Racism Is a Life Issue

Cosponsored by the College of Arts and LettersNotre Dame Law School, Mendoza College of Business, and Notre Dame Right to Life.

In the words of Pope Francis, "We cannot tolerate or turn a blind eye to racism and exclusion in any form and yet claim to defend the sacredness of every human life."

This moderated discussion on racism and the culture of life took place on July 28, 2020 and featured distinguished panelists G. Marcus Cole (Dean, Notre Dame Law School), Sen. Katrina Jackson (Louisiana State Senate), Ernest Morrell (University of Notre Dame), Gloria Purvis (EWTN Global Catholic Radio), Jacqueline Rivers (Harvard University), and Benjamin Watson (Super Bowl Champion).

About our Panelists


G. Marcus Cole

G. Marcus Cole, Joseph A. Matson Dean and Professor of Law at Notre Dame Law School

G. Marcus Cole was appointed the eleventh dean of Notre Dame Law School in 2019. A leading scholar of the empirical law and economics of commerce and finance, he came to Notre Dame from Stanford Law School, where he was a faculty member from 1997 until 2019. At Stanford, he held two endowed chairs and taught courses in the areas of bankruptcy, banking, contracts, and venture capital. In addition, he served for five years as associate dean for curriculum and academic affairs.

Dean Cole’s research has explored questions such as why corporate bankruptcies are increasingly filed in Delaware and what drives the financial structure of firms backed by venture capital. His recent research has involved the ways in which the world’s poor are using technology to solve their own problems, often in the face of government restrictions hindering such solutions. His extensive legal and scholarly background includes serving as a national fellow at the Hoover Institution, a fellow at the University of Amsterdam Center for Law and Economics, and a visiting professor at several institutions around the world, including the University of Amsterdam, the University of Vienna, Leiden University, Bucerius Law School in Hamburg, Germany, Northwestern University, Korea University, and Peking University School of Transnational Law in Shenzhen, China.

Before joining the Stanford faculty, Dean Cole was an associate with the Chicago law firm of Mayer Brown. He clerked for Judge Morris Sheppard Arnold of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. Dean Cole earned his bachelor’s degree in applied economics from Cornell University and his juris doctor from Northwestern University, where he served as editor-in-chief of the Northwestern Journal of International Law and Business.

In response to the death of George Floyd in May 2020, Dean Cole published an op-ed titled, “I am George Floyd. Except, I can breathe. And I can do something.”

Sen. Katrina Jackson

Senator Katrina R. Jackson, Louisiana State Senate, District 34 (Dem.)

Katrina Jackson is a Democratic member of the Louisiana State Senate for the 34th district. A lawyer and native of Monroe, Louisiana, she received her B.A. from the University of Louisiana at Monroe and her juris doctor from Southern University in Baton Rouge in 2004. 

Senator Jackson came to the Louisiana Legislature in 2006 as a Staff Attorney for the House Committee on Labor & Industrial Relations and as Executive Director of the Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus. In 2011 she announced for the 16th State House seat and won in the first round of voting against three other opponents. She was subsequently elected without opposition in 2015 for a second term. In August of 2019, she was elected Senator for District 34 without opposition.

In 2014, Senator Jackson authored House Bill 388, which would have required abortion providers in Louisiana to have admitting privileges with a hospital near their clinics. She spoke at the 2016 March for Life and has been a vocal defender of the defense of life at all stages. At home, Senator Jackson worships with her family at Riverside Missionary Baptist Church and fights for clients in criminal and civil law cases, spending time educating, working with, and listening to her constituents at churches, senior centers, and community venues.

Ernest Morrell

Ernest Morrell, Coyle Professor in Literacy Education and Director of the Center for Literacy Education, University of Notre Dame

In 2019, Ernest was named director of the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) James R. Squire Office for Policy Research in the English Language Arts. He is an elected Fellow of the American Educational Research Association, a past president of NCTE, and a co-convener of the African Diaspora International Research Network.

From 2015-2020 Ernest has been annually ranked among the top 200 university-based education scholars in the RHSU Edu-Scholar Public Influence Rankings published by EdWeek. Ernest is also the recipient of the  NCTE Distinguished Service Award, the Kent Williamson Leadership Award from the Conference on English Leadership, and the Divergent Award for Excellence in 21st Century Literacies. His scholarly interests include: literacy studies, the teaching of English, media and youth popular culture, and education in the African Diaspora. 

Ernest has authored 90 articles, research briefs, and book chapters and ten books including Stories from Inequity to Justice in Literacy Education, New Directions in Teaching English, and Critical Media Pedagogy: Teaching for Achievement in City Schools, which was awarded Outstanding Academic Title by Choice Magazine of the American Library Association. Ernest has earned numerous commendations for his university teaching including UCLA’s Distinguished Teaching Award. He received his Ph.D. in Language, Literacy, and Culture from the University of California, Berkeley where he was the recipient of the Outstanding Dissertation award in 2001. Ernest is chair of the Planning and Advisory Committee for the African Diaspora Consortium and he sits on the Executive Boards of LitWorld and the Education for Democracy Institute.

Gloria Purvis

Gloria Purvis, EWTN Global Catholic Radio

Gloria Purvis is a graduate of Cornell University and she worked for nearly two decades in the mortgage industry before becoming a risk management director at a major financial services company. She served on the National Black Catholic Congress' Leadership Commission on Social Justice, and as an Advisory Board Member on the Maryland Catholic Conference's Respect for Life Department as well as the Archdiocese of Washington's Pastoral Council. She also taught Natural Family Planning and helped prepare engaged couples for marriage as a member of a Pre-Cana team in the Archdiocese of Washington. She has appeared in various media outlets including the Washington Post, PBS Newshour, Catholic Answers Live, and EWTN News Nightly.

Purvis hosts the morning radio program Morning Glory on EWTN Global Catholic Radio and is the creator and host of the EWTN TV series Authentically Free at Last, which deals with the modern challenges to the expression and understanding of authentic human freedom. In addition to her work as a full-time, stay-at-home mom, she serves on the boards of the Northwest Pregnancy Center and Maternity Home in Washington, D.C., and Ave Maria Mutual Funds, and serves as a lay consultant to the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Religious Liberty. She is dedicated to promoting the sanctity of human life, marriage, and the dignity of the human person.

Jacqueline Rivers

Jacqueline Rivers, Seymour Institute for Black Church and Policy Studies, Harvard University

Jacqueline C. Rivers is a lecturer in Sociology at Harvard University. She is the Executive Director and Senior Fellow for Social Science and Policy of the Seymour Institute for Black Church and Policy Studies. She is also Senior Fellow at the Center for the Study of Christianity and the Black Experience at King's College. She has presented at Princeton University, the University of Notre Dame, the University of Pennsylvania, the Vatican, Stanford University, the United Nations and in several other venues. Her publications include "The Paradox of the Black Church and Religious Freedom,” a chapter in the volume Not Just Good but Beautiful and another co-authored with Orlando Patterson in The Cultural Matrix published by Harvard University Press.

Jacqueline holds a PhD from Harvard University where she was a Doctoral Fellow in the Multidisciplinary Program in Inequality and Social Policy of the J. F. Kennedy School of Government and a Graduate Research Fellow of the National Science Foundation. She graduated from Harvard Radcliffe College (B.A. summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa and M.A., both in Psychology).

Benjamin Watson

Benjamin Watson, Super Bowl Champion

Benjamin Watson is recently retired from a 16-year career in the NFL. During that time, he was a first-round draft pick for the New England Patriots in 2004 and member of their Super Bowl XXIX championship team in 2005. Watson also played for the Cleveland Browns, Baltimore Ravens, and New Orleans Saints, totaling 547 receptions and more than 6,000 yards in his career. In 2015 and 2017, the NFL recognized Watson for his philanthropic efforts by naming him a Walter Payton Man of the Year Finalist. He also received the prestigious 2017 Bart Starr Award.  

Watson and his wife, Kirsten, are the proud parents of seven children. Together, the Watsons established the non-profit foundation One More, dedicated to impacting the lives of those in need by providing enrichment opportunities and promoting education through charitable initiatives and partnerships. Watson holds annual events such as the Big BENefit Christmas Toy Giveaway, Thanksgiving Turkey Drop, and School Givebacks; he also partners on numerous events and projects with the International Justice Mission, working to end sex trafficking. The Watsons are committed to protecting the lives of the most defenseless, devoting their time and money to assist pregnancy resource centers. Watson has also addressed the March for Life in Washington, D.C., and is currently producing a documentary on abortion titled Divided Hearts of America featuring Alveda King, Ben Carson, and other prominent pro-lifers.

Watson is the author of Under Our Skin: Getting Real about Race, Getting Free from the Fears and Frustrations that Divide Us and the forthcoming The New Dad’s Playbook. He has appeared on ABC’s Good Morning America, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, the Christian Broadcasting Network, and the Dr. Phil Show and has spoken on current events at schools, churches, and conferences across the country.

Watch the discussion.