Thank you so much, Jay, and thank you everyone for being here this morning. It’s an honor to be able to join you [now] even before I join you formally and it’s an equal honor to share this morning with professors Huq and Whitlow. I have looked up to and been in conversation with professor Huq specifically; to find out that we are co-panelists and also will be teaching contracts together is very inspiring indeed.
So, what I will try to do in the brief time that we have is talk a little bit about Whiteness as Contract, but I also talk about how Whiteness as Contract feeds into the forthcoming paper (Re)Building the Master’s House which was mentioned. Whiteness as Contract is actually the second installation in a series of papers. The first is coming out in a couple of weeks [and] deals with the Detroit water shutoff crisis squarely. I have been studying the water crisis, or the water scandal. I don’t call it a crisis because a crisis implies that something happened in which nothing could be done about it, whereas this was a function of the law and government policy. I have been following the Detroit water scandal since its inception.
I was actually living in Detroit and clerking at the time when these shutoffs began. I’m a native of Detroit, [that’s where I] grew up [ ]. While I was clerking, a fellow clerk of mine who is a dear friend told me something that has guided my scholarly inquiry ever since. She said, “When something doesn’t make sense, follow the money.” So, for me, that was transformative because the shutoffs were beginning in Detroit, and for the life of me, I couldn’t understand why. Why was this a solution to Detroit’s revenue woes? At the time, I considered myself, and I still do consider myself, squarely within the discipline of human rights law and secondarily as a civil rights lawyer. I had not yet thought of my legal inquiry into this matter in terms of racial capitalism. I was looking at it in terms of human rights violation. I couldn’t understand that the United Nations has come to Detroit, the United Nations has condemned Detroit, why is that not enough for the government to say “we are embarrassed and this is not where we want to be.”