This Article revisits the debate over minority voice scholarship, particularly African-American scholarship, that raged in the late 1980s and early 1990s with the advent of critical race theory (CRT). Many critical race theorists elevated the voices of minority scholars, arguing that scholarship in the minority voice should be accorded greater legitimacy than work on race produced by white intellectuals. Many white and some African-American scholars disagreed with "Crits"' analyses. They charged that good scholarship by African Americans should be judged as a fact-in-itself, not ghettoized or subjected to less rigorous analysis than scholarship by white academics. This Article explores the work of four current up-and-coming black legal scholars to revisit that early disagreement and its ramifications in the modem black legal academy. By and large, it appears that the anti-CRT writers have won the debate. Today's legal academy, at least as reflected in the work of many highly sought-after black scholars, more closely reflects the anti-narrative perspective on scholarship. Black scholars continue to write on racial topics, but with different methodologies than many CRT scholars. Like other areas of legal scholarship, interdisciplinary and doctrinal methods are most prevalent. The Article suggests that one reason African-American legal scholars continue to write about race, despite the risks of doing so, is their sense of obligation to the black community. I contend that this obligation runs just as deeply for black academics as it does for black practitioners, who tend to closely relate the legal profession with the struggle for racial justice.
Date of Authorship for this Version
Bell, Monica C., "The Obligation Thesis: Understanding the Persistent 'Black Voice' in Modern Legal Scholarship" (2007). Faculty Scholarship Series. 5138.