Tag Archives: political

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.”


Someone in my Bible study this week suggested that if Jesus spoke today about our country the way he did about Rome, it would be high treason. This is my agreement.

A while back, I went to see a movie with a few very good friends. Beyond what comes next, I thought it was a good movie. It was not too presumptuous, nor was it boring or long winded, just an open window into a story from WW2 that to my knowledge had not been told because primary sources did not want to tell it. It concerned a group of freedom fighters who were not anti-war activists or especially decent folks, but they united together to secretly plot for the good of Germany over and against Hitler’s mad schemes. Full disclosure time, and if you haven’t seen the movie, don’t worry, I will only spoil minor plot points, but the crux of the movie revolves around an assassination attempt on Adolf Hitler. Apparently, many clergy at the time were involved in attempting to assassinate the guy with the fuehrious mustache.

My favorite line in the movie was from the following exchange between tom cruise’s character and someone who he has just hired as an assistant in a government job. Before his actual job begins, Tom Cruise’s character, in an act of brazen and fairly reckless abandon says to the recruit, “”I am involved in high treason with all means available to me. Can I count you in?”

Can I count you in? That is the question I find myself confronted with when Jesus talks. Literally. He is not reacting against the moral decay of western civilization, he is not trying to get us to rebel against hell itself or abortion, or gay marriage, or biblical illiteracy, or rap music, or rock music in church, or conservative politicians, or even liberal politicians. He was inviting us to stand up against Rome and the leadership of Israel, which at the time were the physical instruments and in some cases the actual embodiments of what Walter Wink calls the Domination System, what the Bible calls Satan, what we in our culture might describe as Technological, Militaristic, Therapeutic, Consumerism (according to Walter Bruggeman).

Jesus was involved in high treason against the God of this world. The powers, principalities, the anthropomorphic descriptions of the collective spirits of our institutions such as families, places of worship, governments, and entertainments that have taken a life of their own and like a computer virus unleashed by a pimple-faced, too-smart-for-his-own-good-hacker, it has spiraled out of control and now threatens the very people that created it and are now subject to it. Like Germany was to Hitler.

One particular part I liked about Valkyrie, was that in the midst of trying to wrest power from Hitler, they almost succeeded. They had a grand plan which had fingers extended into every possible power structure of Germany and once unleashed, they were able to take power fairly easily and at one point, Tom Cruise asks a compatriot how a certain front is going and he responds positively, noting that “not one bullet was fired”. Ghandi was once asked if his non-violent political action would work against Hitler. He said he didn’t know until it was tried. And that is one of the single most repeated questions I am asked when I talk about non-violence. What about Hitler? Well, I think Valkyrie gave me a window into what is possible. If a few German officers were able to almost take control of Germany in a matter of hours, given less than a year to plan, what might have been possible for others who might have followed in their footsteps? Would Hitler have ever been deposed by anything less than a violent solution? Who knows? But I believe Jesus invites us to think harder about those kind of questions, because when Jesus asks if he can count us in, violence and war are large parts of what he is involved with treason against. Jesus refused to use the enemy’s means to fight for his ends.

In a world where might makes right (yes you mr. bullhorn in downtown Fort Worth, and you mr. sit back in washington and send my friends to Iraq, and lets not forget you mr. too-big-to-fail banker who screwed us all where it hurts with your business practices and when your business is heading towards bankruptcy the government gives you lots of dough which you keep to buy other banks and give large bonuses, and lastly you mr. gas-guzzler maker, who cries in their soup when america won’t buy their crappy cars anymore because the other countries can make them better, most cost effective, and export them cheaper than you can make them here, and then you ask for handouts from the taxpayers to bail you out, having flown in your freaking private jet to get there!), Jesus asks us to join him in high treason, not against people, but against the System.

Can we count you in?

Enhanced by Zemanta