Some Quotes from Sister Outsider

This past week I have been reading Sister Outsider, a collection of Audre Lorde’s essays, papers and speeches. Every bit of writing in this collection is worth reading. Lorde’s writing remains applicable and useful to our current struggles and I found myself wishing that I had read her words earlier in my life. Better late than never I suppose.

While I was reading this book, I used my Kobo ebook reader’s annotation function to highlight and save a few choice quotes that I thought were particularly important.

Here they are:

For within living structures defined by profit, by linear power, by institutional dehumanization, our feelings were not meant to survive. Kept around as unavoidable adjuncts or pleasant pastimes, feelings were expected to kneel to thought as women were expected to kneel to men.

Poetry is not a luxury by Audre Lorde

This reminded me of reading bell hooks’ The Will to Change. In that book hooks talks about how patriarchy kills the part of men’s souls that lets them feel.

Some problems we share as women, some we do not. You fear your children will grow up to join the patriarchy and testify against you, we fear our children will be dragged from a car and shot down in the street, and you will turn your backs upon the reasons they are dying.

Age, Race, Class, and Sex: Women Redefining Difference by Audre Lorde

In that second quote Lorde is specifically talking about white women and the differences in the problems between white women and Black women.

My fullest concentration of energy is available to me only when I integrate all the parts of who I am, openly allowing power from particular sources of my living to flow back and forth freely through all my different selves, without the restrictions of externally imposed definition.

Age, Race, Class, and Sex: Women Redefining Difference by Audre Lorde

This one hit me hard. I wish I had learned this and internalized the lesson earlier in my life. It would have save me a lot of headache.

I cannot hide my anger to spare you guilt, nor hurt feelings, nor answering anger; for to do so insults and trivializes all our efforts. Guilt is not a response to anger; it is a response to one’s own actions or lack of action. If it leads to change then it can be useful, since it is then no longer guilt but the beginning of knowledge.

The Uses of Anger: Women Responding to Racism by Audre Lorde

This particular speech is an absolute evisceration of the specific kind of white guilt often wielded by white women.

To turn aside from the anger of Black women with excuses or the pretexts of intimidation is to award no one power — it is merely another way of preserving racial blindness, the power of unaddressed privilege, unbreached, intact. Guilt is only another form of objectification. Oppressed people are always being asked to stretch a little more, to bridge the gap between blindness and humanity. Black women are expected to use our anger only in the service of other people’s salvation or learning. But that time is over. My anger has meant pain to me but it has also meant survival, and before I give it up I’m going to be sure that there is something at least as powerful to replace it on the road to clarity.

The Uses of Anger: Women Responding to Racism by Audre Lorde

This entire keynote presentation is brimming with barely contained fury. That must have been one hell of a keynote presentation to be physically present for.

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

Learning From the 60s by Audre Lorde

This one is about learning about the revolutionary struggles of the past and moving forward and not repeating our mistakes.

Growing up, metabolizing hatred like a daily bread. Because I am Black, because I am woman, because I am not Black enough, because I am not some particular fantasy of a woman, because I AM. On such a consistent diet, one can eventually come to value the hatred of one’s enemies more than one values the love of friends, for that hatred becomes the sources of anger, and anger is a powerful fuel.

Eye to Eye: Black Women, Hatred, and Anger by Audre Lorde

Of all the writing in this collection, this particular essay about the relationships between Black women is the most heart wrenching and sad. Lorde’s pain and yearning seeps the words here.

That’s all from me. I recommend everyone read this collection.