Professor Harris from UCLA school of Law

Te Piringa - Faculty of Law was honored to co-host UCLA Law School Professor and renowned Critical Race Theory scholar Cheryl Harris with the Faculty of Maori and Indigenous Studies (FMIS) for two events on Monday, 12 June 2017.

Professor Harris is well-known for her 1993 Harvard Review article "Whiteness as Property" which has ever since challenged and influenced American legal thought.

Early that afternoon, faculty members Gay Morgan, Linda Te Aho and Keaka Hemi, were part of a lively roundtable with Professor Harris and scholars from FMIS, including Professor Linda Tuhiwai Smith, titled "It's complicated: A relationship status update for Race, Indigenous Studies and Law" in the Gallagher Center for Performing Arts. Students and staff from across the University were treated to a frank and multi-disciplinary conversation on the often fluid and sometimes tense relationship between race, indigeneity and the law. Students and staff alike appeared to particularly bask in Professor Harris' discussion of her landmark theory in person.

Professor Harris' presentation that evening, "Afterlives of slavery and settler colonialism", was very well-attended in Te Piringa with additional seating becoming necessary. Professor Harris' presentation was timely and, at times, chilling as she discussed unsettling realities, such as the disproportionate rates of African American incarceration and fines, as the continuing legacy of slavery and discrimination. Beyond movements such as Black Lives Matter, the relevance of Professor Harris' research to current Maori criminal justice issues did not go unnoticed by audience members, who remarked on commonalities between the law's treatment of the two groups. As the audience slowly dispersed at the end of the presentation, various attendees commented on how much they enjoyed both events.

This was Professor Harris' first trip to New Zealand, a trip she decided to make only a few weeks ago. Despite timeframes, the response to Professor Harris by professionals, students, staff and members of the public was overwhelming. She has indicated that she would definitely like to come back to visit us again. We will look forward to that.