Our Mission

Racial Justice at the Intersection: Connecting Disenfranchised Voices, Integrating Theory and Practice, Supporting Multi-Disciplinary Research

The mission of the Aoki Center is to honor the memory of Professor Keith Aoki by fostering multi-disciplinary scholarship and practice that critically examine the law through the lens of race, ethnicity, indigeneity, citizenship, and class. By integrating the scholarship of the King Hall faculty with the research of academics in other departments and schools across the UC Davis campus and by connecting critical race theory to the world of practice and policy, the Aoki Center seeks to deepen our understanding of issues that have a significant impact on our culture and society.  Inaugurated by faculty, staff, and students in the wake of Aoki’s untimely death in 2011, the Center was established to reflect Keith’s distinguished scholarship but also to remember his passion for art, music, advocacy, whimsy, and pure fun.

Message from the Founding Director

When I accepted the offer to join the UC Davis School of Law faculty in 2011, one of the things I was most looking forward to was having Keith Aoki as my colleague. To the shock and devastation of many of us, Keith passed away that spring, before I had a chance to see or talk to him again. As I settled into my new professional life at King Hall, however, it became evident that Keith’s restless and rigorous intelligence, his commitment to racial justice, his warmth, and his sense of fun had left an enduring legacy among faculty, students, and staff. When a small group of students and faculty began to meet and talk about our common interests in race, ethnicity, citizenship, and immigration in theory and in practice, it seemed obvious that our nascent Center should be named for Keith. Although he contributed to scholarship in many fields, his work connecting critical theory, race, and immigration issues was close to his heart. And Keith’s love for teaching made it all the more appropriate that a Center founded by students and faculty together should bear his name. I feel privileged to have played a role in bringing the Aoki Center to life, and I hope that somewhere, Keith is smiling.

- Angela P. Harris

Message from the Co-Directors

It has been a decade since Professor Keith Aoki passed away on April 26, 2011, at the age of 55 after a prolonged and debilitating illness. Both of us were friends of Keith’s and spent time with him in his last days. Keith Aoki’s legacy of profound commitment to racial justice – and justice for all – reminds us of the urgency of the fight for justice in our times. Keith would have a lot to say – and write – about the imperative of teaching critical race perspectives in law school at a time when lawyers are having to defend our fundamental civil liberties and engage in creative legal reforms to liberate us from the oppression of mass incarceration, police violence, voter suppression, hate crimes, and unjust borders, to name just a few of the systemic racial injustices of the day. As Keith Aoki did in his life, we commit to this project with fervor and are honored to continue to host important conversations on a wide range of topics on racial justice and to support projects aimed at improving our laws, legal institutions, and the lives of the most vulnerable.  

- Raquel E. Aldana and Kevin R. Johnson