In 2014, we co-facilitated the specialist elective ‘Race and the Law’ as an LLB summer school intensive. Our pedagogical design was informed by Indigenous philosophy and knowledge (Watson, 2014; Morgan, 2012; Moreton-Robinson, 2007) and by Critical Race and Whiteness Theory (Delgado & Stefanic, 2012; Goldberg, 2001; Moreton-Robinson, 2009). Our aim was to prompt students to think critically about the ongoing significance of race to law (and law to race), how systems of race structure social relations, the capacity of mainstream law to operate as a racialised system of power, and whiteness as a position of privilege. We also sought to empower students by engaging them in a reflexive praxis through which they could develop self-awareness of the significance of race and respond to its influence in their personal and professional lives.
As Liptsitz argues, there is a ‘possessive investment in whiteness’ because of the close relationship between white supremacy and the accumulation of assets, or what he calls the ‘wages of whiteness’ (Lipsitz, 2006). This ‘possessive investment’ became evident in our class discussion once we turned attention to an examination of special measures, affirmative action and other mechanisms that aim to equalise opportunities and alleviate the material inequities mediated by race. Yet there it was in our classroom – the wicked problem, racism.
In this paper, we share our reflections on our success in using theory as a practice to challenge the wicked problem of racism in the law classroom. In particular, we will reflect on the value of team teaching in this complex and dynamic teaching space and the significance to legal institutions and the profession of engaging law students in critical learning on race and whiteness.