Arizona State University: Systemic Racism – Defining Terms and Evaluating Evidence

Lara BazelonMurdock Hall, Arizona State University

School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership: “Systemic Racism: Defining Terms and Evaluating Evidence”


The School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership at Arizona State University, a JMC partner program, hosted Lara Bazelon and Jason Riley for the second lecture in its series, “Can We Talk Honestly About Race?” The event also served as SCETL’s Annual Martin Luther King Day Lecture:

What do we mean by the term “Systemic Racism?”  How does it differ from individual prejudice and legal discrimination?  “Does systemic racism exist in any significant degree in contemporary American society, and if so, how big a problem is it?” Are racially disparate de facto outcomes evidence of structural racism? Or do we oversimplify societal challenges by attributing all inequities to racism?  To what extent is systemic racism the product of history (the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow), culture, the law, or public policy? Has America made progress in achieving racial equality not only legally, but also in terms of social customs, practices, and norms?  To the extent structural racism remains a problem, how should it be addressed?  What should be the role of law and public policy in trying to overcome it? 

The second lecture in the series, which is also the SCETL Annual Martin Luther King Day Lecture, will be a conversation between University of San Francisco School of Law professor Lara Bazelon and senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and Wall Street Journal opinion columnist Jason Riley about the meaning of the term “systemic racism.” Bazelon and Riley both express concern about racism and inequality in the United States of America. While Bazelon is concerned that the overuse of the term “systemic racism” will make it meaningless and reductive, she fears failure to take it seriously will perpetuate racial inequality. Riley believes that there are limits to what politicians and government can do to address persistent racial disparities.

Tuesday, January 18, 2022 • 5:00 PM
Turquoise Room, Memorial Union 241 • Arizona State University

Free and open to the public.

Click here to watch on YouTube >>



Jason Riley is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a columnist for the Wall  Street Journal, where he has written about politics, economics, education, immigration and social inequality for more than 25 years. He’s also a frequent public speaker and provides commentary for television and radio news outlets. After joining the Journal in 1994, Mr. Riley was named a senior editorial page writer in 2000 and a member of the Editorial Board in 2005. He joined the Manhattan Institute, a public policy think tank focused on urban affairs, in 2015. Mr. Riley is the author of four books: Let Them In: The Case for Open Borders (2008); Please Stop Helping Us: How Liberals Make It Harder for Blacks to Succeed (2014); False Black Power? (2017); and Maverick: A Biography of Thomas Sowell (2021).

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Lara Bazelon is a professor at the University of San Francisco School of Law where she holds the Barnett Chair in Trial Advocacy and directs the Criminal & Juvenile Justice and Racial Justice Clinics. Before that, Lara worked for seven years as a trial attorney in the Office of the Federal Public Defender and for three years as the director of the Loyola Law School Project for the Innocent. A graduate of Columbia University and NYU School of Law, Lara clerked for the Hon. Harry Pregerson on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

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The School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership at Arizona State University seeks to introduce a new level of debate over the large questions of life that always arise. These are questions of value: What is the best form of government? The most efficient and just economy? The good life for an individual? And also basic questions of fact and concept: Is science the only kind of knowledge? Does history have a direction and purpose? Is moral choice a fact or delusion? These questions do not have easy answers, and indeed the questions have always been clearer than the answers. As a learning community of faculty and students, the school approaches them in two ways. One way is to look beyond the time and borders of our present society to the great thinkers who have contended for the high status of teachers of humanity, such as Homer, Dante and Shakespeare. The other way of studying the fundamental questions is to look within to American leaders, both intellectual and political, who have inspired us.

Learn more about the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership >>



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