Florence Wagman Roisman

Friday, November 6, 2020

Is My Place in the Galley Still? 
Presented by Florence Wagman Roisman

Professor Roisman’s topic centered on this central thesis: “white supremacy and its cognates are the most destructive force on earth.” Her title comes from the poem “The Negro Hero” by Gwendolyn Brooks, the first Black author to win the Pulitzer Prize.

Florence Roisman smiling for a picture with a gray background.Professor Roisman’s lecture focused on the most important task for all of us: to eliminate every trace of racism, misogyny, homophobia, islamophobia, anti-semitism – every notion that because of some immutable characteristic one human being is worth less than others. She is the William F. Harvey Professor of Law at IU McKinney. Professor Roisman is donating the honorarium from the lecture to the IU McKinney Student Emergency Fund.

She has taught full-time at Georgetown University Law Center and the law schools of the University of Maryland, Catholic University, and Widener University; she has taught part-time at the George Washington University National Law Center and the Antioch School of Law. In 2006 she was the J. Skelly Wright Fellow at Yale Law School. In 2002 and 2011, she received Trustees' Teaching Awards from Indiana University. Professor Roisman serves on the boards of the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana and the Inclusive Communities Project of Dallas, TX. She previously served on the boards of the Society of American Law Teachers, the National ACLU, the District of Columbia Bar, the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless, and the Poverty and Race Research Action Council, of which she was a co-founder.

The substantive focus of her practice, teaching, and writing has been on low-income housing, homelessness, and housing discrimination and segregation. Professor Roisman also supervises an externship with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Indiana and has supervised a homeless assistance externship as well.

Below is a video of Professor Rosiman's 2020 Last Lecture presentation at IUPUI.

Description of the video:

Hello everyone. It is my pleasure to welcomeyou to the 12th AnnualLast Lecture at IUPUI.And the first time,as well as hopefully the lasttime, this event is being held virtually.My name is Kathy Johnson and I serve asProfessor of Psychologyin the School of Science.I'm also currently serving asExecutive Vice Chancellorfor Academic Affairsand one ofmy favorite things about my positionis supporting this particular event.This year's presentation willbe a little different and I willreally miss seeing all ofyour familiar faces this year.Normally we gather togetherin the campus center.Faculty and staff, who arethe backbone of this campus,students and alumni, who inspire us,and members of the community,who collaborate with us.And of course, Chancellor Paydar, deans,and all the other peoplewho have led our campusso ably. We even haveretirees from IUPUI return for the event.And I will really misscatching up with all of you.I know that this year has beenunprecedented and different in so many ways,so I'm very excited that we are able to takejust a moment to celebratethe achievement of one of our colleagues.As a little bit of history.The Last Lecture series isa very important tradition that isjointly sponsored by the IUPUI Senior Academy,the Office of Academic Affairs,and the IU Foundation.It was inspired by the best-selling bookand lecture delivered byRandy Pausch in 2007at Carnegie Mellon University.Dr. Pausch delivered his lecture shortlyafter being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.And it had nothing at all to do withhis field of computer science.Rather, it was a lecturedesigned around the wisdom that hewanted to convey to the world based onhis personal andprofessional lived experiences.Members of our Senior Academy tookthis idea and expanded it in orderto honor the outstanding legacies of ourretiring or recently retired faculty.Each speaker over the years hasresponded to the same assignment.That is, if you couldonly give one final lecture,what would you share with your colleagues andstudents at this moment of your life,given the experiences you havehad and the wisdom that you have accrued.The Last Lecture is a signature element ofthe Senior Academy's efforts tocontinue to enrich the IUPUI community.I'm tremendously grateful to the members ofthe Senior Academy for their leadership,their limitless enthusiasm andadvocacy for IUPUI,as well as for their friendship.This year, our speaker isProfessor Florence Roisman from the IURobert H. McKinney School of Law.You'll hear more about themost important lessons she'slearned and what's to passto others very shortly.Let me close by thanking the membersof the Senior Academy for their efforts intranslating an idea intoa lasting legacy for our campus.So thank you for virtually joining usand watching ProfessorRoisman tell her story.I hope that you can take awaysome nuggets of wisdom fromher experiences and applythem to your own lives going forward.Next up to tell youmore about the Senior Academy,please welcomePresident of the IUPUISenior Academy,Dr. Marianne Wokeck. Welcome Marianne.

>>Thank you, Kathy. Hello.It is my pleasure to welcome you tothe 12th annual Last Lecture at IUPUI.The Senior Academyas an independent associationof retired faculty andstaff whose members continue to contributetheir expertise and experienceto support the educational,research, and service missions of IUPUI.The Last Lecture series at IUPUIis inspired bythe idea of having distinguishedsenior colleagues share wisdomgleaned from that longand productive careers.Speaking from their hearts and headsas if this truly were their last lecture.This lecture series was initiated in2009 by Dr. James East,Professor of Communication Studies,Associate Dean of the School of Liberal Arts,and former President of the Senior Academy.Since its inception, the academy has takenthe leadership in selectingand inviting the guest lecturer.It gives me great pleasure to nowbe able to ask Professor Karen Bravo,Dean of the IURobert H. McKinney School of Law,to introduce this year's speaker.Welcome, Karen.

>>Thank you, Marianne.
Good morning. It is my honor and privilege tointroduce this year's Last Lecture speaker.My colleague and friend,Professor Florence Wagman Roisman.Professor Roisman has beena member of the faculty at the IURobert H. McKinney School of Law since 1997.Here, she educates andinspires generations of law students,faculty members, staff, and alumni.After graduating cum laudefrom Harvard Law School,Professor Roisman beganher career at the Federal Trade Commission.She laterjoined the US Department of Justicein the appellate section ofthe Civil Rights Division,and then became staffattorney and then managingattorney for the District ofColumbia Neighborhood Legal Services Program.During her legal services tenure,Professor Roisman was co-counselin several of the landlord-tenant casesthat now appear inmany property law case books.Professor Roisman has taughtat a number of law schools,including Georgetown University Law Centerand the law schools ofthe University of Maryland,Catholic University and Weidner University.In addition to her role asa legal educator and scholar,Professor Roisman iscommitted to public service.She serves on the boards ofthe American Civil Liberties Union of Indianaand the Inclusive CommunitiesProject of Dallas, Texas.She previously served on the board ofthe Society of American Law Teachers,the National ACLU,the District of Columbia Bar,the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless,and the Poverty and RaceResearch Action Council,of which she was a co-founder.Professor Roisman has beenhonored numerous times forher dedication to public interest law,including the following.In 1989, she wasthe first recipient of the Kutak-DoddsPrize awarded bythe ABA Standing Committeeon legal aid, and indigent defendants, and theNational Legal Aid and Defender Association.In 1994, she was the first recipient ofGeorgetown University Law Center'sEqual Justice Foundation Awardfor outstanding faculty commitmentto public interest law.In 2000, shereceived the Thurgood Marshall Award givenby the District of Columbia Bar. In 2010,The District of Columbia Legal Aid Societygave Professor Roismanits Servant of Justice Awardquote, "For faithful dedicationand remarkable achievementin assuring that all personshave actual and meaningful access to justice,"close quote. In 2011,she received the Cushing Niles DolbeareLifetime Service Award fromthe National Low-Income Housing Coalition.And in 2014, Professor Roismanwas honored withthe M Shanara Gilbert Human Rights Awardfrom the Society of American Law Teachers.In 2017, Professor Roismanreceived the Pioneer ofJustice Award fromthe Neighborhood Legal Services Programin Washington D.C.Professor Roisman also has beenrecognized for her excellence inthe classroom. In 2002 and in 2011,she received Trustees' TeachingAwards from Indiana University.Thank you, Professor Roismanfor your service duringyour long and productive professional careeras a lawyer and as a legal educator.We at the law schoolespecially appreciate you forthe example and inspirationthat you provide to all of us.And we're looking forward toyour reflections during your last lecture.Congratulations.

Thank you very much, Dean Bravo.I'm deeply grateful to Professor EmeritaMarianne Wokeck for nominating me to givethis lecture and toProfessor and Dean EmeritusSherry Queener for her many courtesiesover these past months.I'm grateful also tothe Office of Academic Affairs,the Senior Academy,and the Indiana UniversityFoundation for all theydo to make this Last Lecture series possible,particularly inthis challenging pandemic year.And I very much appreciateExecutive Vice Chancellor Kathy Johnsonand her manifold contributions tothe advancement of our academic community.The title for this lecture is froma poem by Gwendolyn Brooks.The poem is entitled "The Negro Hero"with the subtitle "To Suggest Dorie Miller."I wonder how many peoplelistening to this lecture knowDorie Miller was. An African-American,the son of Texas sharecroppers andthe grandson of people who had been enslaved.He was a mess attendant,third class in the US Navy in 1941,working in the kitchen and laundry on-boardthe USS West Virginia when it wasattacked at Pearl Harbor on December 7th.Racing to the bridge of the ship,Dorie Miller undertook to fireand anti-aircraft machine gun thathe, has an African-American in adiscriminatory and segregate US Navy,had not been trained to operate.He then helped to rescuesailors from the burning oil-soakedwater, saving many lives.For his bravery, he was awardedthe Navy Cross, at the time,the third highest award given bythe US Navy for gallantry in combat.In 1973, the destroyer "Escort Miller,"named for him, was christened.An aircraft carrier to be launched in 2028also was to be named for Dorie Miller.In her poem, Gwendolyn Brookswrites, in Dorie Miller's voice,"Am I clean enough to kill for them?Do they wish me to kill for them?Or is my place while death licks his lipsand strides to them in the galley still?"Here is the point of my last lecture.What I would say to whoever wouldlisten if I were at the pointof death burning to pass onthe most important lesson I've learned inmy almost 82 years, thatthe place of Dorie Millerand all other black people andpeople of color is not in the galley still.That their place is full participation inthe US and global society,economy and culture.And that those of us who are white,most ally with those who are notto end and redressthe white supremacist racial injusticeon which this country is built.This is the single most important taskwe all face.As educators,citizens, parents, and grandparents.In a recent article aboutthe term white supremacy,The New York Times reference toprominent black academicwho criticized use ofthe term here because he said it's tooreminiscent of South African apartheidand Nazi Germany.But South Africa learnedapartheid from the United States,as did Nazi Germany learned toconstruct its racial laws from us.I outlined the subject ofthis lecture in February 2020,before the deaths ofGeorge Floyd, Breonna Taylor, AhmaudArbery, Daniel Prude,and Walter Wallace Jr. Beforethe demonstrations in Minneapolis and St.Louis and Portland andKenosha and Washington D.C.I say this not toclaim any special prescience,but to remind us that these issuesof racial justice were withus long before they returned tonational prominence just a few months ago.As William Faulkner wrote Requiem For a Nun,"The past is never dead.It's not even past."Considering only the 20th century,we had major white on black race riots in,among other places, East St. Louis,Chicago, Tulsa, New York, and Detroit.In among other years, 1919, 1935, and 1943.In 1965,'66, and '67,starting with the Watts uprisingin Los Angeles,the country was convulsed byblack people's protests againstwhite brutality and oppression.President Johnson appointeda commission to considerthe causes of the civil disorders andremedies for them.The commission, the Kerner Commission,officially issued its reporton March 1st, 1968.It said, and I will quote five statements.First, "Nearly two-thirds ofall non-white families livingin the central citiestoday live in neighborhoods markedsubstandard housingand general urban blight."Second, "Segregationand poverty have created inthe racial ghetto a destructive environmenttotally unknown to most white Americans."Third, "Our nation ismoving towards two societies.One black, one white,separate and unequal."Forth, "What white Americans havenever fully understood,but what the Negro can never forget is thatwhite society is deeplyimplicated in the ghetto.White institutions created it,white institutions maintain it,and white society condones it."Fifth, and finally,the Kerner Commission publishedthese prophetic words in 1968,"To pursue our present course willinvolve the continuing polarization ofthe American community andultimately the destructionof basic democratic values."Concluding the report,the Kerner Commission quotedDr. Kenneth Clark's testimony.He said, and I quote after Clark,"I read the report ofthe 1919 riot in Chicagoand it is as if I were reading the report ofthe investigating committee onthe Harlem Riot of 1935,the report of the investigating committeeon the Harlem Riot of 1943.The report of the McCone Commissionon the Watts Riot.I must again in candor sayto you members of this commission,it is a kind of Alice in Wonderland withthe same moving picture shown over again,the same analysis, the same recommendations,and the same inaction."That report was issued on March 1st1968. Slightly morethan a month later on April 4th,Doctor King was assassinatedand civil disordersbroke out in 138 localities.I was in Washington D.C. in April 1968,a young legal services lawyer. To witnessthe nation's capital undera curfew and Marshall Law,military police controlling the streets,several areas of the city on fire,machine gun embankments onthe grounds of the US capital.We saw a version ofthis earlier this year across the street fromthe White House. And then of course,more uprisings after 1968. In Miami,after acquittal of the police who hadkilled Arthur McDuffy, inLos Angeles after the police beating ofRodney King, in New York,after the police abuse ofAbner Louima andthe police shooting of Amadou Diallo,and more recently,after the deaths of Freddie Gray,Sandra Bland, Michael Brown, PhilandoCastile, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin,Tamir Rice, to saythe names of only a few of the victims.Although the evils of white supremacy,of systemic racism, existsin every aspect of our lives,I'll focus on housing,which has been the subjectof my professional work.The conditions and locationof our housing largelydetermine our opportunities for education,employment, safety,recreation, transportation, and health.White supremacist ideas,laws and policies have relegatedmost black people andother people of color inthe United States tohousing that is substandard,egregiously expensive,incapable of offering much,if any opportunity for equity appreciation,located in areas where few,if any, white people live,areas that are characterized by poor schools,hazardous sites,inadequate recreation,transportation, and employment.There are ten major explanationsfor this situation.Racial zoning, racial covenants,the Federal Housing Administrationand Veterans Administration,homeownership programs,the urban renewal andfederal AID highway programs.The principle methods of providinghousing subsidies today, that is,public housing vouchers andthe low income housing tax credits,local zoning laws, and community bias.I will say a bit about each of these.From the beginning of the 20th century,many cities had zoning lawsthat confined blacks andother despised minoritiesto relatively small and undesirable areas.Although the US Supreme Court heldthis explicit racial zoningunconstitutional in 1917,cities continued to enactand enforce such laws.Indianapolis enacted one in 1926.Developers and white homeownersthen used racial covenants,agreements among homeowners,to prohibit non-whites fromowning or occupying homesin much of the city and suburbs.The FHA and VArequired those racial covenants as they usetaxpayer money to enablewhite families to buy homes and build wealth.Even after racial covenantswere held on enforceable in 1948,and finally illegal in 1968,developers and homeowners continuedto put them into deeds and tofollow their restrictions. Ofthe billions of dollarsmade available by FHAand VA for home ownership,between 1934 and 1959,98% went to white homeownersin all white neighborhoods.The federal urban renewal andfederal AID highway programs wereused to destroy housing andneighborhoods of nonwhite people.We have examples close to homein the destruction of the Ransom Place,Indiana Avenue neighborhood that wasa nationally prominentAfrican American community.And in the destruction ofthe area in the south of Indianapolis,that was a vibrant multi-racial area.Our colleagues, Paul Mullins andSusan Hyatt have chronicled these losses.A welcome response is IUPUI'srecent creation of the "ThroughTheir Eyes" scholarship program fordescendants of persons displacedfrom Ransom Place in Indiana Avenue.What more will we do tocompensate for these deep impurities?The subsidized housingprograms we have today,principally public housing vouchersand the low-income housing tax credit, allreinforce discrimination againstsegregation of non-white families.Landlords in the suburbs refusedto accept voucher holders as tenants.Suburbs should have inclusionary zoning likethat introduced in Montgomery County,Maryland in 1974.Instead, local zoning laws in the suburbs ofour cities excludes subsidized housing.And indeed, any form oflower cost residence forfamilies, such as other apartments,townhouses, or clustered housing.And as our Bloomington colleague,Professor Janine Bell showed in2019 articlein the Harvard Civil RightsCivil Liberties Law Review,hostile attitudes expressed inthe suburbs make clear that even well-to-donon-whites who do not need subsidies orlower cost housing are askingfor trouble if they become pioneersby living in predominantly white suburbslike Carmel,Geist, Noblesville, and Fishers.These factors explain whyhomeownership by white households in2018 was 73%, while Hispanic ownership,homeownership was 47.1%, andblack homeownership was 42.9%.Unchanged over the decade.While white homeownership increased,widening the black-white racial homeownershipgap to 30.1 points.These factors are the larger partof the explanation forthe huge wealth gapbetween white and black families.As reported by Forbes in 2016,the average net worth of white families wasten times that of black families,enabling whites, far more than blacks,to help their children andgrandchildren afford to goto college and to start small businesses.We can be sure that the pandemichas made that Gulf even wider.What can we do about this?I'll suggest two things.First, we have to educate ourselves andothers, students, colleagues, friends,family, neighbors about the sources,history, and evils of white supremacy.Every one of us who isa teacher should consider what aspects ofour discipline illustrate andreplicate white supremacist ideology.We should educate our students and work withour colleagues to eliminate and redress that.And avoiding the terms white supremacyand systemic racism is not an option.I think everyone should read and studyRichard Rothstein's important book,"The Color of Law,a forgotten history of howour government segregated America."And there are, of course,many other important books.Toni Morrison's book,"The Origin of Others" maybe helpful as is anything of Morrison's,perhaps particularly her great novel,"Beloved." Anything by James Baldwin willbe enlightening. Dr. King's last book,"Where Do We Go From Here,chaos or community," still is timely.Learn from other people too.White people tend toassociate with white people.Make the effort to get to know andunderstand the experiences andpoints of view of those with whom you sharecharacteristics other than skin color.We who are teachers can learn fromour students as well as from our coworkers.Expand your understanding ofother people through your workplace,your place of worship,your other outside activities.Second, get involvedin anti-racist community activity.Advocate for changes to local zoning lawsso that suburbs maybecome inclusive and welcoming.Advocate formore anti-racist activity at the university.Advocate for changes tostate and national lawsto redress past injustices.Study, think,and advocate for appropriate forms of,here comes the controversialbut unavoidable word,reparations for those past injustices.Think back to the KernerCommission Report of 1968.If we are to avoidfurther polarization anddestruction of democratic values,we must acknowledge, undo, and redressevery aspect of our societythat reflects institutional racism.The notion, as Charles Hamilton andStokely Carmichael wrote in 1967,that and I quoteHamilton and Carmichael,"Whites are better than blacks.Therefore, blacks should besubordinated to whites," unquote.We must instead build more humane,just, inclusive, national community.Thank you very much.

>> Hello everyone. I am Dee Metaj,Vice President for Development withthe Indiana University Foundationin Indianapolis.It is truly my honor andprivilege to be part of this event.Professor Roisman,your reflections today have trulycaptured the essence andspirit of the Last Lecture series.Your presentation, "Is My Place in the GalleyStill?" has proven to bemost insightful and hasprovided unique opportunities for all of us.Your work to draw attention tothe effects of white supremacy andyour emphasis on the importanceof education tocounteract it is deeply impactful.Thank you for your dedication,your energy, and your authenticity,which has served to makeIUPUI what it is today.Your leadership and instruction inthe McKinney School of Law hastouched countless lives of students,faculty, and staffthroughout your distinguished career.The Indiana University Foundationis proud to havesupported the Last Lecturefor the past 11 years.I am honored to recognizethis prestigious occasionwith this honorarium.I would also like to take this opportunity tothank you for making the decisionto donate your honorarium tothe Robert McKinney School ofLaw student emergency fund.I know your contribution willhelp students' path tosuccess and will provide relief tothose who are financially overwhelmed.It is a lasting tribute toyour dedication for our students.Again, congratulations Professor Roisman.

Thank you so much, Dee.Professor Roisman, the IUPUISenior Academy will awardyou this plaque with appreciation andour sincere thanks foryour presentationof this year's Last Lecture.Normally we do this in person,but this year we will mail it to you.I would like to bring this 2020 last lectureto a close by thanking the lecturer.Thank you, Florence.And a special thank you for givingthis lecture in our new virtual world.In addition, I want to expressmy gratitude to you and also that of the IUPUISenior Academy for donatingthe honorarium tothe student emergency fund of the IURobert H. McKinney School of Law.A contribution withsignificant impact for those whoaspire to become lawyers andfollow you in your footsteps.As most of you know,organizing such an event takes time andeffort by those who workbehind the proverbial scene.This year especially,our staff have navigatednew and interesting waysof coordinating this video.I would like to thank them for their rolesand making this Last Lecture a success.Furthermore, I want tothank all of you - retirees,active faculty and staff,students and guests -who have watched this lecture.I hope that you have learned fromProfessor Roisman's experiences andcan take them with you onyour own professional and personal journeys.Thank you so much.