Lorde – From “There is No Hierarchy of Oppressions”

From Homophobia and Education (New York: Council on Interracial Books for
Children, 1983)

I simply do not believe that one aspect of myself can possibly profit from the oppression of any other part of my identity. I know that my people cannot possibly profit from the oppression of any other group which seeks the right to peaceful existence. Rather, we diminish ourselves by denying to others what we have shed blood to obtain for our children. And those children need to learn that they do not have to become like each other in order to work together for a future they will all share.

In this passage Audre Lorde spoke specifically to the social intersections in which she stood: Black, lesbian, feminist, socialist, poet, mother, and interracial lover. However, her message is so profound and timeless that it can be extended to apply to a multitude of social realities to account for differences in ethnicity, age, class, geography, ability, etc.

Lorde emphasized that oppression regardless of it’s particular discrimination stems from the same place. She said, “I have learned that sexism and heterosexism both arise from the same source as racism,” and therefore, argued that they were all equally detrimental and deserving of equal and simultaneous resistance. Oppression, Lorde implied, knows no boundaries; if oppression against one group is allowed to thrive, it will sooner or later spread to oppress others. Consequently, no one can afford to pick particular battles:

I cannot afford the luxury of fighting one form of oppression only. I cannot afford to believe that freedom from intolerance is the right of only one particular group. And I cannot afford to choose between the fronts upon which I must battle these forces of discrimination, .wherever they appear to destroy me. And when they appear to destroy me, it will not be long before they appear to destroy you.

This is particularly significant as it relates to Hip-hop feminism, Black girlhood, and recurring manifestations of the cult of respectability in this generation of women and girls in Hip-hop culture because I am Black, female/ a girl (Brown, 2009), and socialized in Hip-hop culture.

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One thought on “Lorde – From “There is No Hierarchy of Oppressions”

  1. Pingback: Oppression « Flickr Comments by FrizzText

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