An American Apartheid City: A Series Addressing Racial Inequities and Injustice
In February 2021, Jerry Dickinson, Associate Professor of Law at Pitt Law, provocatively argued in an essay that “Pittsburgh is America's apartheid city.” There is sobering evidence that regarding the lived esperiences of communities of color that questions Pittsburgh’s romanticized moniker of “America’s most livable city.” This coming academic year, the University of Pittsburgh’s newly established Center for Civil Rights and Racial Justice, in collaboration with the Office for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, the Office of Health Sciences Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, the Pitt Human Rights Working Group, and PublicSource, will host a series of panel discussions exploring Dickinson’s thesis.
The Center will host a series with an in-depth discussion grounding participants in the concept of apartheid and how it can inform today’s conversations about racial inequity and impacts. The COVID-19 pandemic and movements protesting violent policing of African American communities have helped focus national and global attention on the problem of racial exclusion and inequity and its damaging impacts on the whole of society. Apartheid denies African Americans full rights and access to the past, present, and future. How has historic apartheid impacted access to stories? How does it show itself in people’s everyday experiences in areas like housing, education, environmental racism, and in our workplaces?
Both in Pittsburgh and globally, public officials are being called on to take more concerted action to transform systemic racism. But what will it take to transform established institutions and ideologies? Panelists will help us reflect on the 2019 report of Pittsburgh’s Gender Equity Commission, “Pittsburgh's Inequality across Gender and Race," which detailed stark disparities by race and gender in the Pittsburgh region and prompted the city of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County to declare racism a public health crisis. Also key to this discussion is the recent report of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, "Agenda towards transformative change for racial justice and equality" (A/HRC/47/53), which is the result of efforts by victims of police killings and the larger Black Lives Matter movement to bring systemic racism and its deadly consequences to the world stage. The U.S. and other world leaders are now on notice: they must take “accelerated action to transform systemic racism.” What lessons can we draw from research and practice to inform renewed efforts to end apartheid at home? How can we stop reproducing harms from institutionalized racism, prevent future harms, and begin to repair past harms?
The Center will provide students with knowledge of and a commitment to protecting civil rights and constitutional values are essential to fulfilling the oath that lawyers take to support the Constitution of the United States and their state of licensure. As the training ground for future attorneys and as generators of legal scholarship, law schools have a duty to train legal professionals who will work to advance the Constitution’s still-imperfect promise of equal justice under law and to disseminate knowledge regarding civil rights, human rights, and the rule of law. The Center will empower graduates of the University of Pittsburgh School of Law to advance these missions in western PA.
The Center will incorporate interdisciplinary and comparative law approaches to civil rights issues and advance the educational, research, and service missions via an experiential community service component, a quasi-clinical model whereby students, under the supervision of faculty members, would produce white papers and research projects relating to civil rights issues in collaboration with non-profit organizations in need of legal research on such topics and with governmental bodies considering legislation or regulation in the area of civil rights.
The Center will also engage an interdisciplinary team of faculty experts with a racial justice and anti-subordination perspective to generate a data base of resources for community leaders to utilize through extensive community engagement.
The Center will advance the educational, research, and service missions via an experiential community service component. We envision a quasi-clinical model whereby students, under the supervision of faculty members, would produce white papers and research projects relating to civil rights issues in collaboration with non-profit organizations in need of legal research on such topics and with governmental bodies considering legislation or regulation in the area of civil rights.
The CCRRJ will partner with the University of Pittsburgh Community Engagement Center to create a Community Scholars program that will provide access to Pitt Law's resources to community leaders and independent scholars working on issues of civil rights, race and social justice to foster and deepen the ties between the Center for Civil Rights and Racial Justice and the members of the community it seeks to serve.