'Covering: The Hidden Assault on Our Civil Rights' lecture March 19
Feb. 7, 2014 - Kenji Yoshino, the Chief Justice Earl Warren Professor of Constitutional Law at New York University School of Law, will discuss his book, "Covering: The Hidden Assault on Our Civil Rights," at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, March 19, in the Grand Courtroom of the School of Law Center. A book signing will follow Yoshino's lecture.
"Everyone covers," Yoshino said. "To cover is to downplay a disfavored trait so as to blend into the mainstream. Because all of us possess stigmatized attributes, we all encounter pressure to cover in our daily lives. Given its pervasiveness, we may experience this pressure to be a simple fact of social life."
Yoshino argues that the demand to cover can pose a hidden threat to civil rights.
"Though we have come to some consensus against penalizing people for differences based on race, sex, sexual orientation, religion, and disability, we still routinely deny equal treatment to people who refuse to downplay differences along these lines," Yoshino said. "Racial minorities are pressed to 'act white' by changing their names, languages or cultural practices. Women are told to 'play like men' at work. Gays are asked not to engage in public displays of same-sex affection. The devout are instructed to minimize expressions of faith, and individuals with disabilities are urged to conceal the paraphernalia that permit them to function."
In his wide-ranging analysis, Yoshino demonstrates that American civil rights law has generally ignored the threat posed by these covering demands. Yoshino said the work of civil rights will not be complete until it attends to the harms of coerced conformity.
Yoshino also will respond to the American exasperation with identity politics, which often seems like an endless parade of groups asking for state and social solicitude.
"The ubiquity of the covering demand provides an opportunity to lift civil rights into a higher, more universal register," said Yoshino, whose argument draws deeply on his personal experience as a gay Asian American. "Since we all experience the covering demand, we can all make common cause around a new civil rights paradigm based on our desire for authenticity -- a desire that brings us together rather than driving us apart."
Yoshino was educated at Harvard, Oxford, where he was a Rhodes Scholar and Yale Law School. He taught at Yale Law School from 1998 to 2008, where he served as deputy dean and became the inaugural Guido Calabresi Professor in 2006. His fields are constitutional law, anti-discrimination law, and law and literature.
Yoshino has published in major academic journals, including "The Columbia Law Review," "The Harvard Law Review," "The Stanford Law Review," and "The Yale Law Journal." He has also written for The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times and The Washington Post. He makes regular appearances on various radio and television programs, including NPR, PBS and MSNBC. In 2011 he was elected to the Harvard Board of Overseers.
Yoshino's lecture is free and open to the public. For more information, call 203-582-8652.