We began as the nation’s first joint JD/MA program in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and are proud to have grown into a groundbreaking Center that trains and cultivates scholars, leaders, and activists committed to social change. Our students have helped survivors of domestic abuse, advocated for greater LGBTQ rights in Ohio, and worked in national feminist legal organizations such as the National Women’s Law Center, Equality Now, and Legal Momentum.
The UC Law faculty who are affiliated with the Jones Center conduct research and work to combat harassment, violence against women, and economic inequalities that target our most vulnerable neighbors. We have built an international reputation by bridging theory and practice, forging relationships with local, national, and global communities and preparing students like you to take the lead in advancing justice.
Cincinnati Law is a community of learners, led by a faculty committed to excellent teaching, scholarship, and service. We strive to create a learning environment that inspires the pursuit of justice, cultivates diverse and innovative ideas about law in society, fosters collaborative relationships, and imparts the knowledge, values, and competencies needed to excel in a changing world.
Dear social justice learners, leaders, changemakers, advocates, and warriors:
July 4, 2022
We write to offer you encouragement and hope during a time culminating with more than disappointing Supreme Court rulings, but, quite frankly, a tumultuous year filled with violence; 2022 has been difficult for our community and country. We are still recovering from the social and economic costs of the COVID-19 pandemic with the threat of the virus still on our minds while we wait for a return to “normalcy,” and we are still reconciling that this environment may be our new normal. We are still seeking a reckoning over the systemic racism and prejudice over various identities that plagues our nation and a way for atonement, resolution, and healing. Today, of all days, is celebrated across the country based on the historical narrative that “all Men are created equal,” but, this is not our reality then or today. Today is Independence Day, but our right to autonomy, independence, and freedom is subject and subordinate to an authoritarian government once again. This is an environment where violence can thrive, and where it most definitely has:
On January 3rd, the COVID-19 daily infection rate in the United States exceeded one million for the first time, with a total of 1.08 million reported cases. It has disproportionately impacted people of color. People of color are more likely to work in occupations that cannot be performed remotely, to live in multigenerational households in crowded conditions and densely populated areas, and to rely on public transportation. This increases their exposure risk. These factors are also intensified when we look to the inequities in healthcare for people of color. This virus is an act of violence against a community who lacks the means to effectively combat it. We believe in health equity and justice and affirm that the pandemic has brought to light the need to re-evaluate transactional and labor structures.
On March 28th, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed Florida House Bill 1557, commonly referred to as the “Don’t Say Gay Bill.” The bill restricts what teachers can say about sexual orientation and gender identity in school classrooms without defining what that is, limiting discussion of these issues altogether. Ultimately, this law empowers parents to sue school districts over LGBTQIA+ teachings against their own morals/beliefs, similar to suits that occurred over mask and vaccine mandates and teachings on critical race theory. Other states are modeling bills similar to the “Don’t Say Gay Bill.” These bills serve to ostracize the LGBTQIA+ community and further threaten students’ mental health, physical safety, and well-being. We believe in a government and democracy that is inclusive and that represents the spirit of equality and justice for all.
On May 14th, a mass shooting at a Tops Friendly Markets supermarket in Buffalo, New York left ten Black people dead. The 18-year-old gunman, Payton Gendron, penned a manifesto citing white supremacist terrorists from past shootings and detailing his plans for the attack, including the semi-automatic rifle he would use, clothing and body armor he would wear and the portable camera that would allow him to stream the massacre live on the internet. His motivation for the attack was to prevent Black people from replacing white people and from eliminating the white race, and to inspire others to commit similar racially motivated attacks. He is currently facing hate crime charges in federal court. We believe in education on racial equity and anti-racism teachings to understand how events like this occur and to prevent them from happening again.
On May 24th, one of the deadliest school shootings in American history took place at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. Nineteen children and two adults were killed in the massacre. Several law enforcement officers arrived at the school within minutes of being informed of the presence of a gunman but delayed their entrance into the building by over an hour against protocol for active shooter situations. The children inside repeatedly called 911 and begged for help, as parents waited outside the school and were physically restrained if they interfered. The 18-year-old shooter, Salvador Ramos, was killed at the scene in an eventual shootout with police, but the lack of police response has raised critical questions about the role of police in schools and whether their job is to protect students or to punish them. We believe in re-allocation of some resources from police to mental health resources, to job training, to affordable housing, and to other community investments.
These are just a few of the acts of violence at the forefront of our collective community’s mind and conscious, but certainly not the only ones. But these acts of violence have only been inflamed by political institutions and government decision-making. For instance, the Supreme Court decision in New York Rifle & Pistol Association, Inc. v. Bruen (6/23/22), will likely result in more people allowed to carry guns with relatively few, if any, checks even as the U.S. is facing an increase in incidents of gun violence. The Supreme Court also ruled in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization (6/24/22) that the Constitution does not confer a right to abortion, overturning Roe and Casey. Whether a woman can receive an abortion is now up to each state to decide. Thirteen states had trigger abortion bans that went into effect immediately after this ruling, many of which do not have exceptions for rape or incest. Further, the Supreme Court has made several rulings in June that have weakened the separation of church and state (see Carson v. Makin and Kennedy v. Bremerton School Dist.) and accountability for the failures of law enforcement officers and lawyers (see Vega v. Tekoh and Shinn v. Martinez Ramirez, respectively).
Lest we not forget, there are ongoing hearings about the January 6, 2020, mob; we have an ongoing refugee and migrant crisis at our borders; we are struggling with an opioid epidemic and a mental health crisis; and we have a climate crisis that needs to be addressed. Our country, our world is on fire – literally and figuratively. The Jones Center does not condone these acts of violence. We are deeply disappointed, saddened, frustrated, and outraged over the pain and suffering of the many lives that have been and will be subjected to because of these events. We are especially disheartened reading and watching various news sources in which these people have been reduced to their status as victims, their experiences have been rewritten in favor of political battles, and their stories have become only representative of statistics and the need for change that never seems to come. In the face of this, we cannot be silent. This is a pivotal moment of reckoning and a time where we must stand and answer. Our struggles may be different, but liberation and our rights – even more so for women, LGBTQIA+, and people of color – are bound together and we must protect them together.
We encourage collective action in response to these acts of violence, which can come in various forms of collaboration, engagement, and participation. First and foremost, we ask you to examine your beliefs and habits because advocacy begins with self-reflection. Next, we believe in educating yourself on social justice issues; donating to/volunteering with local and national allyship groups; getting involved in politics (particularly through voting in elections); making your voice heard through writing, speaking, and/or creating content for social media platforms; supporting minority-owned business and creators who speak out against injustices; and finally, asking more of the government in acknowledging the rich diversity of people in this country and the vitality and strength they bring to our lives.
On this Fourth of July, we leave you with this: ignoring injustice is an injustice. It is time for the Jones Center to live up to our namesake… and answer the call. We hope you will join us.
The Jones Center for Race, Gender, and Social Justice
Statement on the Rittenhouse Verdict
November 22, 2021
On Friday, 11/19/21, Kyle Rittenhouse was acquitted on three counts of first-degree reckless homicide, use of a dangerous weapon, and two counts of first-degree reckless endangering of safety, use of a dangerous weapon for the killings of Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber, and the shooting of Gaige Grosskreutz in August 2020.
While the outcome of the Rittenhouse trial is not shocking, it is disappointing and disheartening. It is reflective of the system and the need for systemic change – more than just trials and convictions of individual bad actors. While individual convictions of bad actors are steps in the right direction, the Rittenhouse verdict demonstrates clearly that we need real change through fundamental shifts in policies and culture and making conditions in which people live, learn, and work more equitable and equal. Difficult and long battles lie ahead and there is much work to be done.
As we did on June 4, 2020 and April of 2021 related to George Floyd and the Chauvin verdict, we want to affirm and offer our continued commitment and support for and engagement in the struggle toward real equality and liberation—in whatever ways we can—and always in solidarity.
Statement on the Chauvin Verdict
April 20, 2021
Almost a year ago on June 4, 2020, the Jones Center issued our statement, “In Struggle and Solidarity,” to affirm our support for the protests that erupted following the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer named Derek Chauvin. Today, after a three-week trial, Chauvin was convicted on all three of the counts with which he was charged for the death of Floyd — second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter.
While the verdict brings relief, the verdict does not bring joy. The Chauvin trial focused on the individual “bad actor” and not the systemic racism embedded in the criminal “justice” system. Systemic change, however, won’t come through trials and convictions of individual bad actors, though these are steps in the right direction. Rather, real change will come only through fundamental changes in policies and culture and through making more equitable and equal the conditions in which people live, learn, and work.
We should honor the outcome of the Chauvin trial as one that acknowledged that George Floyd’s life mattered. But difficult and long battles lie ahead. As we did on June 4, 2020, we want to affirm and offer our continued commitment and support for and engagement in the struggle toward real equality and liberation—in whatever ways we can—and always in solidarity.
Statement in Solidarity with the Asian and Asian American Communities
March 19, 2021
“You don’t choose the times you live in, but you do choose who you want to be. And you choose how you think.”
–Grace Lee Boggs (1915-2015), Chinese American writer, philosopher, activist
The escalation in violence against Asians and Asian Americans since the start of the coronavirus pandemic finally is making headlines, tragically in the wake of the recent murders in Atlanta of six women of Asian descent. The Nathaniel R. Jones Center for Race, Gender, and Social Justice condemns this hatred and violence and stands in solidarity with our students and all members of the Asian and Asian American communities in this time of fear, pain, anger, and activism.
This racist targeting of members of the Asian and Asian American communities is not new. The law aided and abetted white supremacy and anti-Asian violence in, for example, the 1854 case People v. Hall, in which the California Supreme Court held that persons of Asian descent could not testify against a white person in court. In 1900, the Chinese were blamed for an outbreak of the bubonic plague in San Francisco (that likely started in a ship that had arrived from Australia), with a resulting lockdown of Chinatown that allowed white people to come and go freely while persons of Chinese and Japanese descent needed a health certificate. Chinese exclusion acts were an integral part of American law from the 1850s until 1943; and, of course, from 1942-1945, American citizens and others of Japanese descent were rounded up and incarcerated in internment camps, the constitutionality of such removals being notoriously upheld by the Supreme Court in Korematsu v. United States (1944). Racist claims of Asians taking jobs and opportunities away from whites has fueled violence against, among so many others, Filipino agricultural workers, Vietnamese shrimpers, and South Asian politicians. In 1982, Vincent Chin was beaten to death with a baseball bat by two autoworkers who were heard shouting racist obscenities, blaming Asians for the plight of the auto industry. Since 9/11, it has been dangerous to be or to look Muslim in the United States.
Gender plays a significant role in the historical and present-day violence and discrimination against the Asian and Asian American communities. The specific targets of the Atlanta attacks were Asian and Asian American women, who face unique dangers and challenges in the racialized patriarchy of American society. Often eroticized, Asian and Asian American women report rampant sexual violence and harassment, with perpetrators counting on them as “model minorities” to keep quiet about it. Asian and Asian American women have faced exclusion based specifically on gender, as well as exploitation and sexualized racism in the workplace.
So, what to do in these times? The Jones Center was founded to cultivate scholars, leaders, and activists committed to social change—and there is an urgent need for all of us to “choose to be” people who take action to make a difference. So how should we “choose to think”? A guiding principle of the Jones Center is that activism should be productive, constructive, and healing. What might that mean in the context of addressing the multiple and overlapping systemic inequities that result in tragedies like the Atlanta murders, the rate of suicides in the trans community, endless victims of racist policing, and the “new Jim Crow” that is mass incarceration? An activist like Grace Lee Boggs, with more than 80 years of experience on the ground in the struggles for equality at the intersections of race, gender, sexuality, and class, might suggest a few things like this: read, learn, teach, listen, step up and step back depending on the circumstances and your own positionality, critique, illuminate the wrongs you see in society, and be brave enough to turn the mirror – honestly – back on yourself, put in the hard work, be open and supportive, make connections, build community. Or as she actually put it: “Become more ‘human’ human beings.”
In Struggle and Solidarity
June 4, 2020
Once again, our nation’s history—a history borne of conquest, chattel slavery, and exclusion—is erupting into our explosive present. Covid-19, when it finally hit our shores, flagrantly exposed with undeniable clarity the deep structural inequalities created and perpetuated by state and federal policies that have purported to lift up and support all Americans, and the deeply embedded racial biases regularly employed to blame “others” for the failures of our own systems.
And now, once again, recent police killings of several unarmed Black and Brown citizens like Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor—among so many others—have moved those who suffer most severely the consequences of systemic inequality to action. Once again, our nation is being called on to account for and reckon with our past and our present so that we can finally halt the seemingly endless cycle—a cycle that we’ve been caught in since our beginnings—of superficial and narrow commitments to “equality” that have led only to more entrenched racial, gender, sex, and class inequality – and as a result, to more despair-fueled anger and necessary struggle.
Our Center—named after the late Nathaniel R. Jones, an iconic civil rights leader and a federal court of appeals judge in the latter part of his career—is committed to helping our students and others to, as Judge Jones put it, “answer the call” – the call to face head-on the complicated and violent past and present that have brought us to this point. We pledge our continued support for and engagement in the struggle toward real equality and liberation—in whatever ways we can—and always in solidarity.