Introductory Seminars for First-Year Students

Law and Inequality


Most Americans know that discrimination on the basis of race, sex, and religion is unlawful. Seems simple enough. But advertisements in the back of newspapers still announce:

"Single White Female Seeks Single White Male?" Isn't that discrimination on the basis of race and sex? Most businesses don't consider men for women's locker room or bathroom attendant. And why aren't those men and women's bathrooms and locker rooms illegal segregation? After all, we know what would happened if some business set up separate bathrooms for blacks and whites. Isn't it discrimination for an employer to insist that men wear a jacket and tie and women wear nylons and a skirt? Why are some forms of discrimination unlawful and others not? Why is discrimination against short people, overweight people, or people with annoying personalities not against the law? We will answer these and many other questions by looking at court cases, legal theory, and philosophy. We may also have conversations with guest lecturers who work in civil rights enforcement, and the seminar may include a field trip to visit the offices of civil rights lawyers (lawyers tend to be busy people so these opportunities will depend on their schedules). Class participation and a short final paper are required, but there are no prerequisites other than an open mind and a willingness to delve into unfamiliar material. 


Meet the Instructor(s)

Richard Ford

Richard Ford

Richard Thompson Ford received his B.A. from Stanford (1988) and his J.D. from Harvard Law School (1991), and is an expert on civil rights and antidiscrimination law. His scholarship on questions of race and multiculturalism combines social criticism and legal analysis, and he writes for both popular readers and for academic and legal specialists. His work has focused on the social and legal conflicts surrounding claims of discrimination, on the causes and effects of racial segregation, and on the use of territorial boundaries as instruments of social regulation. Before joining the Stanford Law School faculty in 1994, he was a Reginald F. Lewis Fellow at Harvard Law School, a litigation associate with Morrison & Foerster, and a housing policy consultant for the City of Cambridge, Mass. He has also been a commissioner of the San Francisco Housing Authority. He has written for the Washington PostSan Francisco ChronicleChristian Science Monitor, and for Slate, where he is a regular contributor. His latest book is The Race Card: How Bluffing About Bias Makes Race Relations Worse.