PUBLISHED:February 22, 2008

Mills Conversation Series returns to spark dialogue on race

The Jean E. and Christine P. Mills Conversation Series on Race returns to Duke Law School in March with three provocative and interactive explorations of immigration reform, America’s changing demographics, and the variously controversial and conciliatory aspects of hip-hop culture. All three events are free and open to the public.

Kevin R. Johnson, Mabie-Apallas Professor of Public Interest Law and Chicana/o Studies at University of California-Davis School of Law, will launch the series on March 5 with a discussion of the racial dynamics underlying the immigration debate. A scholar of critical race theory and immigration and refugee law and a prolific author, Johnson’s new book is Opening the Floodgates: Why America Needs to Rethink Its Borders and Immigration Laws.

Juan F. Perea, the Cone, Wagner, Nugent, Johnson, Hazouri & Roth Professor of Law at the University of Florida Levin College of Law, will examine the implications and possibilities presented by U.S. demographic changes on March 20. Co-author of Race and Races: Cases and Resources for a Diverse America, Perea has written extensively on immigration and constitutional issues relating to Latinos in the United States.

On March 26, “Hip Hop Culture: A Convenient Scapegoat or a Contributor to Inequality?” will bring three distinguished scholars together to lead a discussion on the inter- and intra-racial implications of the hip-hop genre. Duke Professor of African & American Studies Mark Anthony Neal has written extensively about black and hip-hop music and culture in works that include That’s the Joint!: The Hip-Hop Studies Reader. Professor Imani Perry of Rutgers Law School, the author of Prophets of the Hood: Politics and Poetics in Hip Hop, focuses her scholarship on race in law and culture. Professor Mario L. Barnes of the University of Miami School of Law, is a specialist in the areas of criminal and constitutional law and race and the law.

Co-sponsored by the Program in Public Law, the Jean E. and Christine P. Mills Conversation Series on Race is endowed by Amos Mills ’72 with a view to opening lines of communication and improving relationships among people of different skin colors and backgrounds. The series is organized by Professor Trina Jones, whose own scholarship and teaching focuses on issues related to diversity, colorism, and employment discrimination. The topics for the March conversations were selected, she said, to take a discussion of race out of a strictly black-white paradigm and demonstrate the complexity of race relations in the United States between and within racial groups.

“In addition to examining how whites react to the ‘browning’ of America , we will be exploring how other groups of color respond to the recent influx of Latino and Latina immigrants ― which actually isn’t a new phenomenon ― through our first two events,” said Jones. “We’ll acknowledge some of the underlying perceptions of threat, particularly as they relate to the competition for low-paying jobs, and access to social services ― such as health care and education ― that can present a challenge to lower-income Americans.”

With a particular view to initiating a dialogue across age groups, the March 26 discussion will acknowledge the cross-racial appeal of hip-hop, Jones said. “It is perceived to be a black art form, but huge numbers of suburban white youths also participate. In addition to taking account of its much discussed negative aspects, we will be examining hip-hop’s opportunities for cross-racial interaction and even healing.”

Each March discussion will be held at 6:00 p.m. in room 3037 of Duke Law School, located at the corner of Towerview Road and Science Drive on Duke University’s West Campus. Parking will be available in the Law School parking lot on Towerview Road. Each event will be webcast live.

For more information, contact Frances Presma at 919-613-7248.