Somehow we’ve weathered and witnessed

a nation that isn’t broken

but simply unfinished1.Read: Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman’s Inaugural Poem, CNNPolitics (Jan. 20, 2021), [].Show More

Amanda Gorman

If a foreword were to be limited to one word, and one word only, this foreword’s one word would be joy. It is a joy to introduce to you a diverse group of authors and their writings on the past, present, and future of a social justice movement that we now know must be founded on intersectional solidarity.

The papers in this collection are blunt. Their messages are confident and unapologetic. The authors trace our faltering progress in a century-long struggle for legal and social justice for people of color, for women, for LGBTQ+ folks, and for others whom white supremacy has silenced and erased. The authors do not hesitate to call out some of their would-be fellow travelers—including, I dare say, themselves—for failures to listen and lift up marginalized points of view. The authors address divergent topics and apply distinct methodologies, but, I suggest, their objectives converge as each seeks to articulate the conditions necessary for an intersectional understanding that produces durable alliances.

So, as you move ahead into these papers, prepare yourself for joy: The joy of listening to authors voicing complex concepts clearly. The joy of hearing about the ancestors whose works they have studied and deployed. The joy of feeling the energy that is produced as we begin to learn how to resist, even as we never deny, the suffering imposed by the conjoint forces of racism, sexism, homophobia, and classism. The joy of finding new alliances as we work to shed our own “public and private rituals” that have “help[ed] maintain the culture of domination.”2.bell hooks, Teaching To Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom 27 (1994).Show More The joy of knowing that it “is not a naive fantasy” for us to try to act “as a catalyst for social change across false boundaries.”3.Id. at 72.Show More

  1. * Lewis F. Powell, Jr., Professor of Law, University of Virginia School of Law.
  2. Read: Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman’s Inaugural Poem, CNNPolitics (Jan. 20, 2021), [].
  3. bell hooks, Teaching To Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom 27 (1994).
  4. Id. at 72.

Interrogation Stories

The article poses questions about police interrogations that go beyond the furor over Miranda v. Arizona and even beyond the controversy over the a voluntariness standard for judging the admissibility of confessions in criminal cases. According to these debates, police interrogations have the potential to provide true answers to the historical questions of who-done-it, how, when, where, and why. The paper argues that the police confessional is a space where the truth is produced by the interrogator’s strategic use of narratives that exploit popular ways of thinking about the gap between legal liability and moral culpability for criminal misconduct. The project was motivated by the rhetorical strategies promoted by police interrogation experts for use in rape cases. 

The agenda is positive and normative. As for the positive, my plan is to describe what interrogation stories teach us about the character of police investigations as a device for recovering historical truth. Is the cop a species of archeologist, one who digs through layers of accumulated dirt to uncover a hidden crime? Interrogation stories suggest not. The interrogator is master author or improvisational playwright, one who is comfortable batting around potential plot lines with his leading actors before getting them to sign off on the final script. If author or playwright is the apt analogy, police interrogators do not merely find facts that are buried out there somewhere, just waiting for the alert detective to come along and excavate them. Rather, by using narrative scripts, cops actively shape the meaning of facts by helping suspects embed them in a coherent narrative that coincides with our ethical judgments about which acts are blameworthy and which are not. 

As for the normative, the essay will offer speculations about the value-laden connections between police investigatory practices and the substantive mandates they ostensibly serve. Rape interrogations are a poignant context in which to explore these connections, as we see the police persuading perpetrators to confess by using the very same victim-blaming stories that the rape reform movement has aimed to expunge from substantive prohibitions, courtrooms, popular culture, and, ultimately, from the heads and hearts of human beings.