In her opening remarks at this year’s lecture, Dewart Bell noted how much her late husband loved to teach, saying that a lecture in his honor at the school where he taught was a particularly apt way of remembering him. “It was always students first,” Dewart Bell said. “For him, there was no higher calling than teacher.”
Gonzales Rose began her lecture by noting Bell’s belief that racism was a major structure in American legal doctrine that could not be overcome by small reforms. With this in mind, she said, we need to evaluate the legal apparatus that must be reformed in order to create larger structural change. In particular, Gonzales Rose pointed to the need to eliminate racism in how evidence is used in legal proceedings.
Tracing the history of evidence, Gonzales Rose noted that for much of American history, race-based witness competency laws prevented Black and brown people from testifying against white people, while allowing white people to testify against all racial groups. “Evidence law no longer overtly grants or diminishes testimonial competence on the basis of race,” she said. “However, this continues to occur in subtle colorblind ways.”