the word is here to stay "for good and for bad."

  • Man standing in stairwell of Griswold Hall, with view of campus behind him

    Maverick in the Middle

    January 31, 2022

    Randall Kennedy seeks nuance in an age of absolutism

  • Randall Kennedy Says It Loud

    January 6, 2022

    For over three decades, Randall Kennedy, the Michael R. Klein Professor at Harvard Law School, has made one bold intervention after another in the most pressing social issues of the day. Not only has he written at length on such subjects as interracial marriage, affirmative action, and crime and policing, but his work has touched off controversies regarding his nuanced defense of the “politics of Black respectability,” his thinking on racial nomenclature and the variety of ways for describing the collective identity of Black Americans, and his critiques of “anti-racism gone awry” on college campuses.

  • On GPS: America’s racial reckoning

    January 3, 2022

    Watch: Harvard law professors Randall Kennedy and Noah Feldman join Fareed to examine the conversation around critical race theory in America today.

  • Coffee cup with whipped cream and open book on a window sill.

    On the bookshelf

    November 30, 2021

    Here are some of the latest from HLS authors to add to your reading list over the holiday break.

  • 100 Notable Books of 2021

    November 22, 2021

    Say It Loud!: On Race, Law, History, and Culture By Randall Kennedy, Michael R. Klein Professor of Law: This collection of essays offers a full portrait of Kennedy’s thinking as a law professor and public intellectual, demonstrating his commitment to reflection over partisanship, thinking over feeling.

  • Republicans Are Once Again Heating Up the Culture Wars

    November 10, 2021

    Christopher Rufo, a Manhattan Institute senior fellow and a self-identified brawler, takes full credit for turning critical race theory into a political wedge issue. ... Randall Kennedy, a law professor at Harvard, had a harder edge in his emailed reply to my inquiry: “Democratic candidates should deal seriously and forthrightly with the cultural issues that clearly concern many voters.” Learning, he continued, entails dialogue and pluralism and self-disciplined willingness to listen even to those with whom one may disagree strongly, which is why the far-flung efforts to erase or muzzle the 1619 Project, or critical race theory or other manifestations of anti-racist pedagogy must be rejected. Democrats should put themselves firmly on the side of open discussion, not compelled silence. Ultimately, Kennedy argued, Democrats need to articulate a complex set of principles: They should vocally eschew bad ideas such as the notion that there has been no substantial betterment in race relations over the past fifty years, or that George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Abraham Lincoln are unworthy of commemoration, or that Black people are incapable of being racist, or that speech that is allegedly racist ought to be banned. At the same time, they should vocally embrace what is difficult for any sensible person to deny: that racial injustice has been and remains a destructive force that must be overcome if we are to enjoy more fully the promising potential of our multiracial democracy.