The Black–White Paradigm’s Continuing Erasure Of Latinas: See Women Law Deans Of Color

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Laura Padilla (California Western), The Black–White Paradigm’s Continuing Erasure of Latinas: See Women Law Deans of Color, 99 Denver L. Rev. __ (2022):

This Essay describes the Black–White paradigm and how it erases communities of color that do not fit within it, thus further marginalizing already sidelined communities. The Essay focuses on Latinas, elaborating on how the Black–White binary places them in an impossible position, making it difficult to discuss race beyond Black and White and to consider and resolve other communities’ discrete, race related issues.

It illustrates the Black–White paradigm erasure point about Latinas with a story about women law deans of color. The seventy-five serving as law deans at this moment represent the largest number to date, and the majority are white (43.5). Among the 31.5 women of color, 25.5 are Black, and the remaining are Latina (4), Asian (2), and Indigenous (1).

The story of Black women is a resounding success, but somewhat puzzling given their numbers in the legal academy and compared to other women of color who are disproportionately underrepresented. The Essay focuses on the low number of Latina law deans, but Asian women’s numbers are also unexpectedly low. The Essay offers explanations for the composition of women law deans of color and suggests the surge in Black women’s appointments is not surprising given the Black–White paradigm, intentional organizational efforts to promote Black women in the Academy, and the “George Floyd effect.” At the same time, Latinas have not had the same leadership organization and support and may be influenced by cultural norms that impede the singular focus required to attain top leadership positions.

The Essay incorporates ideas to increase Latina leadership, partly by shifting to a nonbinary paradigm that is more hospitable to a broader range of outsiders and will create a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive climate. This in turn will permit all women of color better access to leadership positions. Such movement can only achieve its promise if Latinas’ underrepresentation is acknowledged as a shortcoming, making way for concrete steps to increase leadership. While there have been productive efforts to increase the number of Latina/o faculty, those must be supplemented with more intentional steps to nurture career growth and cultivate Latina leadership.

It highlights the need for an honest conversation about cultural barriers that limit leadership aspirations. A combination of these steps should mitigate the Black–White paradigm’s erasure of those who fall outside the paradigm, opening more doors for others.

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