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Audre Lorde: no such thing as a single-issue struggle

Wisdom on unity and diversity, in the struggle for civil rights, by Audre Lorde, Learning from the 60s February 1982:

The 60s were characterized by a heady belief in instantaneous solutions.  They were vital years of awakening, of pride, and of error. The civil rights and Black power movements rekindled possibilities for disenfranchised groups within this nation.  Even though we fought common enemies, at times the lure of individual solutions made us careless of each other. Sometimes we could not bear the face of each other’s differences because of what we feared those differences might say about ourselves. As if everybody can’t eventually be too Black, too white, too man, too woman.  But any future vision which can encompass all of us, by definition, must be complex and expanding, not easy to achieve. The answer to cold is heat, the answer to hunger is food. But there is no simple monolithic solution to racism, to sexism, to homophobia.  There is only the conscious focusing within each of my days to move against them, wherever I come up against these particular manifestations of the same disease.  By seeing who the we is, we learn to use our energies with greater precision against our enemies rather than against ourselves.

In the 60s, white america – racist and liberal alike – was more than pleased to sit back as spectator while Black militant fought Black Muslim, Black Nationalist badmouthed the nonviolent, and Black women were told that our only useful position in the Black Power movement was prone.  The existence of Black lesbian and gay people was not even allowed to cross the public consciousness of Black america.  We know in the 1980s, from documents gained through the Freedom of Information Act, that the FBI and CIA used our intolerance of difference to foment confusion and tragedy in segment after segment of Black communities of the 60s. Black was beautiful, but still suspect, and too often our forums for debate became stages for playing who’s-Blacker-than-who Or who’s-poorer-than-who games, ones in which there can be no winners….

As a Black lesbian mother in an interracial marriage, there was usually some part of me guaranteed to offend everybody’s comfortable prejudices of who I should be.  That is how I learned that if I didn’t define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people’s fantasies for me and eaten alive. My poetry, my life, my work, my energies for struggle were not acceptable unless I pretended to match somebody else’s norm. I learned that not only couldn’t I succeed at that game, but the energy needed for that masquerade would be lost to my work….

…There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives. Malcolm knew this. Martin Luther King, Jr. knew this. Our struggles are particular, but we are not alone.  We are not perfect, but we are stronger and wiser than the sum of our errors…

[emphasis mine]

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