Professor explains 'predatory governments' in second installment of Dean's Speakers Series


Michigan State University College of Law Dean Linda Sheryl Greene welcomes University of Wisconsin Law School Professor Berndadette Atuahene to the Second Annual Dean’s Speaker Series.

Photo by Jack Patton | The State News

By Jake Jenkins

Following her successful first installment of the Second Annual Dean’s Speaker Series this year, Dean Linda Sheryl Greene continued with her promise to share her “collegial family” with Michigan State University College of Law.

Greene welcomed Professor Bernadette Atuahene of University of Wisconsin Law School this week, who came to speak on “Law, Ethics, and Predatory Governments.”

“In her pathbreaking much celebrated work, we learn about the circumstances that foster fundamental failure in the relationship between citizens and government,” said Greene. “We situated Professor Atuahene’s work to be important for our year of exploration of “Ethics, Law, and Society” as an opportunity to focus on public institution ethics.”

The compelling Q&A between Greene and Atuahene covered a range of topics within the act of predatorial governments, which is the focus of her recent work in the city of Detroit. There, unfair – and illegal – property taxes are levied in majority black neighborhoods and resulting in the loss of property.

She said Detroit residents are losing homes that were paid for and in their families for years due to high tax rates that do not align with the property value, leaving many families homeless.

“It effects the most vulnerable of us,” said Atuahene. “Predatorial government effects everyone and there are some who are strong enough to fight back. But those who aren’t are left with the illegality of injustice. 

“We should care for those who do not have the power to fight back and be concerned on their behalf,” she said, inviting MSU Law students to join her effort to change tax policy in Detroit.

“Today was a really great experience,” said student Patrick Marr. “The most important thing I learned was the framing of the issue, not just systematic racism itself but actually identifying which systems and the change of policies that can hurt people.”

Student Ilina Krishen was familiar with Atuahene’s work and was excited to see her in person.

“I read her book about four years ago,” said Krishen. “Her book was inspiring for some of my personal research in south Asia and the advocacy work I do. I learned a lot from her today.”

Atuahene received her law degree from Yale University, her Master’s in Public Administration from Harvard and her Bachelors of Arts from UCLA, majoring in both African American studies and Political Science.

Atuahene is the daughter of Ghanaian immigrants and grew up in Los Angeles.

“My African roots are my base, my everything,” said Atuahene. “All my work has to do with land stolen from people of the African Diaspora and that commitment came from my home and community.”


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