The United States has witnessed a tremendous outpouring of grief and anger over the brutal killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer in late May. Mr. Floyd’s horrific death shakes the entire nation and reveals—yet again—a deep, historic, and systemic racism that, unfortunately, continues to pervade U.S. society.
Each senseless taking of a Black person’s life—and George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Ahmaud Arbery, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and Tamir Rice are only a few of many victims—represents not merely an individual tragedy but an urgent call for investigation into institutional failures in larger systems, especially those comprising rules and rule enforcers.
Scholars and practitioners of regulation have much more to learn about how systems of rules can both reinforce and resist institutionalized racism. Now is the time to listen to Black people and learn from their experiences to understand better how to improve the management of regulatory and law enforcement organizations to break historic patterns of oppression.
Black Lives Matter. In light of how Black Americans are adversely impacted by governmental action, improving regulatory systems and the behavior of regulatory personnel remains an essential avenue for delivering on the promise of equal justice for Black Americans, as well as for Indigenous and other minority communities who face oppression and discrimination in this country and around the world.
Projects already underway at the Penn Program on Regulation include the first book-length study systematically to investigate the relationship between regulation and inequality in the United States. The editors of The Regulatory Review are also at work on a forthcoming series on race and regulation to feature a particular emphasis on voices from Black scholars and non-Black scholars of color.
But I also want to hear from you. I invite you to reach out if you have ideas for other projects or initiatives that the program could undertake to help counteract racism by improving regulations and regulatory institutions.
Edward B. Shils Professor of Law
Director, Penn Program on Regulation