Last weekend, I had the great fortune to attend the BU School of Law’s two-day conference, The Civil Rights Act of 1964 at 50. The event brought in dozens of scholars and speakers, all of whom shared their perspectives on the Civil Rights Act — what it meant 50 years ago, how it has shaped the past 50 years, and what lessons we can draw as we build a better future.
In my time at BU Law, I’ve been pleased with the opportunities available to put the law into context, and this event was no different. In fact, both keynote speakers, Harvard Professor William Julius Wilson and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Commissioner Chai R. Feldblum, were careful to discuss the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as just one component of a broader movement. I’ve written more about the details of what happened at the conference for the BU Law website, available here.
But what about civil rights and progress in the context of my daily life at BU Law?
Course offerings support a curious student’s inquiry into these subjects. From fair housing issues in Property Law in my first semester, to cases involving the right to equal protection under the law in Constitutional Law in my second semester, to cases on the right to marry and parent in Family Law this semester, I’ve seen open, honest discussions of progress and roadblocks all along the way.
Additionally, the school is very supportive of affinity groups for students from a variety of backgrounds, and all of those groups are genuinely welcoming to students regardless of their individual backgrounds. Their mix of fun and serious events enliven the whole campus.
While there’s not necessarily an active culture of protest or even overt politics at BU Law, groups like Law Students for Reproductive Justice, the American Constitution Society and the Federalist Society do make their stances known by hosting events and bringing in exciting guests who urge active participation and lively debate, like the recent event I planned where a nationally touring speaker taught a workshop on effective advocacy skills.
It might be more exciting to chant and march in front of government buildings, but students at BU Law are getting the skills we need to be different kinds of advocates: the kind who stand up for people like Mildred and Richard Loving when they want to marry in their home state even though their skin color means they can’t; the kind who stand up for the privacy rights of men like like John Lawrence and Tyron Garner; and the kind who advocate for people like Edith Windsor’s right to have their marriages to the the people they love recognized by their government. That’s good enough for me.