Lorde writes in her essay “The Uses Of Anger: Women Responding To Racism”, that “Women responding to racism means women responding to anger; the anger of exclusion, of unquestioned privilege, of racial distortions, of silence, ill-use, stereotyping, defensiveness, misnaming, betrayal, and co-optation.”
This is an important quote from Lorde. Racism is important to understand and it’s not easy to dissect it down to all of what it entails. Without dissection, it is easier for people to dismiss racism and be able to easily (although wrongly) reject any idea that they are racist. When racism is only described by it’s own term, people will think of whatever they think the worst is. Ku Klux Klan, pure and unrelenting hatred, slavery, and so forth. They are left to continue thinking of themselves as right and good because they aren’t burning crosses in someone’s yard and can continue sticking to what their own view of racism is. When racism is discussed in a general sense, many of those people can disregard their unquestioned privilege.
In part of her essay, “Eye To Eye”, Audrey Lorde writes about her experiences as a young Black child. In one example, she has undergone a fairly invasive eye examination for a three-year-old. She is hurting, tired, scared, and she wants her mother.
Lorde recalls a voice that she heard as a result of her “peculiar” eyes being examined. “From the looks of her, she is probably simple too.” The doctors all laugh. One pats her on the cheek and sends her out.
Lorde states in her essay, “I am grateful for the absence of harshness.”
I imagine that just about anyone who has a feature about them that can be perceived by others as a problem can relate to this. The feelings of not being accepted, not being loved, condescended upon, and merely tolerated is a powerful oppression that occurs. I think this oppression is sometimes intentional but sometimes it is not.
I think that unintentional oppression comes from a place of miseducation and ignorance. It’s easy to look at the person walking across the bridge at 11:30 in the morning and say “That person ought to go get a job.” It’s easy to give them $5 and send them on their way. But what if we began to understand them? What if we learned they have a disability. Perhaps that disability comes from a traumatic life that others can’t imagine in their own worst nightmares? We tolerate people getting off the bus who are talking to themselves wearing headphones but we certainly don’t go out of our way to engage them.
We do not help them, we simply spare them the harshness.
There are many problems of double consciousness as DuBois describes but the nature of it largely entails the requirement of looking at your life through the eyes of others. The elements of our lives that make us different, special, unique are often viewed as problems for others and we in turn train ourselves to believe “I am a problem.”
Sometimes, we write people off for being “fake” or pretending to be something that they’re not. In fact, I think many would describe inauthenticity as one of the least attractive features that a person can have. Some inauthenticity can be sensed when you talk with someone or perhaps even just by looking at a picture of them. The tinge of self-consciousness behind a smile or facaded positivity can show through.
In the article I’ve linked below, the author describes her (I’m assuming a woman) battle with PTSD and the problems she has faced from it. In the very beginning she discusses that others thought her life was perfect. Smart, beautiful, working towards a modeling career but the effects of her trauma could no longer be coped with on her own. Her veneer was breaking down and the shields are harder to hold up as we progress through life.
I wonder if her her life ever appeared to be as perfect to others as she seems to think. Perhaps it did to some and perhaps those people are similar to her in some ways. The laws of attraction happen on subconscious levels that we don’t quite understand.
The problem of trauma and abuse as a result of addicted lifestyles.
A large part of responsibility in my work is conducting interviews with people seeking 3.5 ASAM level of care. This level of care is clinically managed, intensive inpatient substance abuse treatment. In short it is “28 days.”
These interviews are conducted to establish medical necessity for their treatment and are general in nature but the answers I receive to the questions get very detailed and specific.
My work is rewarding and fascinating. However, at the beginning of the journey of recovery there are only several variations of anyone’s story that are truly unique. From person to person suffering from the results of substance abuse, the stories are very familiar.
I cannot understate this enough, many substance abuse victims have faced hardships even prior to using that no one should have to face.
- Nearly all men report one type of abuse.
- Many of them report at least two.
- Nearly all women report 2 forms of abuse.
- Many women report 3.
Report of familial sexual abuse is not uncommon among women.
- I do not track this information because it’s not within the bounds of my job. However it is clear that upbringing and environment during and prior to the addiction has a large impact.
Silence causes regret. One of the most profound things in this essay is Lorde’s statement that transforming silence into language and action is an act of self-revelation. Revelation that we will die. We will experience pain. We must not allow ourselves to remain silent because to do so is to is to cause our own anguish and suffering. We cannot avoid pain always but we can avoid suffering.
My silences had not protected me. Yours will not protect you.
The revelation that the important things that you have to say and the important actions that you need to do will be lost forever and will make you sick if you do not let them out will leave you suffering by your own doing. Letting your voice be heard can help you deal with the tyranny we encounter.
It is also our responsibility to seek the words of those who have been silenced. We must read what they write, listen to what they say and examine how their lives are different from those who are not oppressed.