Racial Justice Speaker Series 2023-2024

Racial Justice Speaker Series 2023-24


Created in response to the tragic killings by police of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others and the widespread protests that followed, UC Davis Law’s Racial Justice Speaker Series is now in its fourth year. Reaffirming the law school’s longtime commitment to racial justice, the series invites leading scholars from around the country to explore systemic racism as it pertains to all communities of color and areas of law. The goals are to inform, enlighten, and - most important - engage in meaningful conversation with our King Hall community and the larger public.

Click here to watch previous recorded Racial Justice Speaker Series sessions 


Monday, Sept. 25 (VIRTUAL EVENT)

12:10 - 1 p.m. Pacific 

Wajahat Ali '07, Daily Beast columnist

Author of "Go Back to Where You Came From: And, Other Helpful Recommendations on Becoming American



Wajahat Ali is a Daily Beast columnist, public speaker, recovering attorney, and tired dad of three cute kids. He published his first book Go Back To Where You Came From: And, Other Helpful Recommendations on Becoming American. He believes in sharing stories that are by us, for everyone: universal narratives told through a culturally specific lens to entertain, educate and bridge the global divides.

He also enjoys writing about himself in the third person. He frequently appears on television and podcasts for his brilliant, incisive, and witty political commentary. Born in the Bay Area, California to Pakistani immigrant parents, Ali went to school wearing Husky pants and knowing only three words of English. He graduated from UC Berkeley with an English major and became a licensed attorney. He knows what it feels like to be the token minority in the classroom and the darkest person in a boardroom. Like Spiderman, he’s often had the power and responsibility of being the cultural ambassador of an entire group of people, those who are often marginalized, silenced, or reduced to stereotypes. His essays, interviews, and reporting have appeared in The New York Times, The Atlantic, The Washington Post, The Guardian, and New York Review of Books. Ali has spoken at many organizations, from Google to Walmart-Jet to Princeton University to the United Nations to the Chandni Indian-Pakistani Restaurant in Newark, California, and his living room in front of his three kids.

More information to follow.

Monday, Nov. 6

12:10 - 1 p.m. Pacific

Jasmine E. Harris, Professor of Law, University of Pennsylvania


Jasmine Harris

Join us for a Racial Justice Speaker Series event featuring Jasmine Harris, Professor of Law, University of Pennsylvania. She will present a lecture entitled "Reckoning with Race and Disability: Guardianship and Racial Extraction."

Our national reckoning with racial injustice will be incomplete until we contend with the relationship between race and disability as legal categories in American law and policy. This discussion offers an opportunity to explore the intersection of race and disability through the history of one specific institution –guardianship. I argue that the racial extraction of labor, land, and sovereignty was made possible by the imposition of legal labels of disability and incapacity. While a robust literature details the history of extraction in the context of indigenous land and sovereignty and recognizes the fraught status of free Black Americans during the antebellum period, these stories live primarily in the histories of racial justice and do not attend to the operation of disability as the legal throughline. This discussion will reframe known historical moments through a disability lens and argue why guardianship sits at the heart of these stories with lessons for how we think about legal constructions of incapacity and personhood today.

Jasmine E. Harris is a law and inequality legal scholar with expertise in disability law, antidiscrimination law, and evidence. Her work seeks to address the relationship between law and equality with a focus on law’s capacity to advance social norms of inclusion in the context of disability.

Her recent academic articles have or will appear in such publications as the Columbia Law Review, New York University Law Review, University of Pennsylvania Law Review, Yale Law Journal Forum, Cornell Law Review, Ohio State Law Journal, and the Journal of Legal Education. Harris recently joined leading evidence law experts as a co-editor of the preeminent evidence treatise, McCormick on Evidence.

Harris also writes frequently about disability and equality law for popular audiences. Her essays have appeared in the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Ms. Magazine, and Tribune Wire, in addition to academic blogs such as the American Constitution Society’s Expert Forum and Harvard Law School Petrie-Flom Center’s Bill of Health. She is regularly interviewed and has been widely quoted in publications and media outlets such as the New York Times, Washington Post, TIME, Forbes, CNBC, National Public Radio, PBS NewsHour, Chronicle of Higher Education, Guardian, Harper’s BAZAAR, and USA Today.

Harris consults with federal and state lawmakers and legal advocates on issues of legislative and policy reforms related to disability laws. She also serves on the Board of Directors for The Arc of the United States and as Chair of the Legal Advocacy Subcommittee to advise the organization on impact litigation.

Harris graduated magna cum laude from Dartmouth College with a bachelor’s degree in Latin American & Caribbean Studies. She received her juris doctorate from Yale Law and clerked for the late Honorable Harold Baer, Jr., United States District Judge for the Southern District of New York. She has worked in both private and public interest law. Harris practiced complex commercial litigation, securities, and government investigations as a Senior Associate with WilmerHale. She also worked as a staff attorney at Advancement Project, a national civil rights organization, where she assisted grassroots advocacy campaigns to advance racial justice in education and address the school to prison pipeline through legal, policy, and communications efforts.

Co-Sponsor with Aoki Center and UC Davis Global Migration Center

Monday, Jan. 22

12:10 - 1 p.m. Pacific

Nicole Santamaría, El/La Para TransLatinas

"The Spectrum of Race for Social Justice"


Nicole Santamaria

Join us for a compelling presentation, "The Spectrum of Race for Social Justice," led by longtime activist and advocate for racial and social justice, Nicole Santamaria. As the Executive Director of El/La Para TransLatinas, a non-profit dedicated to serving trans, intersex, and gender-diverse Latinx immigrants in the Bay Area, Nicole brings a wealth of experience and insight to the forefront of the conversation on racial justice.

In this thought-provoking session, Nicole will delve into the multifaceted dimensions of the racial justice movement, exploring the diverse experiences within the Latinx immigrant community. Drawing on personal and professional anecdotes, historical context, and current events, Nicole will guide the audience through the intricacies of navigating race, identity, and intersectionality in a guided conversation with the audience.

Nicole Santamaría has expertise in healing justice and anti-violence work, providing support to survivors of violence for 20+ years. Her work with the LGBTQI+ community began with art therapy and research in El Salvador for survivors of anti-LGBTQI+, domestic, and sexual violence. She co-founded Colectiva Alejandria SV, collaborating with NGOs, activists, and government entities in multiple countries to raise awareness around the realities of LGBTQI+ communities. As the Executive Director of El/La Para TransLatinas, Nicole uses a trauma-informed lens to develop El/La’s diverse programs, support staff growth, strengthen partnerships, ensure continued funding, and serve as spokesperson to the public.

Wednesday, Jan. 31

12:10 - 1 p.m. Pacific

Aziza Ahmed, Boston University, Professor of Law

"Essential Worker, Expendable Family?"


aziza ahmed

From, COVID-19 to a lack of access to abortion, public health crises are shining light on the legal arrangements that shape the ability of individuals to live, that make people sick, or die. Families, in their myriad manifestations, are integral to ensuring that the response to public health crises are robust. It is in the family, and within households, for example, that we saw the transmission of COVID and it is families that bear the burden of carework in the context of healthcare. Yet, time and again, public health actors neglect to consider how families matter. The impact of this obfuscation is clear: poor health outcomes, especially for poor families of color. Drawing on insights from political economy and feminist legal theory, this talk will explore why and how the family has been exceptionalized in the response to public health crises.

Aziza Ahmed’s scholarship examines the intersection of law, politics, and science in the fields of constitutional law, criminal law, health law, and family law. She is Professor of Law and N Neal Pike Scholar at Boston University School of Law.  Before joining Boston University School of Law, Ahmed was professor of law at University of California, Irvine School of Law. She also taught at Northeastern University School of Law. She has served as visiting professor at the University of Chicago Law School, Bennett Boskey Visiting Professor at Harvard Law School, visiting scholar at the Harvard Law School Petrie-Flom Center for Health Law Policy, Biotechnology, and Bioethics, and Law and public affairs fellow at Princeton University.

Prior to teaching, Professor Ahmed was a research associate at the Harvard School of Public Health Program on International Health and Human Rights. She came to that position after a women’s law and public policy fellowship with the International Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS. Professor Ahmed was a member of the Technical Advisory Group on HIV and the Law convened by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and has been an expert for many institutions, including the American Bar Association and UNDP.

Ahmed is the author of the forthcoming book Risk and Resistance: How Feminists Transformed the Law and Science of AIDS published by Cambridge University Press, and coeditor of the forthcoming handbook Race, Racism, and the Law, published by Edward Elgar Publishing with Guy-Uriel Charles and co-editor of the forthcoming Routledge Companion to Gender and COVID-19 with Linda McClain.

Professor Ahmed earned a BA from Emory University, a JD from the University of California, Berkeley School of Law, and an MS in Population and International Health from the Harvard School of Public Health.

Wednesday, March 20

12:10 - 1 p.m. Pacific

Vikram Amar, UC Davis Distinguished Professor of Law

"Where American Constitutional Democracy Stands a Quarter Way Through the 21st Century"


Portrait photo of Vikram Amar.

Professor Amar will discuss, among other things, how the Supreme Court’s commitment to a constitutional jurisprudence ostensibly grounded in principled originalism requires expertise in constitutional history that the current Justices and the Supreme Court bar by and large lack, and how law schools and legal academics can and should – if they are able to clean their own house first -- play a larger and salutary role in constitutional adjudication. Among the issues and cases that will be discussed to illustrate this theme are recent controversies involving the regulation of congressional and presidential elections – disputes whose proper resolution is vital to the preservation our constitutional democracy.

Vikram Amar returned to UC Davis as a Distinguished Professor of Law in 2023 after serving as the dean and the Iwan Foundation Professor of Law at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign College of Law since 2015. Directly before that he was a Professor and the Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at King Hall, from 2008 to 2015. Amar has also taught law at Berkeley School of Law, Hastings College of Law and UCLA School of Law.   

Amar is one of the most eminent and frequently cited authorities in constitutional law, federal courts, and civil procedure. He has produced several books and more than 60 articles in leading law reviews. He is a co-author (along with Akhil Reed Amar) of the upcoming revised multi-volume Treatise on Constitutional Law (West Publishing Co.) pioneered by Ron Rotunda and John Nowak. He is also a co-author (along with Jonathan Varat and Evan Caminker) of Constitutional Law: Cases and Materials (Foundation Press, 16th ed. 2021), a co-author on multiple volumes of the Wright & Miller Federal Practice and Procedure Treatise (West Publishing), and a co-author (along with John Oakley) of a one-volume treatise on American Civil Procedure (Kluwer, 2008). He writes a biweekly column on constitutional matters for Justia.com, for several years wrote a monthly column on legal education for abovethelaw.com, is a frequent commentator on local and national radio and TV, and has penned dozens of op-ed pieces for major newspapers and magazines.

A strong proponent of public and professional engagement, Amar is an elected member of the American Law Institute and has served as a consultant for, among others, the National Association of Attorneys General, the United States Department of Justice, the California Attorney General’s Office, the ACLU of Southern California, and the Center for Civic Education. For one year he chaired the Civil Procedure Section of the Association of American Law Schools.

Amar earned his bachelor’s degree from UC Berkeley and his juris doctor from Yale Law School, where he was an articles editor for the Yale Law Journal. He then clerked for Judge William A. Norris of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and for Justice Harry A. Blackmun of the United States Supreme Court before joining Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, where he handled a variety of complex civil and white-collar criminal matters. It appears that Professor Amar was the first person of South Asian heritage to clerk at the U.S. Supreme Court, and was the first American-born person of Indian descent to serve as a dean of a major American law school. Follow Dean Amar’s bi-weekly column on Justia.com and read archived posts from his FindLaw.com column.

Monday, April 15

12:10 - 1 p.m. Pacific

King Hall, Room 1301


REGISTER HERE for Livestream

Morning Star Gali

"Native Justice Now: Perspectives on Disproportionate Incarceration and the Crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women"


morning star gali

The crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Peoples is a pressing human rights issue in California, nationally, and internationally. Leading Edge Fellow Morning Star Gali will speak about the historic and structural roots and far-reaching impacts of the MMIP crisis, current initiatives, and how the public can better support the investigation, prosecution, and prevention of crimes against Indigenous Peoples.