JCRED Welcomes Inaugural Author-in-Residence Cecil J. Hunt, II
Recently, the Ronald H. Brown Center for Civil Rights and its student-run Journal of Civil Rights and Economic Development (JCRED) have come together to spotlight and explore a range of issues related to race and the law. The deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and Freddie Gray, among others, have brought these issues to global attention and national debate. “As members of a profession committed to defining, examining, and upholding justice, lawyers are among those taking the lead in informing the public’s understanding of, and conversation about, these critical issues,” says the center’s director, Professor Elaine M. Chiu.
To advance this conversation at—and beyond—St. John’s Law, this fall, JCRED put out a call for papers to engage scholars in a “hopeful exploration for solutions to the civil rights crisis of our time.” In addition to being published in a paper symposium issue, one author would be selected to spend a day in residence at the Law School.
After reviewing a number of excellent submissions, the JCRED students selected “The Jim Crow Effect: Denial, Dignity, Human Rights, and American Racialized Mass Incarceration,” by Cecil J. Hunt, II, a professor at the John Marshall Law School in Chicago. The paper leads with the assertion that, right now, “the United States of America is lost in a thick fog of denial regarding the uncomfortable truths about racialized mass incarceration,” a pressing civil rights issue dating back to the latter part of the last century.
Professor Hunt goes on to cite the striking data behind the “plague of mass incarceration”: Blacks and Hispanics, together, account for about two thirds of the U.S. state prison population, a figure that doesn’t include the populations of local jails and federal prisons. At the heart of this national ill, he writes, is a law enforcement system that uses “the power of criminal sanctions to target, isolate, demonize, and oppress an entire group of people and their communities based simply on race.”
During his visit to St. John’s Law as JCRED’s inaugural author-in-residence, Professor Hunt met with faculty and with students to discuss his paper and his work as a legal scholar and writer. “At every level of the criminal justice system, race is a factor,” he told the students. “The institutional biases are baked into the cake.” To counter the pervasive indifference and denial, he said, “you have to raise people’s consciousness, which is what my work is all about.”
The students have high praise for the author-in-residence and his message. “Professor Hunt reminded me that I can no longer turn and give racism the other cheek,” says Loreal D. Lingad ’17. “As a future lawyer, and a person of color, I now understand that it’s my obligation to rectify the racial and social inequalities destroying our communities.” Desta Hailu agrees, adding: “I was impressed by Professor Hunt’s extensive knowledge and passion on the subject of institutional racism, and I have enormous respect for the fact that he has dedicated his life to raising awareness and spreading knowledge and truth.”
It was also a memorable experience for Patrick Prager ’16. “The author-in-residence program brings a compelling, real-world dimension to the issues of racial and social injustice that we’re exploring as law students,” he says. “Professor Hunt was personable, approachable, and responsive to our questions and comments. It was a great opportunity to dialogue about a rampant problem that we, as the next generation of lawyers, must address head on.”
About the Ronald H. Brown Center for Civil Rights
The Ronald H. Brown Center for Civil Rights has been a force at the Law School since 1999. Now led by Director Elaine M. Chiu and Assistant Director Rosa Castello ’06, the center conducts legal studies, research, and outreach on matters that affect the rights of underrepresented people, while preparing law students to be leaders on issues of racial, economic, and social justice. It’s also home to an award-winning pipeline program that fosters diversity in the legal profession.
About the Journal of Civil Rights and Economic Development
The Ronald H. Brown Center for Civil Rights engages the St. John’s community, the legal academy, and the general public through its official publication, the student-run Journal of Civil Rights and Economic Development (JCRED). Established in 1985 as the Journal of Legal Commentary, the journal’s name was changed in 2010 to better reflect its mission and content. Throughout its history, JCRED has offered a vital forum for illuminating and discussing critical issues of the day, such as national security, child advocacy, criminal justice, and race and the law.