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Stanford Reunion CWQ: Rethinking Race

Updated: Nov 20, 2021

Stanford Center for Racial Justice: Rethinking Race, Dismantling Racism, Furthering Justice - George Brown, Rick Banks, '87, MA '87, Monica Ramirez Almadani, JD '04, Cory Booker, '91, MA '92, Maureen Keffer, JS '11, Goodwin Liu, '91

I’ve been waiting for the video of this CWQ (Classes without Quizzes) panel to be released since my reunion in October 2021. Unfortunately, I missed it because I was hobnobbing with Jerry Yang (Chair of Stanford’s Board of Trustees, if you hadn’t heard) and making sure MTL knew of SAASEI at the donor’s event.

But my friend Tom Lee, the very same classmate who got me involved with SAASEI, texted me this from the auditorium:

So, I’ve been waiting with bated breath, and now that I finally got to watch the YouTube video, it didn’t disappoint! If nothing else, CWQs with your esteemed classmates make you feel smart by association. Yeah, what Cory said! Go Goodwin! Here are some of the highlights if you don’t have 44 minutes to spare.

The ever-eloquent Cory Booker kicked off the panel by reminding us of the “moral failings of our society” that makes the US “the #1 incarceration nation on the planet Earth.” He described the Federal government’s extraordinary incentives to the states to create “fear-based, retribution, over-incarceration that is particularly biased against vulnerable people, from the mentally-ill, to the low-income, and in particular, to the black and brown people.” He suggested one solution was keep “accounting for bias,” since we can’t manage what we don’t measure, and today we “don’t even know how many people are killed by police in America because we don’t collect it, and if you’re really concerned about race, then the starting point with police has got to be” with the data.

At the 13:30 mark, Goodwin Liu talked about how we needed to humanize to empathize. He often brings his first-year law clerks to the prison complex San Quentin to meet the prisoners, and inevitably, their biggest takeaway is the awareness that the prisoners are humans: “The dehumanization of a wide swath of our population, that is at the roots of our issue, before we start talking about policing.”

At the 19:30 mark, Goodwin discussed the research he had done on the diversity in the legal profession. His research data in 2014 showed that out of 2,400 elected Prosecutors (i.e., state and county District Attorneys and Attorney Generals) in US, only 5% were minority of any kind, in a country that is majority minority. As he dug deeper, he found only 12 were Asian American (that’s 0.5% for you fuzzies). When he called all 12, he further discovered 8 were miscoded as Asians. In actuality, there were only 4 AA Prosecutors in the entire US (0.17%)! With the backdrop of the Atlanta shootings and anti-AA violence, he noted “how small our voice is” in our legal justice program.

At 25:30, Goodwin reminded us that 30 years ago, when he and the “more vintage alums” were back at Stanford, there was the Rodney King beating incident. Now, 30 years later is the George Floyd murder. “Every generation is still experiencing this form of trauma to our values.” But he did note that the kids these days are so much more aware of societal issues, such as LGBQT. Like so many of us, he was “clueless” about these issues and credits Stanford for “illuminating” him. “Education and generational change are important.” He recommended to “make it personal, step out of our comfort zone,” like going to visit a prison.

George Brown summed up the panel powerfully: “Our democracy is under challenge. The rule of law is at risk. The future of how our society works is at risk. I want to use all my skills and abilities, and everybody I know at Stanford, and all of Stanford’s alums to change that course. I encourage all of you to get on board to use your skills, use your leverage, use your influence to make a difference.”

I believe this panel of our very own superheroes has put forth the justification for SAASEI. This is not funding for some dusty, academic research. This is the fight for the very soul of our nation. Our once-shared values of a “melting pot” are melting away. Every generation needs to learn the value of democracy and diversity, the cost of freedom and safety. We, the “more vintage alum,” must use the resources and contacts and influence we have carefully garnered our whole working careers and put it on the line. What’s the most leveraged way to do so? To educate the next generation of leaders, our children, at one of the most prestigious institutions in the world, our alma mater, Stanford.

Alumni panelists:

  • Cory Booker, ’91, MA '92: United States Senator

    • Funniest moment of the night: At 31:00, Cory referenced Goodwin's story about the miscoding of AA names: “For the record, to avoid any future coding mistakes, I’m not Asian American.”

  • Maureen Keffer, JD ’11: Chief, Civil Rights, Accessibility & Racial Equity (CARE) Office at CA Dept of Social Services

  • Goodwin Liu, ’91: California State Supreme Court Associate Justice Moderators

  • Rick Banks, ’87, MA ’87, the Jackson Eli Reynolds Professor of Law, the co-founder and Faculty Director of the Stanford Center for Racial Justice and professor, by courtesy, of education at the Graduate School of Education

  • George Brown, Executive Director of the Stanford Center for Racial Justice


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