I am thrilled to be part of this commemoration of the twenty-fifth anniversary of Professor Matsuda's influential article Public Response to Racist Speech: Considering the Victim's Story. I first read Matsuda's essay as a law student when, I must confess, the mind-numbing one-dimensionality of the law-as one must learn it in the prevailing method-drove me a little crazy. Law school is an environment where the Socratic method reduces people's stories-the stuff of which law is made-to something lawyers like to call "the facts," and where real-life people, in whom I saw so much of myself-people like Michael Hardwick, for example-get completely lost in the monolith of the law. I was desperate for an alternative. Then came Matsuda, speaking to me through her writing, telling me: " ‘No, you are not crazy, the world looks that way to [me], too.' " Neither Matsuda's method nor her mind was fettered by supposedly "neutral" legal principles that amounted to so much sexism and racism and homophobia masquerading as something lawyers like to call "reasonableness." I always wanted to ask: Reasonable to whom? Certainly not to me. In contrast to the prevailing discourse about the law, Matsuda was telling us something different:
High talk about language, meaning, sign, process, and law can mask racist and sexist ugliness if we never stop to ask: "Exactly what are you talking about and what is the implication of what you are saying for my sister who is carrying buckets of water up five flights of stairs in a welfare hotel? What do you propose to do for her today, not in some abstract future you are creating in your mind?" If you have been made to feel, as I have, that such inquiry is theoretically unsophisticated, and quaintly naive, resist!
I can't tell you, even now, how much that missive resonated with me, except to say that it helped keep me sane. Given what Professor Matsuda has meant to me, then, I could fill much more than the space allotted to me here praising her and her work. But, within these constraints, I must be content with reflecting on what Matsuda's method of multiple consciousness-which is "a deliberate choice to see the world from the standpoint of the oppressed"-means for this country's positively homicidal stance on so-called free speech, and what hope her method offers.