Rocky Mountain Collective on Race, Place & Law

The Rocky Mountain Collective on Race, Place, and Law (RPL), formed in 2013, is a group of Colorado legal academics and administrators working together to identify and address racial inequities in the U.S. and around the globe. We offer a critical lens on the complex dynamics of power, locality, and law, and their impact on subordinated communities. As scholars rooted in critical legal theory, we recognize the intersectionality of all individuals. Through our teaching, scholarship and activism we aim to expose and challenge law’s role in perpetuating inequities based on race, class and gender and other sources of disadvantage. We employ our collective efforts and expertise to effect change and pursue social justice. 

Race, Place & Law graphic

Statement of Principles

The following principles inform our teaching, scholarship, activism, and organization

  • Antiessentialism – We resist attributing particular sets of traits to particular groups, or to individual members of those groups.
  • Antisubordination – We are concerned about subordination, power, and substantive justice, rather than mere formal equal treatment.
  • Globalism – We believe that subordination is both a local and a global phenomenon, and that our principles and values can inform and be informed by subordinated communities, both domestically and internationally.
  • Hegemony – We believe that power works not only directly and coercively but also hegemonically – that power affects the ways people perceive “reality” as well as their understandings of what constitutes “knowledge” about the world.
  • History – We believe that critical engagement with history is centrally important to understanding how power operates through race, gender, sexuality, and class to de-center and marginalize the lived experiences of subordinated peoples.
  • Intersectionality – We recognize the multidimensionality of individual identity and the complex, mutually reinforcing relationships among systems of subordination.
  • “Meritocracy” – We question the notion of “meritocracy,” and the assumption that standards of “merit” can be neutral under current social conditions.
  • Multiplicity of Non-Whiteness – We recognize that non-whiteness takes many forms and has varied impacts.
  • Praxis – We believe in doing as well as talking, in working to make real change in the world.
  • Privilege – We believe that group-based privilege, such as race, class, gender, and heterosexual privilege, are pervasive in society.

Related Courses

  • Critical Race Reading Seminar
    Critical Race Reading Seminar | L47xx

    This seminar provides a unique opportunity for Denver Law students to earn one credit by studying a significant topic related to the law and racial justice in a team-taught format. The seminar will allow students to begin to develop 1) a substantive understanding of the application of critical race theory to a variety of contemporary legal and social issues, and 2) a sense of professional identity through the examination of lawyering practice in the context of critical race theory. Topics discussed generally change each semester to respond to current events and pressing needs and interests.

    For spring 2019, this course will focus on Racial Justice in Colorado. We will examine racial justice dynamics, law, and policy from Colorado’s past and present. We will engage in the interdisciplinary study of both the law and narrative, and read a range of texts, including essays, law review articles, cases, and news articles, and more. When possible, we will also get out of the classroom and explore important places of racial justice history in our state. While there will be two main law professors (Alexi Freeman and Lindsey Webb) for the class, different faculty members will lead various sessions and there may also be guest lectures from faculty and practitioners in other disciplines. Students will thus have an opportunity to interact with an array of professors who have expertise and interest in critical race theory and practice. Students will receive a letter grade based on their participation in class, field observations and corresponding reflective exercises, and a final paper.

    Faculty: Alexi Freeman and members of the Rocky Mountain Collective on Race, Place and the Law.

    Prerequisites: None
    Credit Hours: 2

Prof. Catherine Smith

RPL Sponsored Activities & News

  • Activities & News 2020-2021

    November 10, 2020 - Post-election Event - The Next Four Years  View Poster

    October 27, 2020 - Ian Haney Lopez Event  View Flyer

    October 15, 2020 - Election Integrity   View Poster

    October 5, 2020 - RPL Student Alumni Connection Reception  View Flyer

    September 24, 2020 - Student Welcome Reception   View Poster

    September 22, 2020 - RPL Academic Support Session  View Poster

    August 16, 2020 - Discussion with First-Year Students "What to Expect"

    RPL summer series 2020 poster Race, Legal Education, and the Law_ A Summer Series For Denver Law Students.PNG

    Race, Legal Education, and the Law: A Summer Series For Denver Law Students 

    July 1, 2020, Session #1: Teach-In: What it Means to Be an Anti-Racist

    July 14, 2020, Session #2: Teach-In: Why Prison Abolition? Why Defunding the Police? Exploring the Racial History and Current Landscape of Policing and Incarceration

    July 29, 2020, Session #3: Fruitvale Movie Viewing and Discussion

    June 2020 - The Link between Well-Being and Inclusion by Patty Powell Read Article

  • Past Activities & News 2019-2020

    Professor Catherine Smith testified on February 24th, 2020 in support of the CROWN Act of 2020 before the Colorado Senate Judiciary Committee. The CROWN Act (“Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair Act of 2020) is designed to address discrimination on the basis of hair, a particularly pernicious form of race discrimination against African-Americans, especially African-American women and girls. Black men and boys, and people of Jewish, Latinx and Native American descent have experienced similar struggles. The CROWN Act would prohibit this kind of race discrimination. Professor Smith teaches and writes in the areas of civil rights and employment discrimination. Her testimony will focus explaining why hair discrimination is race discrimination by explaining our country's history of using skin color, nose width and hair texture as a means to control and stigmatize Black people and other historically marginalized groups.

  • Past Activities 2018-2019

    March 19, 2019 - Faculty Training on Microaggressions/Managing Difficult Conversations

    March 6, 2019 - Venezuela: What Corporate Media Aren't Telling You  Watch Video

    Spring semester 2019 - Critical Race Reading Seminar

    April 18, 2019 - Alumni-Student Reception

    Spring semester - Advising and Tutoring Safe Zone in the Multiculturalism Office

    November 13, 2018​​​​​​​ - RPL Post Election Town Hall

    October 30, 2018 - Colorado Immigration Detention

    October 10, 2018​​​​​​​ - Community Discussion on Sexual Assault and Kavanaugh Hearings

    Sept 7, 2018​​​​​​​ - Self Identified Diverse Students Reception

    August 8, 2018​​​​​​​ - Students of Color Welcome in Orientation

  • Past Activities 2017-2018

    Real Black Power Workshop
    March 2018

    Black Panther Movie Night
    February 26, 2018

    Exam Prep Workshop
    November 2017

    Teaching Workshop
    October 6, 2017

    Self-identified Diverse Students Reception
    September 2017

    Students of Color Welcome Reception in Orientation
    August 2017

  • Past Activities 2016-2017

    Crimmigration Law Lecture Series

    Over the Spring 2016-Fall 2016 year, we are thrilled to partner with the DU Latino Center for Community Engagement and Scholarship and the Center for Multicultural Excellence to host a year-long “Crimmigration Law Lecture Series.” Over the course of these two semesters, we have had or will have ten outstanding crimmigration scholars visit to share their latest work on race and crimmigration with us, our students and colleagues, and members of the DU and Denver communities. Below is a list of the upcoming lectures for the Fall 2016 term. The past lectures of Spring 2016 can be located in the past events section below.

    October 14, 2016 - Mass Deportation and Global Capitalism

    Lecture by Tanya Golash-Boza, Associate Professor, University of California, Merced Department of Sociology
    Workshop by Amada Armenta, Assistant Professor of Sociology, University of Pennsylvania. Moderated by Professor Golash-Boza.  View Flyer

    November 11, 2016 - Lessons From Arizona

    Lecture by Ingrid Eagly, Professor, University of California, Los Angeles Law School
    Workshop by Annie Lai, Assistant Clinical Professor of Law, University of California, Irvine School of Law, and Todd Miller, Journalist and Author of “Border Patrol Nation,” Moderated by Professor Eagly.  View Flyer

  • Past Activities 2015-2016

    Crimmigration Law Lecture Series

    March 3, 2016 - Crimmigration and Race

    Lecture by Kevin Johnson, Dean, University of California, Davis School of Law
    Workshop by Yolanda Vázquez, Associate Professor, University of Cincinnati, and Linus Chan, Visiting Associate Clinical Professor, University of Minnesota. View Flyer

    April 19, 2016 - Crimmigration Detention

    Lecture by Jennifer Chacón, Professor, University of California, Irvine School of Law
    Workshop by Mariela Olivares, Associate Professor Howard University School of Law. Moderated by Professor Chacón. View Flyer

    Analyzing the Law Through a Racial Justice Lens


    RPL is co-sponsoring this series of events, lunch time lectures with follow up small discussion groups. 

    Monday, Nov. 16, 2015 - Book Launch: Crimmigration Law

    RPL is co-sponsoring a book launch for Prof. César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández, whose new book “Crimmigration Law” was just released. View Flyer

  • Past Activities 2014-2015

    Equal Protection Initiative

    January 28, 2015 - Panel #1: “Does Equal Protection Law Protect the Privileged?” View Recording

    Keynote Lecture: Angela Harris View Recording 



    Analyzing the Law Through a Racial Justice Lens

    RPL is co-sponsoring this series of events with the DU ACLU and BLSA chapters, and the Associate Dean of Institutional Diversity and Inclusiveness. The series includes four lunch lectures by RPL faculty and four follow-up small group discussions throughout the semester. Each lecture will dive into a different pressing legal matter and how that area of law relates to racial justice. Interested students will be placed into follow-up discussion groups of 5-8 students with a professor. View Flyer

    February 2, 2015 - Prof. Robin Walker Sterling, “Ferguson Follow-Up”

    February 18, 2015 - Profs. Lisa Graybill & Alexi Freeman, “Race, Communication, & Mass Media”

    In collaboration with the Critical Cultural Studies Lecture Series, with guest CU-Boulder Ethnic Studies Prof. Daryl Joji Maeda

    March 4, 2015 - Prof. Nancy Ehrenreich, “Race and Reproductive Rights”

    March 25, 2015 - Prof. César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández, “Race and Immigration”

    Additional Events

    February 23, 2015 - Film Screening: No Sanctuary

    Film about the impact of private prison corporations on the growth of immigration detention. The 30-minute screening will be followed by a discussion moderated by Profs. Lisa Graybill and César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández.

    April 22, 2014 - Ian Haney López, “Dog Whistle Politics”

    RPL hosted a lunch and lecture with Professor Ian Haney López, John H. Boalt Professor of Law at the University of California Berkeley School of Law, open to the entire DU community.

    February 27, 2014 - Osagie Obasogie, “Blinded by Sight”

    RPL hosted a faculty luncheon with Professor Osagie Obasogie, University of California-Hastings College of the Law, on the connection between the doctrinal and empirical aspects of Race in the Law. Co-sponsored by the office of the Associate Dean of Faculty Scholarship.

RPL faculty and friends

Constitution Campus Clearinghouse

In response to the election of Donald J. Trump, who has variously promised to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and deport or incarcerate all undocumented persons present in the United States, students and others have called on campuses across the country to provide some form of campus “sanctuary.” The Constitution Campus Information Clearinghouse is intended to gather information about what a sanctuary policy could contain, and address policy and legal arguments pertaining to various sanctuary provisions. 



Rocky Mountain Collective on Race, Place & Law

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