Richard Thompson Ford - Author of “Dress Codes” - Stanford Prof. of Law - Expert on Civil Rights - Antidiscrimination Law


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Richard Thompson Ford is the George E. Osborne Professor of Law at Stanford Law School. His scholarship combines social criticism and legal analysis, and he writes for both popular readers and for academic and legal specialists. He's written for the Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, Christian Science Monitor, and other publications. He’s a regular contributor for Slate and has appeared on the Rachel Maddow Show, The Colbert Report, and other programs.

His most recent book is Dress Codes: How the Laws of Fashion Made History. His books The Race Card: How Bluffing About Bias Makes Race Relations Worse and Rights Gone Wrong: How Law Corrupts the Struggle for Equality have been selected by the New York Times as Notable Books of the Year. In 2012, On Being a Black Lawyer called him one of the most influential black lawyers in the nation.

"One of the things that I've tried to do in my work is demonstrate the way that laws that don't seem to be directly related to social equality, to equality of opportunity, to racial justice in fact are and that it's only through also reforming these kind of systemic and institutionalized forms of discrimination that we could truly achieve an egalitarian society. So what I've really wanted to argue against is the idea that civil rights are kind of a magic bullet and that those kinds of laws alone would be sufficient to achieve.

There are a lot of other reforms that would be useful in improving American policing. And certainly, there are biased attitudes on the part of some police officers, but again, I think the structural problems are even greater with respect to this. There's the problem of racial segregation in high-crime neighborhoods, which means that when police are using aggressive tactics in the neighborhoods with the highest levels of crime, the targets are disproportionately people of color. There's also the fact that in the United States, it's not true in most other countries, policing is decentralized. It's a local matter. And so there's a wide range of training and a wide range of different types of protocols."

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