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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Freire – Pedagogy of the Oppressed

Purpose/Objective/Research Questions/Focus of Study:

This work blends theory and methods to emphasize the necessity for alternative pedagogies for and by groups of people that are oppressed by larger power systems.

Conclusions/Recommendations:

Friere’s main recommendation is that his pedagogy not be merely imitated and adopted as is, but that his practices be embraced and rewritten, recreated, and re-situated in different contexts.

Chapter 1

In chapter one, Paulo Freire establishes the need for a pedogogy of the oppressed that differs from tradition pedagogies formed and implemented by those in power which serves as a tool of dehumanization and oppression. Freire is clear that both those who exploit and those who are exploited are dehumanized in the process. Freire asserts that it is the oppressed that have the power to liberate themselves and their oppressors from an unjust social order through praxis (44, 51). This praxis can be summarized as “reflection and action upon the world in order to transform it” (51).

On page 68, Freire explains why a humanizing pedagogy is required:

The struggle begins with men’s recognition that they have been destroyed. Propoganda, management, manipulation – all arms of domination – cannot be the instruments of their rehumanization.

A humanizing pedagogy is one in which the teacher and the student (revolutionary leadershers and the oppressed) are both Subjects who are co-intent on collective reflection of reality as well as collective action in order to create new knowledge (69).

Chapter 2

This chapter details the inherent difference between “banking” and “problem-posing” education models and how they either work to oppress or liberate the masses. Freire stresses the importance of humanist, revolutionary educators not using what Audre Lorde would call the Master’s Tools of the “banking” concept, but insists that revolutionary educators begin with problem-posing techniques so that they co-create knowledge with the people. Any other way, Freire says would only further sustain dehumanization and oppression (75).

Banking education resists dialogue where problem-posing necessitates it. Banking education mythicize reality and conceals certain facts, while problem posing seeks to demythologize reality. The banking model inhibits creativity and severs people and their ways of being from the world, while problem-posing is based on creativity, reflection and action. On page 84, Freire says that in sum,

…banking theory and practice, as immobilizing and fixating forces, fail to acknowledge men and women as historical beings; problem posing theory and practice take the people’s historicity as its starting point.

Problem-posing praxis provokes the question “why?” and therefore necessarily goes against the purposes of the oppressor. This dialogical pedagogy requires the oppressed act as agents on behalf of their own emancipation.

Chapter 3

This chapter details dialogics as the essence of liberatory education as opposed to rote memorization. Dialogue is based on the word which is also praxis in that it must balance reflection and action in order not become mere verbalism or activism (87-88). Freire suggest that there must be an agreement of intent in order to have dialogue. Other qualities necessary to sustain dialogue are: profound love of the world and of people, humility, faith, hope, and critical thinking (89-92).

A dialogic approach is necessary in critical pedagogy at every turn as a safe guard against the banking model, where the teacher brings the agenda, content, and/or knowledge to the student(s). Instead, Freire says that a dialogic methodology is needed to explore the people’s “thematic universe” and to develop “generative themes” (96). Revolutionary educators must engage with the people in order to unearth the areas of focus, problems, and questions that the people want/ need to pose and have resolved. Through this process a much richer and more relevant understanding is realized by all parties. Working in “culture circles” to engage in dialogue about these “generative themes” is in fact generative in that group members then have the opportunity to build off of those discussions and suggest more themes for inquiry. About this, Freire says:

The important thing, from the point of view of libertarian education, is for the people to come to feel like masters of their thinking by discussing the thinking and views of the world explicitly or implicitly manifest in their own suggestions and those of their comrades (124).

Chapter 4

In this chapter, Freire builds upon the previous discussion of dialogics and contrast it with it’s oppresive counterpart of antidialogics. Antidialogics works to maintain dichotomies that separate the ruling minority from the majority and establishes the minority as the standard and justification for the other groups oppressed situation. He lists the four main characteristics of antidialogics as being: conquest, divide and rule, manipulation, and cultural invasion (138-160). All of these characteristics employed by the minority in power work to further oppress the majority.