Friday, December 16, 2005

My Atavistic Political Blackness, Exclusionary or Solidary?

There is no hierarchy of oppressions. Audre Lorde

Years ago in Santa Cruz, I recognized the words of Audre Lorde tattooed ‘large-and-loud’ on the arm of a young, non-Black sales clerk at Trader Joe’s grocery store. Instantly, I felt myself cleaved in two.

On the one hand, I understood and appreciated the powerful commitment to universality that this girl had inscribed on her body: That is, “when I suffer, I feel your suffering. We are human together.”

Simultaneously, however, I heard the bitter-sweet rejoinder that often, even years later, surfaces when I see Lorde’s words quoted and, usually, attributed to (a non-Black) someone else doing good work. Somehow it is both the inclusive, rallying, humanistic cry as well as a practical, personal reminder that race continues to segregate and isolate members of our society.

That is, these among many of Audre Lorde's words always imply to me, “if you are oppressed, you know it. You don’t waste time fighting about who hurts more. You recognize oppression, and then you fight it wherever it is.”

I raise this issue of whose suffering or whose equality is more important, because I found myself wrestling with finalizing an upcoming post about the imploding landscape of racial relations just as many of my/our social justice allies made their final efforts to support Stanley Williams in his struggle to claim his right to life.

I noticed that some of our strongest potential allies stood by confused, for lack of what I call a 'moral majority.' That is, as long as ethical clarity expressed by a politically significant majority of the People is absent, we cannot expect our public servants to exercise their duty--that is to wield the hoary authority that we confer upon them, in a manner consistent with our values.

Social justice leaders, such as Audre Lorde, who interpret human rights with compassion and clarity have reminded us that equal access to the basic rights of life, liberty, and freedom are what we seek, for everyone. (Not redemption, which we leave to the Divine.)

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