I was recently invited to be on a panel which would discuss teaching about difference in law school. How we deal with people we consider "different" is an important issue, and I was pleased to participate. But something about the formulation of the issue troubled me. For it seems to me that "difference" is all that our students know, all that most of us know. If we only teach about difference, we teach nothing new: we only reinforce the categories that separate us. One member of the audience suggested that one might teach about difference in the classroom by inviting black students to the front of the room to give a presentation to the white students on "what it is like to be black." Perhaps there might be some value in this: some white students might learn something new. But much of it would be wrong. The physical separation itself speaks powerfully. I imagine that the black students would express rage and sadness, and that the white students would feel guilt, anxiety, and pity. This way of teaching would only solidify the categories "black" and "white." The wall separating the students would grow higher and higher.
"Sameness and Difference in a Law School Classroom: Working at the Crossroadst,"
Yale Journal of Law & Feminism:
2, Article 7.
Available at: http://digitalcommons.law.yale.edu/yjlf/vol4/iss2/7