“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
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.
(A poem by Audre Lorde)
The difference between poetry and rhetoric
is being ready to kill
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
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.”
- “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House” from Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches by Audre Lorde.
- “Power” from The Collected Poems of Audre Lorde by Audre Lorde.
- “Audre Lorde” copyright by Dagmar Schultz