In the history of American political debate, the language of liberty has all too often been turned to support white supremacy. The early American republic was unusually obsessed with the idea of liberty compared with European societies, across the decades that they were abolishing slavery but the US was entrenching it. Perhaps because it was a slave society, people more acutely perceived the importance of freedom. But the dominant discourse then often focused on the freedom to own slaves, and later on the freedom of southern states from federal interference in Jim Crow, or on a theory of market freedom and freedom of association that was opportunistically and hypocritically deployed to support segregation. Today, it is common to encounter the idea that as compared with European countries or Canada, the United States has chosen liberty over equality. But the U.S. is also extraordinarily unfree, especially in its policing and carceral practices, which disproportionately impact minorities. The legacy of a long ideological history of treating liberty as a political value just to the degree that it excluded African-Americans distorts conservative, progressive, and libertarian political discourse to this day.
The Black Law Students Association & The Federalist Society will host a conversation with Professor Jacob Levy of McGill University and Professor Jamelia Morgan of UConn Law on the topic of "Black Liberty Matters."