Review of “Age, Race, Class and Sex: Women Redefining Difference” by Audre Lorde

We are conditioned to view the world in juxtaposition: dominant/subordinate, good/bad and superior/inferior.  We tend to view the world in terms of binaries or hierarchical terms.  Society defines dominance and superiority in terms of profit.  In order to be on top however, someone has to be beneath you, so those who are the oppressors focus on maintaining their position while simultaneously focus on sustaining the oppressed at a lower state.  Their success is predicated on the oppression of others.  The way we think is constructed by society and we understand the world through the lenses of mainstream society in terms of money being so easily connotated with power.  Those who are on top are considered the “unmarked”.  They are aware of the difference between them and those beneath them, but it becomes understood so it does not have to be stated.  It is considered universal and anything that is modifiable should be stated.  These differences that we have all been programmed to respond to has essentially created a level of separation and confusion.

Lorde says that racism and sexism is a “belief in the superiority of one race/ sex over al others.”  We have all been poisoned by society’s concepts and conditioned to think as they want us to think and it will be a lifetime pursuit to decolonize this mindset that has been instilled in us for so long. It is almost impossible not to recognize the difference when you know it is there.  Race only exists if we allow our consciousness and belief to come into a reality.  We can believe something into existence.

The mythical norm that Lorde discusses consists of the “unmarked” groups that I mentioned earlier.  It consists of white, thin, young, heterosexual, Christian, etc. The mythical norm is defined as the person at the center of society, those who are “regular”.  Anyone who stands outside of these restrictions are classified as someone “different”.  The white woman defines what a woman is in terms of her experience as a woman alone, ignoring the experiences of women of other races.  It becomes a silent agreement amongst white women as to what is right amongst society.

This generation suffers from “historical amnesia”; we have no recollection of our history.  We ignore the past, which is why we keep repeating the same mistakes.  Those who are oppressed remain oppressed and those who are the oppressors remain the oppressors merely because we just accept the past for what it is and keep moving.  Our ancestors did all the hard work, now all we have to do is worry about the present.  Wrong!  Ignoring the past only creates a parallel world between the past and the present.

“The true focus of revolutionary change is never merely the oppressive situations that we seek to escape, but that piece of the oppressor that is planted deep within each of us.” (Lorde, 291)  We cannot fully change the situation unless we can completely decolonize the norm and the knowledge of mankind that is so deeply rooted in our minds since the day we were born.  In order to make this change, we have to raise our children with a different mindset.  Once you learn something, it stays with you forever.  You cannot just erase knowledge.  If I am told that I am black, it will be very hard to classify myself as anything else.  I can say that I am white, but I will know the truth, which will forever cloud my perception of the way I view the world.



About sydneybrown

Literary courses at Spelman College ask us students to "acquire skills in the critical reading and analysis of diverse forms of literature from fiction and drama to poetry, autobiography and historical texts." This blog will furnish you with thoughts concerning various readings assigned by Dr. Sherman in the First Year Composition class SENG 103-09 at Spelman College. Engage in active learning...
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