Document Type

Article

Publication Date

Fall 1996

Abstract

Beginning with a discussion of the United States Supreme Court’s decision in McLaurin v. Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education, this article discusses the meaning of “integration.” In McLaurin, the University of Oklahoma was forced to abandon its segregation policy and not separate black students from their white classmates in all settings (not just the classroom). The McLaurin decision raised the fundamental questions: "What is integration?" and "How is integration related to racial equality?" Significantly, the McLaurin Court clarifies that equality is premised on integration and that integration means more than just having a presence in an institution. The case highlights the complexities of the concept of integration even though the concept on its face seems rather simple. Thus, McLaurin is an invitation to explore the relationship between equality and integration.

Equality is achieved when people of color and whites lay equal claim to a shared environment or institution, including shaping institutional policy. This article focuses on racial segregation on law reviews, a persistent problem with respect to black students at many law schools. Law review as an institution enjoys enormous significance in allocating power among students, and membership on law review can have a significant and enduring positive effect on a person's career. Law review opens up career possibilities that generally are foreclosed to students who do not join the review. As long as law reviews remain racially segregated, racial equality in law schools remains elusive because students of color are cut-off from significant career opportunities. Perhaps this exploration will lead to ideas about how law school communities can become more integrated in ways that move beyond the simplest understanding of integration based on numbers and move us into the sophisticated McLaurin definition of integration based on racial equality.

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