Politics
6:00 pm
Thu May 1, 2014

Law Professor: Race Still Uncomfortable to Discuss

Emily Chiang started the S.J. Quinney School of Law's specialized Civil Rights Clinic. She says race is an issue many people think American have conquered racism but it troubles them enough to keep talking about it.
Credit S.J. Quinney School of Law / University of Utah

The conversation about race has heated up this week in Utah and throughout the nation.

Civil Rights expert Emily Chiang, associate professor at the University of Utah’s S.J. Quinney College of Law, says it’s a sign that America still isn’t the color-blind society many claim it is.

Chiang runs the law school’s civil rights clinic, and she says people are talking about race so much because they’re conflicted about it.

Recently Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy said blacks were better off as slaves. Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling remarked African Americans weren’t welcome at his teams’ games. And Utah State Rep. David Lifferth, R-Eagle Mountain, tweeted online that the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is a racist organization.

Jeanetta Williams, president of the Utah Chapter of the NAACP.
Credit Linked-in

  Chiang says the nation may want to think its colorblind, but it’s not.

“We do have people with racist attitudes,” she says. “We do still have problems that are largely defined by and confined by race.”

Chiang points to incarceration rates that are disproportionally high for people of color and graduation rates that are disproportionately low. She says factors like these – along with those widely discussed remarks -- are signs that racial prejudice persists.

“And, I think that as long as those problems continue to exist,” she says, “we can’t ignore them and say there’s no need for an NAACP anymore, because there plainly is.”

Chiang says it’s important to keep talking about the issue.

That’s also what Jeanetta Williams would like to see. She’s the president of the Utah Chapter of the NAACP, and she’s been going back and forth on the issue with Lifferth, who called the NAACP racist the other day. Williams says that’s stereotyping.

“People need to stop and think about the things that are being said out in public – just like this state representative – fostering negative things about a group of people, or an organization that they have no knowledge of,” she says.

NAACP takes pride in standing up for victims of racial hatred regardless of their skin color, says Williams.

Utah State Rep. David Lifferth, R-Eagle Mountain
Credit David Lifferth

 Lifferth, did not respond to calls and emails seeking comment. But he’s posted comments supporting and opposing his views on his blog.