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11 Women's Rts. L. Rep. 7 (1989)
When the First Quail Calls: Multiple Consciousness as Jurisprudential Method

handle is hein.journals/worts11 and id is 11 raw text is: When the First Quail Calls:

Multiple Consciousness


Jurisprudential Method
A Talk Presented at the Yale Law School Conference on
Women of Color and the Law, April 16, 1988

In 1868, two white women, Angelina and Sa-
rah Grimke, acknowledged publicly that a Black
man, the son of their slave-owning brother, was
their nephew. They commenced to bestow on
that nephew the love and familiarity due a rela-
tive. In publicly embracing their blood tie to a
Black man, these women were doing something
unthinkable, inconceivable-something outside
the consciousness of their time. What was it that
projected the thinking of these two women ahead
of the thinking of their peers? It was their con-
sciousness of oppression, a consciousness devel-
oped in their feminist and abolitionist struggles.
The confluence of the feminist and abolition-
ist causes marks the most progressive moments in
American history. Today, the Yale Law School
Women of Color Collective is claiming that pro-
gressive heritage as their own. In their honor, let
us consider women of color as a paradigm group
for utilization of multiple consciousness as juris-
prudential method. Let us imagine a student with
women-of-color consciousness sitting in class in
the first year of law school. The dialogue in class
is designed to force students to pare away the ex-
traneous, to adopt the lawyer's skill of narrowing

issues and delineating the scope of relevant evi-
dence. The professor sees his job-and I use the
male pronoun deliberately-as training the stu-
dents out of the muddleheaded world where
everything is relevant and into the lawyer's world
where the few critical facts prevail.
The discussion in class today is of a Mi-
randa-type case. Our student wonders whether
the defendant was a person of color and whether
the police officer was white. The student knows
the city in which the case arose, and knows that
the level of police violence is so high in that place
that church groups hold candlelight vigils outside
the main police station every Sunday. The crime
charged is rape. The student wonders about the
race of the victim, and wonders whether the zeal-
ous questioning by the police in the case was tied
to the victim's race. The student thinks about
rape-the rape of her roommate last year, and her
own fears. She knows, given the prevalence of vi-
olence against women, that some of her class-
mates in this class of 100 students have been
raped. She wonders how they are reacting to the
case, what pain it resurrects for them.
In the consciousness of this student, many

*Associate Professor of Law, University of Hawaii, William
S. Richardson School of Law.
[Women's Rights Law Reporter, Volume 11, Number 1, Spring 1989]
@ 1989 by Women's Rights Law Reporter, Rutgers-The State University

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