Tag Archives: Audre Lorde

the master's tools #AnaBlacktivism

“Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, in singleness of heart, as you obey Christ; not only while being watched, and in order to please them, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart. Render service with enthusiasm, as to the Lord and not to men and women, knowing that whatever good we do, we will receive the same again from the Lord, whether we are slaves or free. And, masters, do the same to them. Stop threatening them, for you know that both of you have the same Master in heaven, and with him there is no partiality.-the Apostle Paul Ephesians 5:5-9(NRSV)”

“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, “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle The Master’s House

Whenever discussions of social injustice take place, I normally see a shorter version of Audre Lorde’s quote appear, with the phrase itself taken completely out of context. The bumper sticker version “The master’s tool will never dismantle the master’s house” is invoked whenever some revolutionary purist wants to score points for quoting a woman of color and sexual minority (bonus points! LEVEL UP!)

Level up scott pilgrim

In context, Audre Lorde is describing her situation, and critiquing white feminism that centers the Academy and the middle class, and straight. The event she critiqued which took place almost thirty years ago was one in which “difference was merely tolerated.” For Lorde, “Difference is that raw and powerful connection from which our
personal power is forged.” It is the exclusion of this difference by white feminism that is exactly the way that it (white feminism) reinscribes White Supremacist Kyriarchy. One of the interesting questions that Lorde asks in this essay/speech,

“Why weren’t other women of Color found to participate in this conference? Why were
two phone calls to me considered a consultation? Am I the only possible source of names
of Black feminists? And although the Black panelist’s paper ends on an important and
powerful connection of love between women, what about interracial cooperation between
feminists who don’t love each other?”

Or for in a different context, why isn’t there any discussion for People of Color who desire for racial justice at Christian conferences? One of my friends a few months ago received a few phone calls as “a consultation,” and his voice was further devalued. The problem with the bumper sticker version of “the master’s tools” is that these discussion still center “the masters,” the dominant culture with its male supremacy. Even when members of the dominant culture find themselves wanting to discuss issues of white supremacy, privilege, classism and sexism, the starting point unfortunately seems to focus on the perspective from those at the top.

Then, there is this “demand” for marginalized people to “supply” privileged persons with education to be better allies. The choice by those from the margins to take the lead and inform the dominant culture of its wrongs should be a free, noncompulsory choice, on the terms determined by the marginated. Dialogues such as the Southern Baptist Convention partaking in the LORD’S Supper with members of the LGBTQIA community is a start, but again, it was on the SBC’s homefield. The calls by the majority, those in power, for the minorities to educate them, are, as Lorde argues, diversion tactics that lead to a repetition of white supremacist kyriarchy.

The way to decenter these discussions is to #1, stay focused on the margins, #2, not stray away from the topic of structural oppressions which can get derailed by persons who wish to make it “all about the individual,” and #3, recognize that whatever our visions of liberation are, whether they are religious or political, that these transcend as “the master’s tools.”

This can't be the end of the conversation. #TheNewPacifism

For me, as a Christian woman of Mexican descent, there are certain words for which, thanks to their cultural usage in both Protestant Christian and secular circles, I have a very complicated box of associations. One could say that they have a loaded history, a charged atmosphere. A sense of danger.

Pacifism is one of them.

On the one hand, I have people like Mark Driscoll who by his outright rejection of even the idea of pacifism and his very ironic Bible verse cherry picking, that those “very selective in the parts of the Bible they quote,” and “wrongly preach that Jesus was a pacifist” will be among those suffering the Prince of Peace’s wrath.

Take a moment to let that irony sink in. I couldn’t make satire that good even if I tried.

I think I understand a little why Driscoll doesn’t want to take Jesus’ commands in the Beatitudes seriously or literally: to offer your other cheek after being slapped, walking two miles with soldiers who occupy your country and are making you upon point of death carry their supplies one mile, and giving your clothes AND your coat to the one suing you (just some of the hard things in Matthew 5: 38-48) — I also don’t want to do these things for my oppressors, much less pray for them. But Jesus commands those things of his disciples. Jesus is my example. He took up his cross and endured a very bitter cup of unfair persecution without retaliation. And it killed him. On the other hand, I also, in this loaded discussion about pacifism, read bloggers, who, in critiquing Driscoll’s lol-arious eisegesis, quoting only from a white cis male perspective, who still unintentionally make me cringe and want to run far away.

If I read only DisposableSoul’s article, my heart would still feel crushed, because here are numerous white male theologians in positions of authority who do not feel the lacerations of racism and misogyny, the effects of colonization, white supremacy, or patriarchy, or the confusion I experience when pacifism sounds like a game that people play, a fascinating debate, or a theoretical exercise.

And there’s a huge line of martyrs in the history of our faith that would say that that’s a price I should be willing to pay. I agree with those martyrs, but only very reluctantly. (Death is still pretty far down there on my list.) If I chose to embrace pacifism in the uncritical ways that I’ve heard it proffered, I could literally die, as Sarah Over the Moon states, and not for much (“just” for being a WOC). And if I say that it’s unfair, and try to shame my attackers into NOT attacking me using logic or emotional appeals, I will experience tone-policing, silencing, and could still die.

A thought from Arundhati Roy on that: “It would be immoral of me to preach violence unless I’m prepared to pick up arms myself. It is equally immoral for me to preach nonviolence when I’m not bearing the brunt of the attack.” 

And another for anyone who thinks that tone policing or gas-lighting isn’t a problem:

“The abusive man’s problem with anger is almost the opposite of what is commonly believed. The reality is: Your abusive partner doesn’t have a problem with HIS anger; he has a problem with YOUR anger. One of the basic human rights he takes away from you is the right to be angry with him. No matter how badly he treats you, he believes that your voice shouldn’t rise and your blood shouldn’t boil. The privilege of rage is reserved for him alone. When your anger does jump out of you —as will happen to any abused woman from time to time —he is likely to try to jam it back down your throat as quickly as he can. Then he uses your anger against you to prove what an irrational person you are. Abuse can make you feel straightjacketed. You may develop physical or emotional reactions to swallowing your anger, such as depression, nightmares, emotional numbing, or eating and sleeping problems, which your partner may use as an excuse to belittle you further or make you feel crazy.”  — Lundy Bancroft, Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men

So, how do I resist abusers? How do I protect myself and others in harm’s way, while still following the call of pacifism?

But if Jesus is my example, he also gave me the whole cleansing out the temple example using homemade whips and lots of yelling and public disturbance. He called certain politico-religious leaders of his day “a brood of serpents.” He also told leaders that if they caused small children to stumble, they deserved to go drown in the ocean. (Probably the equivalent of today’s “DIAF.”)

He spoke and acted in ways that made people angry enough to kill him for the sake of the status quo. So, I have to agree with Driscoll a little (SHOCK, I know). Those who ignore Jesus’ radical defiance combined with his pacifism aren’t getting it right either.

So, how does a vulnerable, oppressed, and/or marginalized person follow that call of Jesus in a way that doesn’t damage themselves and perpetuate lies about themselves from their abusers, persecutors, and oppressors?

If Jesus in the Beatitudes calls us to be peacemakers, what is peacemaking?

One way and means of peacemaking is to listen–

–listening to the voice of Jesus, who was not a white rich Western, English speaking man in a white supremacist patriarchal system (and in fact was almost the opposite), and listening to the men and women of color who have come before me, and dialoguing with a community that has to decide together how to fill in the valleys and level the mountains that keep us apart and sow seeds of bitterness and hatred, and literally kill some of us.

One way and means of peacemaking is to remain and flourish.

“For an indigenous person, choosing not to vanish, not to feel inferior, not to hate oneself, becomes an intensely political act.” — Theresa Harlan, “Creating A Visual History: A Question of Ownership”

“For women, the need and desire to nurture each other is not pathological but redemptive, and it is within that knowledge that our real power is rediscovered. It is this real connection which is so feared by a patriarchal world…Interdependency between women is the way to a freedom which allows the I to be, not in order to be used, but in order to be creative. This is a difference between the passive be and the active being.” — Audre Lorde in “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House”

One way and means of peacemaking is to protect others by shaming and destroying the status quo.

If Driscoll and others like him could begin reading Revelation using one of its original purposes, critiquing empire and power, and look at the imagery of Jesus riding in on a white horse, clothed in white but dripping in HIS OWN BLOOD, they would see that power and empire and status are being turned upside down.

Mountains that considered the most stable, long-lasting, and powerful are being leveled in this Kingdom. Valleys that have been for so long low, dark, and dreary are being raised and transformed into livable, beautiful places.

Pacifism is not being nonviolent for the sake of nonviolence, for the sake of ideological purity and pride in not having let someone get to you and make you mad.

Pacifism is in order to live, and promote and protect that life in others.

“The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” — John 10:10

Pacifism isn’t just a conversation. It can’t end with just words. But it can definitely start with listening to those who long for peace most.

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