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Correspondence.

We, the Yale Black Law Students Association (BLSA), believe that individuals who have used racial slurs should not be welcomed into the Yale Law School community. We therefore submit this letter to oppose The Yale Law Journal's decision to invite K.A.D. Camara to our campus.

Mr. Camara is one of the co-authors of Quasipublic Executives in this Symposium Issue of The Yale Law Journal. While a student at Harvard Law School, Mr. Camara publicized a course outline in which he repeatedly referred to Black people as "nigs." Although the Journal's editors made a cursory investigation into Mr. Camara's background prior to extending the invitation, (1) they did not discover this history until weeks later, when an anonymous e-mailer provided them with the details.

Rather than notifying the entire Law School that a significant issue had landed on our community's doorstep, the Journal's leadership deliberated and ultimately decided without first hearing what the Law School community had to say. BLSA, however, also received the anonymous e-mail about Mr. Camara's actions at Harvard and informed the Journal of its official position, which remains the same today: BLSA did not and does not support the publication of Mr. Camara's essay. Our position seems not seriously to have been taken into consideration. Furthermore, it was left to another anonymous e-mailer to bring the rest of the Yale Law School community into the discussion.

Faced with controversy, the Journal made public overtures suggesting a willingness to reconsider the matter. However, it treated the decision to invite Mr. Camara as a foregone conclusion. A select group of Journal leaders agreed that the invitation could not be revoked lest the Journal be accused of censorship. Such fear of criticism demonstrates timid leadership and, in this case, was little more than a faint-hearted excuse. As Journal Editor-in-Chief C.J. Mahoney acknowledged in a school-wide forum, the Journal would have had much less of a problem rejecting Mr. Camara's proposal had it initially conducted a more thorough investigation and discovered his checkered history. It is therefore clear that the real reason for the Journal's decision was neither a loft), belief in Mr. Camara's freedom of expression nor a desire to conform to academic norms. Rather, the Journal's editors knew that rescinding Mr. Camara's invitation would have public relations consequences, and they simply did not find Mr. Camara's use of hate speech to be a severe enough offense to warrant dealing with them.

There was a better way. The Law School's history of rejecting hate speech and embracing open debate should have led the Journal to solicit guidance from the broader community from which it derives its reputation, talent, and preeminent position in legal academia. To forget this constituency is to forsake that which makes the Journal great.

Our words should not be construed solely as criticism of the Volume 115 Journal leadership. We urge future editors of the Journal to question whether being a leader in legal academia demands blind fidelity to unwritten principles--principles that are supposedly neutral, but that always seem to operate to the detriment of those with the most at stake. Real leadership requires that we ask these questions when an issue implicates the cohesiveness of the Law School community. It should further require that we learn lessons from incidents such as these, in order to make our community stronger, rather than fumble and leave the rest of us wondering where to point the finger.

Signed,

The Yale Black Law Students Association

(1.) Because Symposium Issue authors are invited to speak at the Yale Law School in addition to being published, their submissions are subject to a non-blind screening.

We write to highlight how professed principles of "neutrality" often lead to practices that are patently offensive and disempowering to minority voices. The way The Yale Law Journal convened its Symposium on executive power is the most recent iteration of this dynamic.

The Journal invited K.A.D. Camara, (1) a young lawyer, to present a paper in its Symposium. Mr. Camara previously made racist remarks about African-Americans while he was a student at Harvard Law School. His remarks were abhorrent. Faced with the growing threat that the Journal would withdraw its prestigious offer, Mr. Camara issued a half-hearted apology.

The issue here is much larger than Mr. Camara or his beliefs. By failing to reconsider its decision after a perfunctory consultation with a few members of the Yale Law School community, the Journal demonstrated the extent to which minority viewpoints were absent from its decision-making process. Internally, the Journal's process was poor enough that fourteen members took their names off the masthead. These events reflect a Journal structure that does not acknowledge or appreciate that--particularly in circumstances such as those surrounding the Symposium's organization--neutrality is a false standard that fails to include minorities' voices in substantive ways when they are most needed.

Neutrality is a false standard of objectivity and fairness because it is not universally employed and because the playing field is not even. Neutrality, for instance, could mean "identity blindness." Normally, Journal editors are blind to the identity of the author. They judge submissions based on ideas, style, and originality--which is laudable in many ways. But when the Journal solicits and accepts Symposium papers with knowledge of their authors' identities, the process ceases to be blind. The Journal accepted Mr. Camara's submission with knowledge of his academic pedigree. But it remained blind to the more troubling aspects of his background. And when the issue became public, minorities raised their voices to express concern; yet their voices were disregarded as personal viewpoints of little consequence.

If the Journal had widely consulted the minority members of the community before making the decision on whether to retract the invitation, it would have allowed for a substantive contribution on a matter concerning issues of particular importance to them. Instead, the Journal consulted with "members of the faculty," only two of whom have chosen to be named, and the Yale Black Law Students Association, whose recommendation the Journal ignored. The Journal acted as if talking to BLSA allowed it to place a check in the "consulted minority voices" box. In short, the Journal's "consultation" reduced voices of dissent to mere tokens of diversity.

This problem is not new, but it need not endure. We are disappointed that The Yale Law Journal--a part of one of the most liberal, inclusive, forward-looking, and progressive law schools--fails as a leader on issues of race. And we are not alone. Twenty-seven law school organizations co-sponsored a standing-room-only discussion of the issues underlying the Journal's decision. (2) We implore the Journal to make conscious efforts to address these problems internally by revising its policies and making efforts to be more inclusive of minority voices in substantive ways. Perhaps this incident can also be the impetus for the Journal to explore these problems externally, by inviting others in the academy to participate in a symposium on decision-making, neutrality, and disempowerment. No matter what form it takes, we are hopeful that the new Journal leadership will address the problems made so obvious by the old.

Sincerely,

Muslim Law Students Association

Yale Journal of Law and Feminism

Latino Law Students Association

Allard K. Lowenstein International Human Rights Project

Pissed-Off People

Workers' Rights Project

(1.) K.A.D. Camara, also known as Kiwi Camara, graduated from the Harvard Law School in 2004. He then clerked for the Honorable Harris L. Hartz, United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit. He has published three articles: Classifying Institutional Investors, 30 J. CORP. L. 219 (2005); Costs of Sovereignty, 107 W. VA. L. REV. 385 (2005); and Shareholder Voting and the Bundling Problem in Corporate Law, 2004 WIS. L. REV. 1425. For more on the controversy, see The YLJ Debate, http://yljdebate.blogspot.com/ (last visited Aug. 31, 2006).

(2.) The sponsoring organizations were as follows: 2006 Rebellious Lawyering Conference Directors; Allard K. Lowenstein International Human Rights Project; American Constitution Society for Law and Policy; Capital Assistance Project; Coalition for Faculty Diversity; Greenhaven; Harvard Black Law Students Association; Latino Law Students Association; Legal Services Organization Student Board; Muslim Law Students Association; Orville H. Schell, Jr. Center for International Human Rights; Outlaws; Pacific Islander, Asian, and Native American Law Students Association; Pissed-Off People; Project for Law and Education at Yale; Social Change Network; South Asian Law Students Association; Street Law; University of Connecticut Black Law Students Association; Women and Youth Supporting Each Other; Workers' Rights Project; Yale Black Law Students Association; Yale Civil Rights Project; Yale Human Rights & Development Law Journal; Yale Journal of Law and Feminism; Yale Law Democrats; and Yale Law Women.
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Publication:Yale Law Journal
Date:Jul 1, 2006
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