Racial Bias in America


Jeffery Robinson is a deputy legal director and the director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Trone Center for Justice and Equality.  Robinson is a faculty member of the National Criminal Defense College and has spoken nationally on the role of race in the criminal justice system.


“Racial Bias in America: How Did We Get Here and Why Are We Stuck?” examines the history of race in America, from the perspective of Jeffery Robinson, a nationally recognized trial attorney and respected teacher of trial advocacy.  Robinson challenges historical myths and proposes strategies to support social justice today.

This lecture was presented as part of two signature programs based in the Office of Inclusive Excellence.  The first, Perspectives on Bias, Prejudice, and Bigotry, is a public lecture series that explores the nature of prejudice and strategies to counter bias and hate in our time.  The second, Confronting Extremism, aims to forge new dialogues and actions, support the development of research and pedagogy, and identify evidence-based approaches that interrogate extremism and fortify UCI’s commitment to equity, diversity, inclusion, and free speech.

These signature programs align with the Regents' “Statement of Principles Against Intolerance.”  In this statement, the Regents reaffirm the University of California’s long-standing view that “acts of hatred and other intolerant conduct, as well as acts of discrimination that demean our differences, are antithetical to the values of the University and serve to undermine its purpose.”  The Regents also recognize that “freedom of expression and freedom of inquiry are paramount” and that the “University will vigorously defend the principles of the First Amendment.”

“Racial Bias in America: How Did We Get Here and Why Are We Stuck?”

The purpose of Perspectives on Bias, Prejudice, and Bigotry and Confronting Extremism is to advance the campus commitment to inclusive excellence.  In this lecture, Jeffery Robinson suggests the current crisis in U.S. race relations is both cause for alarm and an opportunity to shape our future.  At the same time, Robinson notes that an honest conversation about race requires that we “get comfortable with feeling uncomfortable.”

  • In his introductory remarks to Robinson’s lecture, Vice Chancellor Douglas Haynes describes the purpose of the series Perspectives on Bias, Prejudice, and Bigotry. How does Vice Chancellor Haynes define empathy?  And why is it central to UCI’s vision of inclusive excellence?
  • According to Robinson, how does the future of race in America relate to the past? What examples are given to illustrate this point?
  • How does Robinson define racism, and how does this definition inform his discussion of the U.S. national anthem and the Second Amendment?
  • How does Robinson frame the debate over Confederate monuments and the Confederate flag? What historical examples are given to illustrate his vantage point?
  • According to Robinson, what will it take to move the needle on race relations in America?

In this lecture, Jeffery Robinson suggests strategies for countering bias, hate, and extremism in our time.

  • How does Robinson’s lecture advance conversations about bias, prejudice, and bigotry? Does it balance free speech with mutual respect?  Does it provide a model for confronting the denial of our common humanity?
  • How does this lecture align with UCI’s commitment to an inclusive climate for all students, staff, and faculty?

Suggested Reading