Introduction: Assuming a Critical Lens in Legal Studies: Reconciling Laws and Reality
Social justice and civil rights movements center on protecting and advancing the rights and interests of people across assumed and assigned identities, affinity groups, and socially constructed realities. They confront and demand reform and transformation of systems, structures, institutions, and laws that frustrate and foreclose social and racial justice. For the law to be relevant it must respond to shifting priorities and goals and to demands for change that emerge through and in response to these movements. The content and expression of law must be guided by inherent principles of equity, inclusion, and justice. Those currently in the legal profession and those preparing to enter it are engaging and learning the law during a syndemic, which is surfacing and intersecting with entrenched societal fissures and fault lines resulting from historic, pervasive, and continuing structural, systemic, and institutional inequality. The dynamic nature of the current reality shaped by a global pandemic, a racial reckoning, and unconscionable and unsustainable power, and resource inequities between people and communities urge us to reflect on the role of the law in creating, maintaining, and facilitating inequality. This moment also calls us to examine the responsibility of law to cure persisting inequality, to redress the injury it inflicts, and to curate a more equitable reality for all people.