What Audre Lorde Said

black and white photo of audre lorde

Like many of my fellow white people, I am undergoing a serious education about what it’s like to be black in America today. I am wondering what we can do, as individuals and as a society, to finally eradicate racism (to the extent that that is possible; I believe that even if 99% of US citizens agree that all people should be treated the same, there will always be that damaged 1% either born or made to be racist, misogynist, homophobic and so on).

I wrote in an earlier post that racism is white people’s collective crime and it requires a collective response or solution. But what exactly do we do to contribute to the solution?

There is no shortage of websites, blogs, social media accounts, magazine articles and books to give us ideas. Make donations, follow social media accounts, read books, sign petitions, contact elected officials and listen, for starters.

One of the books I’ve chosen to read is Sister Outsider, essays and speeches by Audre Lorde. And what do you know? Her words provide inspiration and guidance on the exact topic of what people can do. She addresses the Black community, the Women community and the Lesbian community throughout her writings, but they apply to all disenfranchised audiences and to those of us unwillingly in the oppressor bucket.


“Revolution is not a one-time event. It is becoming always vigilant for the smallest opportunity to make a genuine change in established, outgrown responses; for instance, it is learning to address each other’s difference with respect….

“To refuse to participate in the shaping of our future is to give it up. Do not be misled into passivity either by false security (they don’t mean me) or by despair (there’s nothing we can do).” — from “Learning from the 60s”

I love that particular quote because it addresses how change must occur at the most basic, interpersonal level as well as at the high-level systematic level.

photo audre lorde

This incredibly passionate and articulate woman died in 1992 but her words remain on fire today. I’m reading for the dual purpose of better understanding the black experience while also researching my next novel. Every essay I read by Lorde delivers numerous truths that could have been written this month instead of in the 1980s. (And that in itself is a sad commentary on how little progress we’ve made.)

“Difference is that raw and powerful connection from which our personal power is forged….we have been taught either to ignore our differences, or to view them as causes for separation and suspicion rather than as forces for change…community must not mean a shedding of our differences, nor the pathetic pretense that these differences do not exist.” — from “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House”

I could go on forever but instead, I recommend reading Sister Outsider for yourself. And regardless of whether or not you read it, get involved in Black Lives Matter. Make donations (scroll down on this page from The Daily Show with Trevor Noah for links to some organizations you can support), sign petitions, joins groups, follow activists on social media. Talk to people. Listen. But please, do something.

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