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Law professor challenges students to seek diverse democracy

Frank H. Wu, the inaugural Law and Humanities Lecturer for the Center for Law and Humanities, encouraged an audience in Whitley Auditorium on Oct. 28 to not be bystanders in a struggle for diversity and to develop a sense of community through dialog about race and difference.

Frank H. Wu spoke with two Elon classes a few hours before his Oct. 28 lecture in Whitley Auditorium.

Wu, the former dean of the Wayne State University Law School and a noted author on race relations in the United States as they relate to Asian Americans, compared diversity to democracy, in which both are a process, and not an outcome.

“What’s great about democracy is that it renews itself all the time,” he said. “The same is to be said for diversity. We’ll not ask when is it over, when will it end, but we’ll add our part and come to understand it as a great ideal.”

“Then we can allow individuals and community to thrive,” he continued. “This will occur if and only if we work together. It’s up to you to actively sustain a sense of community through the intellectual exchange of ideals.”

Wu opened his lecture with a story about a boy passing him on the street. Wu, an Asian American, said he was approached by the child, who then extended his hands into a karate-style fighting pose.

These are moments, Wu explained, that people often let go because to respond would be deemed “hypersensitive.” The problem, he said, is that they all add up. These “compound transgressions are corrosive to our spirit.”

“It’s these little moments that we are all guilty of, that we might excuse, that all add up,” he said. “We produce a pattern that is unmistakably racial. The consequences are that we then separate ourselves with divisions that harden over time.”

Wu met earlier in the day with law students, faculty and guests of the Center and the Elon University School of Law at a breakfast reception and he addressed two classes on main campus later in the day. He is the author of Yellow: Race in America Beyond Black and White, and he co-authored Race, Rights and Reparation: Law and the Japanese American Internment.

He served as the ninth dean of Wayne State University School of Law from 2004-2008 and is currently a visiting professor at the University of Maryland and George Washington University.

- Written by Bethany Swanson ‘09


Eric Townsend,
10/29/2008 4:00 PM