This article proposes a theory of legal practice grounded not in an uncritical adherence to the law, nor to abstract notions of liberalism or progressivism, but in the lived realities of Black people. Employing various theoretical paradigms developed by Christina Sharpe in her book In the Wake: On Blackness and Being, this article suggests that lawyers should think and act in coordination with and on behalf of those who suffer under the various regimes of anti-Blackness (what Sharpe and others refer to as the wake of chattel slavery), which are, in part, constituted by the very legal systems lawyers navigate. If we understand Black life and legal practice carried out in its name in this way, the law might be seen less as some higher principle to which lawyers should bow, and more as a material tool of oppression lawyers ought to repurpose, manipulate, and/or weaken in order to protect its victims.
The author gives his sincere thanks to Rachel Goldman, Sarah Bradford, and the other editors of the CUNY Law Review for their generous engagement with this work.
James Ramsey, Lawyering in the Wake: Theorizing the Practice of Law in the Midst of Anti-Black Catastrophe, 24 CUNY L. REV. F. 12 (2021).