Audre Lorde: Weaknesses As Strengths

Reading Time: 3 minutes

“Those of us who stand outside the circle of this society’s definition of acceptable women; those of us who have been forged in the crucibles of difference – those of us who are poor, who are lesbians, who are Black, who are older – know that survival is not an academic skill. It is learning how to take our differences and make them strengths. For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. They may allow us temporarily to beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change. And this fact is only threatening to those women who still define the master’s house as their only source of support.”

— Audre Lorde

[1]

Audre Lorde was a writer and poet during the Civil Rights Era who became famous for her powerful, evocative writing which she used to promote equality and justice. Being a lesbian, African American Woman during this time, she described herself as “other in every group I’m part of,” and used this outsider position as fuel for her activism and writing. 

What inspires me most about her is her view on taking weaknesses and making them into strengths. In this world, it is hard not to feel marginalized in some way, particularly in 

America, it is hard not to feel the weight of the injustices of the past and those that are still on us. However, remember, our weaknesses can be our biggest strengths as long as we can understand how to use them to our advantage. 

When we feel crushed by the weight of our differences, when we feel too weak to stand up for ourselves, think of someone like Lorde who overcame these differences in herself and used them to fight back. 

We need to remember the power of our authentic voice.

Power

(A poem by Audre Lorde)

The difference between poetry and rhetoric

is being ready to kill

yourself

instead of your children.

I am trapped on a desert of raw gunshot wounds

and a dead child dragging his shattered black

face off the edge of my sleep

blood from his punctured cheeks and shoulders

is the only liquid for miles

and my stomach

churns at the imagined taste while

my mouth splits into dry lips

without loyalty or reason

thirsting for the wetness of his blood

as it sinks into the whiteness

of the desert where I am lost

without imagery or magic

trying to make power out of hatred and destruction

trying to heal my dying son with kisses

only the sun will bleach his bones quicker.

A policeman who shot down a ten year old in Queens

stood over the boy with his cop shoes in childish blood

and a voice said “Die you little motherfucker” and

there are tapes to prove it. At his trial

this policeman said in his own defense

“I didn’t notice the size nor nothing else

only the color”. And

there are tapes to prove that, too.

Today that 37 year old white man

with 13 years of police forcing

was set free

by eleven white men who said they were satisfied

justice had been done

and one Black Woman who said

“They convinced me” meaning

they had dragged her 4’10” black Woman’s frame

over the hot coals

of four centuries of white male approval

until she let go

the first real power she ever had

and lined her own womb with cement

to make a graveyard for our children.

I have not been able to touch the destruction

within me.

But unless I learn to use

the difference between poetry and rhetoric

my power too will run corrupt as poisonous mold

or lie limp and useless as an unconnected wire

and one day I will take my teenaged plug

and connect it to the nearest socket

raping an 85 year old white woman

who is somebody’s mother

and as I beat her senseless and set a torch to her bed

a greek chorus will be singing in 3/4 time

“Poor thing. She never hurt a soul. What beasts they are.”

[2]

References:

  1. The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House” from Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches by Audre Lorde.
  2. Power” from The Collected Poems of Audre Lorde by Audre Lorde.
  3. Audre Lorde” copyright by Dagmar Schultz

Leave a Comment