In 2010, the Journal of Legal Commentary was renamed the Journal of Civil Rights & Economic Development (JCRED) to reflect its status as the official journal of the Ron Brown Center for Civil Rights here at St. John’s University School of Law. From then on, the Journal has been dedicated to exploring issues of social, racial, and economic justice in the law. Thus, JCRED is situated to be a publication that breaches the divide that has held so much power over legal scholarship through the years. That divide is the segregation of issues of Public Law and Private Law, the realm of Public Law being considered the only appropriate space to discuss issues of identity-based oppression covered in the civil rights cases and anti-discrimination litigation of Constitutional Law. The realm of Private Law, on the other hand, has been considered the “neutral” economic space devoid of any considerations of identity or historical context, where the law of Contracts, Business Organizations, and Property exists. There is no doubt that this arbitrary division has been a major disservice to legal scholarship.
Thankfully, JCRED, by its very name, covers both Civil Rights and Economic Development. This makes our journal uniquely positioned to disrespect the divide, promoting scholarship which recognizes that racial justice and economic justice go hand in hand. And thus, one cannot grasp the full picture of the legal dynamics of a given social problem unless both considerations are brought to bear.
This symposium issue, Racial Capitalism as Legal Analysis, adds exemplary scholarship which bridges the public-private law division. To set the stage, it seems appropriate here to draw out relevant aspects of the racial capitalism concept. This is where the work of Athena Mutua and Carmen Gonzalez has been vital in mapping racial capitalism. They point out that racial capitalism is a global system characterized by Exploitation (of both waged labor and the often unpaid or underpaid labor performed primarily by women), Expropriation (the confiscation of human, nonhuman, or natural resources without a fair exchange of value), and Race- Making (the creation of social hierarchies among humans and the assignment of superior and inferior status based on specific characteristics). Key to Racial Capitalism is that these processes are carried out in the service of wealth accumulation and white supremacy. Moreover, these processes are rooted in legal systems, and enforced, at times brutally, through legal mechanisms. The topics which our symposium articles touch on illustrate this dynamic: foreclosure, eviction, gentrification, water shut-offs, police brutality—these are forms of racialized violence carried out or legitimized by legal mechanisms.