Mari Matsuda Peace Orchestra

An introduction

The Peace Orchestra has an intellectual neighbor.

In the early 1980’s there were almost no law professors of color. A few of us began meeting and theorizing about the dialectical relationship between white supremacy and the US legal system.  We came out of freedom struggles, and we defined freedom broadly to include the end of all forms of subordination. We imagined a world in which all human beings are valued and upheld.  Our teachers were generations of freedom fighters before us and we took our genealogy seriously as we pushed, argued, cooked our way into a new mode of analysis called critical race theory.  We were and are feminists, and when feminism met critical race theory, it expanded into intersectionality.  


With Kimberle’ Crenshaw slinging pots and pans in her kitchen I watched a new idea emerge: The systemic devaluation of our sister who is poor, Black, female, queer is not just a matter of one oppression piling on another.  The entire structure of colonization finds its perpetual motion miracle by deploying interlocking subordination. Multiple oppressions supercharge the colonizer’s system, allowing it to morph and disrupt resistance at every turn, breaking our coalitions and occluding our thoughts.  Freedom is not coming unless we take on the entire beast. 


It’s an ugly thing, the beast we saw when we called out its name, but seeing it was the first step in seeing its vulnerability.  There are more of us, always have been, and we have power.  Critical race theory is what happens when you take your hands off your eyes in the scary movie, and start laughing at the absurdity of the premise. We are laughing, and fighting, and writing, and marching, now four decades into this project.



The Last Public Place: Critical Race Theory and Education (forthcoming) (with Charles Lawrence).

We Won’t Go Back: Making the Case for Affirmative Action, Houghton-Mifflin (1997) (with Charles Lawrence).

Where is Your Body? And Other Essays on Race, Gender and the Law, Beacon Press (1996).

Words that Wound: Critical Race Theory, Assaultive Speech, and the First Amendment, Westview Press (1993) (with Lawrence, Delgado & Crenshaw).

Called From Within: Early Women Lawyers of Hawaiʻi, University of Hawaiʻi Press (1992) Editor.