Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2012

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Michele S. Moses

Second Advisor

Bryan Brayboy

Third Advisor

Elizabeth Dutro


Despite the vast research on African Americans and affirmative action, little qualitative analysis has been done to investigate how race exists and functions in American law schools. This dissertation researches the ways in which race is constructed, deconstructed, and reconstructed within two American law schools. Three primary lenses guide this exploration: (a) Omi and Winant's theory of racial formation; (b) Bonilla-Silva's theory of color-blindness; and (c) critical race theory. The central question of this dissertation is: What can the experiences and voices of African American male former law school students reveal about race and how it functions in law schools? Additionally, how are these experiences related to attending more-selective or less-selective law schools? In the United States, the value of African Americans' law school experiences has been, most recently, reduced to a statistic. Missing from the statistics are the unique voices, perspectives, and experiences of African Americans who attended law school. Through individual and focus group interviews, my study investigated, compared, and contrasted the experiences of 10 African American male former law students who attended a less-selective or more-selective law school. Against a backdrop of 6 law school faculty interviews, to gain institutional perspective, I considered the former law students' "costs" and "benefits" as suggested by Sander (2004) and others. The participants revealed that both institutions must better address racial issues and impediments before identical statistical outcomes can be expected at any level. Ultimately, this dissertation calls for a replacement of the mismatch theory with, what I call-the process of progress. Where the mismatch theory is grounded in exclusion, my theory is grounded in inclusion. In the struggle for equity, the focus must be on the institutions, not the individuals. I call upon the institutions to pay particular attention to groups who have historically been disenfranchised from the law school process. In the end, as long as law schools are a microcosm of American society, by implication, the process of progress will better serve America and our democratic ideals.

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