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This article was originally published in: 48 Hastings Constitutional Law Quarterly 181 (2020)


Furtive Blackness: On Blackness and Being (“Furtive Blackness”) and The Strict Scrutiny of Black and BlaQueer Life (“Strict Scrutiny”) take a fresh approach to both criminal law and constitutional law; particularly as they apply to African descended peoples in the United States. This is an intervention as to the description of the terms of Blackness in light of the social order but, also, an exposure of the failures and gaps of law. This is why the categories as we have them are inefficient to account for Black life. The way legal scholars have encountered and understood the language of law has been wholly insufficient to understand how law encounters human life. These articles are about the hermeneutics of law. While I center case history and Black letter law, I am also arguing explicitly that the law has a dynamic life beyond the courtroom, a life of constructing and dissembling Black life. Together, these essays and exercises in legal philosophy are pointing toward a new method of thinking about law, a method that makes central the material reality of the Black in black letter law.

They examine the semiotic relationships between race, gender, sexuality, and the law. While Furtive Blackness is primarily concerned with regimes of policing—both by badged officers and deputized citizens—Strict Scrutiny examines how the reconstruction amendments have been deployed and redeployed to strictly scrutinize Black presence and appeals to justice and make them unintelligible, irrelevant claims without justiciable and therefore outside of law the concern of law. Strict Scrutiny is a riff on the phrase of judicial review that is primarily concerned with the Court’s inversion of the term to tightly regulate and foreclose Black access to legal redress, as well as the police practice of strictly scrutinizing Black presence and movement in public and private places. In essence, the ascription of furtivity makes way for strict scrutinization; while the Black interior strategy of furtivity and refusal creates a survival praxis that allows for a reprieve in the wake of these indignities.

These articles are an interpretation of the law as a tool of anti-blackness and an exposition of Black thought and deed in response to anti Blackness, both in black letter law and day to day life. Both articles are descriptive, interdisciplinary and rooted in traditional law and accented by Black queer and feminist theory, critical race studies, performance studies and literary analysis.