Document Type



Law and Race | Legal Education


Gen Z is defined as including persons born after 1996 and, in 2018, the first Gen Z would have been twenty-two years old, the historically traditional age that many complete undergraduate studies and enter law school. With Gen Z entering law schools, the legal academy has been wholeheartedly preparing for the arrival of the first truly digital native generation in a myriad of ways. However, law training has been slow to progress in addressing the unspoken complexities of context and unconscious bias in the classroom with this population. Today’s Gen Z students were predominately raised in de facto segregated schools and communities reminiscent of the Silent Generation of those born between 1920s and 1940s. The legal academy now has a critical opportunity to educate future attorneys, legal scholars, executives, judges, and legislators through guided classroom discussions on systemic racism and unconscious bias beginning in their first year of law school. By embedding these conversations in legal education, students can shape their understanding of the cases they study and learn additional nuances to address in the law. Cognitive dissonance explains why conversations about race and discrimination require a purposeful focus. After helping students understand why they might have a visceral reaction to discussions about race, and helping them understand how to become receptive to new insights, the instructor can then introduce students to structural racialization and structural racism at a macro-level. This Essay outlines cognitive dissonance theory, color blindness ideology, and its relationship to racial inequality, while providing classroom techniques that encourage dialogue related to conversations on equity and race. These classroom strategies will help professors’ awareness of equity in the legal profession and the justice system