Conference addresses structural racism

By Hayes Gardner

Memorial Hall and the UK College of Law will host the inaugural James and Mary Lassiter Distinguished Visiting Professor Conference on “Structural Racism: Inequality in America Today” on Feb. 25.

Professor William M. Wiecek of Syracuse University is the first Lassiter Distinguished Visiting Professor at the College of Law, and will lead the conference, along with other speakers from UK and the surrounding area.

John Powell, executive director of the Kirwan Institue for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at Ohio State University, will deliver the keynote address.  Powell founded the Institute on Race and Poverty at the University of Minnesota and served as national legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union.  His resume also includes time living in Africa, where he worked for the governments of Mozambique and South Africa.

The conference will last from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m.

After the keynote address from Powell, there will be three 90-minute sessions, starting at 10:30 a.m., 1 p.m. and 2:45 p.m.  Each session will include two to three different panel topics to choose from, ranging from “Racialized Identities and Attitudes and Stereotypes,” to “Legal History and Structural Racism in Education.”

The organizers of the conference want it to have a positive impact.

“I hope this conference will get people talking and understanding the problems surrounding structural racism through a common vocabulary,” Wiecek said.

The conference will begin in the College of Law lobby and will continue in Memorial Hall.

Because the conference is free to the public, interested UK students do not need to purchase a ticket.

“Simply show up.” Wiecek said.

However, interested students should, if possible, register online for the conference, so that the organizers know how many people to expect.  Students can register by going to the UK Law School website, searching “Lassiter Conference” in the top right corner, and following the instructions.

The Lassiter Conference is named for Judge James M. Lassiter, who graduated from UK’s College of Law in 1949.  He served most of his career working as a circuit judge for the state of Kentucky.