June 29, 2020
In the pain and outrage that has swept our nation in the summer of 2020, we see the possibility of meaningful reforms to address racism in America. The Berkeley Center for Law & Technology is committed to anti-racism. We outline here what that means for our organization and how we seek to operationalize it throughout our activities and partnerships.
We condemn the senseless killings of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and Ahmaud Arbery, the persistent pattern of police brutality against Black people and other persons of color, and the systemic disparities in our society that have resulted in the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on communities of color. We stand with all communities harmed by racism, including students, staff, and faculty of the law school who are Black, indigenous, and people of color.
BCLT is the focal point at the UC Berkeley School of Law for activities focused on the role of technology in society. As such, we acknowledge and seek ways to further explore and address the intersections of technology, race, and justice.
We acknowledge and condemn the racial disparities and structural inequities that corrupt the development and deployment of technology in America today, from the discriminatory impact of applications of artificial intelligence, to the role of surveillance technologies in the policing and carceral practices that disproportionately harm Black people, the internet’s role in spreading hate, and the underrepresentation of Black persons and other persons of color in the technology sector and in tech-related aspects of law practice.
We strongly support, in contrast, the empowering potential of technology: social media tools that can give voice to the voiceless and support organizing for social change; the use of cell phone cameras to document police violence previously shielded from accountability; the potential of intellectual property laws, properly designed, to create opportunities for creative individuals of any race and to promote rather than restrict access to medicines, infrastructure, and knowledge; and technology’s role in increasing access to education and information for people otherwise constrained from freely accessing such resources.
As Dean Erwin Chemerinsky reminds us, “We, as a Law School, have a special role and responsibility to play in ensuring justice.” Condemnations of racism and expressions of solidarity are not enough. Thus, in consultation with students and our wider community, we are taking steps to more deeply and consciously address issues of race through all aspects of our work.
As initial actions, the Berkeley Center for Law & Technology commits to:
- Relaunch and promote the Berkeley Technology Law Journal scholarship fund, to support enrollment and graduation of students from traditionally underrepresented groups interested in pursuing careers in technology law.
- Expand our undergraduate STEM outreach efforts to attract more applicants to Berkeley Law who are Black, indigenous or persons of color.
- Host as speakers at our events more attorneys, scholars and others who are Black, indigenous and people of color, not only on issues of race and technology, but also on other aspects of intellectual property law, privacy law, and other areas of tech-related law.
- Incorporate resources on issues at the intersection of technology and race into the materials we prepare for our conferences or circulate to students.
- Financially and administratively support student groups and student activities that address issues at the intersection of technology and race.
- Encourage BCLT-supported student organizations to address issues of racism or racial justice in their programming and to include students of color in their leadership.
- Emphasize diversity in BCLT staffing.
- Promote attention to issues at the intersection of law and race in our curriculum, symposia, seminars, and workshops.
- Build collaboration with institutions and organizations within and outside the law school in their anti-racism efforts related to technology law and policy.
- Work with our sponsoring law firms to substantially increase representation in all areas of tech-related law of attorneys who are Black, indigenous, or person of color.
These are first steps. Guiding and informing these and further actions is our commitment to listen to and learn from students, faculty, staff, practicing attorneys and others who are Black, indigenous or persons of color. The challenges of ending systemic racism in the law as experienced, in technology as it suffuses our lives, and in society in general are immense. We look forward to working with students, faculty, staff, and external partners in pursuit of these goals.