The Black Lives Matter movement and recent anti-racism protests have challenged all Americans to demand concrete action to address our long history of discrimination and bigotry against Black people and other minorities. From the internment of individuals of Japanese descent during World War II to pervasive discrimination against Muslims and Arabs after 9/11, America’s national security law and policy is part and parcel of that history.
When it comes to national security legal academia, reckoning with this history requires addressing two issues. The first is the expansion of the field itself over the last several decades. Given the greater institutional focus on domestic security policy as well as increasing calls to treat issues like climate change and public health as national security matters, it is important for legal academia to critically examine these trends in all their facets, including their effects on marginalized communities that are already historically overpoliced and under-supported by the state. This requires embracing critical perspectives that have long been and remain marginalized in national security law. The second issue has to do with the demographics of the national security legal academy. Historically, national security academics have overwhelmingly either been white and male or veterans of jobs in the national security apparatus, such as in the Department of Defense, State Department, Department of Justice, intelligence community, or branches of the military. Until recently, both national-security-law scholars and their scholarship have reflected these demographics. This homogeneity has created added barriers to centering diverse, critical perspectives in the field. For instance, it has made it difficult for aspiring national security scholars with diverse backgrounds and novel, critical perspectives to find the mentors and support networks they need to enter into and succeed in the field. As a result, many of these scholars often leave the field entirely or shift their focus to other areas of legal academia where critical perspectives are more welcomed, like criminal or international law.
To begin addressing these conceptual and demographic issues, the two of us have drafted a call to our fellow legal academics, who focus on national security or who work on national security-related issues in fields adjacent to national security, encouraging them to fully embrace diversity and critical perspectives in national security academia whether through their own work or by supporting scholars engaged in such work. To operationalize these commitments, the letter proposes concrete measures, including a mentorship program and a database project. While these measures cannot on their own diversify and center critical perspectives on the field, we hope they will serve as an important step that inspires others to develop and implement additional strategies and projects aimed at the same goals.
The letter has already received signatures from over forty academics. For those interested in reading and signing the letter, please click here.