Community Engagement

Events & Lectures

Derrick Bell Lecture


Dean Conway

Wednesday, February 1, 2023
5:30 PM PST
110 Knight Law Center


Lecturer: Dean Danielle M. Conway

Practicing Antiracism Unapologetically: Using Professor Derrick Bell’s thesis of the permanence of racism as inspiration for “Building an Antiracist Law School, Legal Academy, and Legal Profession” 


Danielle M. Conway is the dean and Donald J. Farage professor of law at Penn State Dickinson Law. A leading expert in procurement law, entrepreneurship, intellectual property law, and licensing intellectual property, Dean Conway joined Dickinson Law after serving for four years as dean of the University of Maine School of Law and 14 years on the faculty of the Universityof Hawai’i at Mānoa, William S. Richardson School of Law, where she was the inaugural Michael J. Marks Distinguished Professor of Business Law.

Below, Dean Conway shares a description of her talk:

"Derrick Bell’s thesis of the permanence of racism and his theory of interest convergence are often viewed through a lens of pessimism and linearity.  I have chosen to read Professor Derrick Bell’s thesis and theory as a challenge to ideate, prototype, and test solutions for a more just and equal multiracial American democracy that will tap into the law’s emancipatory power.  In articulating a definition for and a movement around antiracism—focused not on individuals but instead on institutional processes, policies, and practices—more attention can be placed on visualizing those structures, norms, laws, and customs that allow systemic racism, racial inequality, and oppression to pervade American institutions. Eschewing a linear approach, I countenance unapologetic engagement with antiracism using a systems design approach to accept Professor Bell’s challenge. 

One of many reasons to engage with antiracism unapologetically is to contest the operation of racial default rules. Racial default rules fuel racial myths and root false dichotomies to scaffold systemic racial inequality in America.  False dichotomies pervade any discussion of race in America.  For example, if someone says I love Brussels Sprouts, that does not mean the person does not like other vegetables.  If someone says I love women, default rules do not imply a hate for men.  But when someone says I love Black people or that Black lives matter, the American racial default rules are placed in gear and the immediate response is to ascribe to the speaker, by definition, a hate for white people.  This racial default rule—built on the false dichotomy—does not distinguish between a person who identifies as white and the injustice of white supremacy that uses racial hierarchy to elevate whiteness through the exercise of power, domination, and control while simultaneously disadvantaging Black and brown people.  

The application of racial default rules erroneously makes the very engagement with antiracism controversial when it need not be.  For many Americans, lack of knowledge about the history of Black people in this country from 1619 onward colonizes their views about the meaning of antiracism.  The operation of the racial default rules leads people to consider antiracism to be divisive in the same way that expressing positive, pro-Black sentiments would mean a rejection of white identity.  These are the false dichotomies and racial default rules at work. 

Legal education and the profession must not sit on the sidelines avoiding engagement with antiracism, when the legal institution has a central role—through obligation and responsibility—in untangling at the most fundamental levels the Gordian knot of systemic racial inequality under the American rule of law to uncover the path to reasoned, democratic discourse about the reality of racism and the solemn duty of the legal academy and the legal profession to pursue systemic racial equity, equality, and justice through an unconditional commitment to anti-subordination and anti-oppression.  This is the reason for law schools, the legal academy, and the legal profession to engage with antiracism intentionally.  Legal education and the legal profession must lead this work as an example to all other democratic institutions.

The purpose of this talk is to ground a definition of antiracism and its implementation and to convey why the legal profession must lead this work.  As well, I will discuss the compelling necessity to engage with antiracism if our nation’s objective is to have a well-functioning, organized, civilized multiracial and multicultural society.  Finally, this talk will convey why law schools, the legal academy, and the legal profession have a duty to engage antiracism unapologetically."


Derrick Bell served as the first African American dean of the School of Law from 1980 to 1985. He is considered one of the most influential voices in the foundation of Critical Race Theory, a framework that examines society and culture as they connect to race, law, and power. 

The Derrick Bell Lecture is a collaboration between the University of Oregon School of Law and the Division of Equity Inclusion. The Lecture is a part of the African American Workshop and Lecture Series, sponsored by the DEI and the Office of the President.


Past Bell Lectures

2020 Derrick Bell Lecture
2021 Derrick Bell Lecture
2022 Derrick Bell Lecture
2023 Derrick Bell Lecture

Rennard Strickland Lecture 


Rennard Strickland Lecture

2021 Annual Rennard Strickland Lecture

Tuesday, October 26, 2021
6:00 PM PST
Free and open to the public

"Oil and Gas: An Oklahoma Origin Story and McGirt"

This year's lecture features Dean Emeritus and Professor, Stacy Leeds, from the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University. A citizen of the Cherokee Nation, Leeds is the first Native American female dean and a prominent Indian law trailblazer. She is an experienced leader in law, higher education, governance, economic development, and conflict resolution. 

Event Information

PAC-12 Access to Justice Series


UO’s Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education and Student Success and author Kimberly Johnson, Johnson's book 'This is My America', and Marcilynn A. Burke, Dean and Dave Frohnmayer Chair in Leadership and Law

Marcilynn A. Burke, Dean and Dave Frohnmayer Chair in Leadership and Law, speaks with UO’s Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education and Student Success and author Kimberly Johnson. Johnson’s debut novel, This is My America, will be made into a television series to stream on HBO Max.

Visit the event page for more information and to register to attend.


Bankruptcy and Race: A Conversation with Professor A. Mechele Dickerson 


A. Michele Dickerson

The Business Law Program welcomed Professor A. Mechele Dickerson, the Arthur L. Moller Chair in Bankruptcy Law and Practice at the University of Texas at Austin, for a noon-hour discussion about racial inequities in the bankruptcy system, including how Black debtors who need bankruptcy relief are disproportionately placed in Chapter 13 bankruptcy, which is more expensive and burdensome than Chapter 7.

Mechele Dickerson, a nationally recognized scholar on consumer debt, teaches at the University of Texas School of Law and also has a courtesy appointment with the Liberal Arts Honors program at the University of Texas. She is the author of HOMEOWNERSHIP AND AMERICA'S FINANCIAL UNDERCLASS: FLAWED PREMISES, BROKEN PROMISES, NEW PRESCRIPTIONS (Cambridge 2014). Her research focuses on racial income and wealth disparities and she is currently completing a book project on the Neglected Middle Class.

Dickerson teaches Remedies and Federal Civil Procedure at UT Law and is teaching a course this spring on COVID and Financially Vulnerable Americans (which she will teach to undergraduates this fall). Dickerson will also teach a class on COVID and The Law at the law school this fall. Before joining the Texas law faculty, Dickerson was a law faculty member at the College of William and Mary.

Watch the Lecture

Access code: BbxU9U#0