case western reserve university



Public Affairs Discussion Group

"Race and the Law"

April 1, 2005
Adelbert Hall, Toepfer Room

12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Professor Sharona Hoffman

Sharona Hoffman

Case Associate Professor of Law


Dear Colleagues:

This Friday’s Public Affairs Lunch asks a question that has two obvious answers.

On the one hand, there must be a place for race as a concept in American law because the U.S. Constitution – the Fifteenth Amendment to be exact – refers to it specifically.

On the other hand, a provision that no person should be denied the right to vote because of “race, creed, or previous condition of servitude” does not exactly cry out for making distinctions about race after 1865.  If the idea is not to make distinctions based on race, how can it make sense to emphasize the subject in a whole series of laws?

Sharona Hoffman, Associate Professor of Law, believes it is time to abandon discussions of race in law and all other scholarly pursuits.  She argues that “race” is not a concept that has scientific validity, and that if we are concerned about discrimination it would be better to define minorities and seek to protect their rights in other terms, such as “color” or “national origin.”

Professor Hoffman therefore proposes that the term be struck from the law, sending a powerful message to the whole society against “the ignorance that supports intolerance and prejudice.”

Is one word so important?  Sticks and stones may break my bones but maybe words can hurt too.  But would it make such a difference, never mind be possible, to go through the statutes and replace “race” with other terms?  And what might that whole effort generate in terms of discussion and new attitudes?

If this sounds interesting, please join us for the Friday Public Affairs Lunch on Friday, April 1, at 12:30 p.m. in the Toepfer Room on the second floor of Adelbert Hall.  Cookies and beverages will be provided.

All the best,
Joe White

About Our Guest

Ms. Hoffman joined the faculty in 1999 and is teaching civil procedure, employment discrimination, and seminars entitled "Health Care and the Courts," "Health Care and Human Rights," and "Religion, Ethics, and the Law." Prior to obtaining her LL.M. in health law, Ms. Hoffman was a Senior Trial Attorney at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in Houston, an associate at O'Melveny & Myers in Los Angeles, where she spent much of her time working on the Exxon Valdez oil spill case, and a judicial clerk for U.S. District Judge Douglas W. Hillman (Western District of Michigan). She has published articles on employment discrimination, health insurance, disability law, and biomedical research. Her most recent articles were published in the Indiana Law Journal and the Georgia Law Review. She is a frequent speaker on health law and civil rights issues and has been widely quoted in the media, including the L.A. Times, USA Today, and the New York Times.

Spring 2005 Semester Schedule

April 8: Toepfer Room: Robert Clarke Brown, Member of the Board of Directors of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority and Capital Markets Advisor at the U.S. Department of Transportation: “The Politics of Airports.”

April 15: TBA

April 22: Toepfer Room: Robert Walters Ph.D., “Responding to Humanitarian Emergencies – What a Geologist Learned at the State Department.”

Parking: People who due to mobility concerns need to make special arrangements for parking for the Public Affairs Discussion Group Friday Lunch Series can send their request for parking to, or you can call 216-368-4440 and speak to Pat or Fay to make arrangements.

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