Post-Colonial Thinking as Described by Audre Lorde

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Post-colonial theory is based around the idea of otherness and resistance, which is a concept that continuously appears in Audre Lorde’s poems. Lorde often writes about the struggles of non-Western people and those whose country was colonised, and she specifically talks about the racism that these groups experience. Lorde does often show anger in her poems against the colonisers and those responsible for the terrible situations that she expresses in the poems, but it is done in a way to be the source of energy for those who are unable to speak up and to encourage change against the situations that these oppressed groups have or had to go through.

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One of the issues that Lorde writes about is division, specifically internal division within. In the poem, between ourselves, Lorde explores this idea of division through comparing how reactions to seeing people of the same colour or culture has changed. The speaker of the poem says how they would walk into a room in the past and they would “seek out the one or two black faces” as it was something comforting to see someone else similar to them as it meant they were not alone. However, the speaker then goes on to say how this has changed and whilst they walk into a room “full of black faces” it isn’t something that is reassuring, instead these people seek to “destroy for any difference”. Through comparing these reactions shows how it is something shocking for people to act in this way as instead of trying to “destroy” people they should be happy to see someone else that is from the same background; through this Audre Lorde may be trying to unite people by showing that instead of these differences being a bad thing it should be something that unites people and be something that is reassuring like how it initially was. The past that Lorde refers to is a time where those of colour had dealt with racial segregation and overcome this and so to see another people of colour wasn’t entirely common and so it was a comforting thing to see someone else, however even though times have progressed and black people are more accepted, which should be a positive thing, it instead turns into something where those of the same community are seeking to destroy each other. Lorde, however, stresses the idea of how we are all the same regardless of the colour of skin, saying, “if we were stripped of all pretence […] the sun would bleach all our bones”. Through this quote Lorde is talking about how the colour of skin brings about some façade, which it shouldn’t as we are all the same and so through this encourages people to unite. Audre Lorde also warns against targeting each other and says that “it’ll just end in killing and to kill another of your kind is suicide.” This quote shows how important it is to the speaker to not try and target another because to do so is to the extent of suicide, which again highlights the idea of being the same regardless of skin colour and background.

Lorde doesn’t just simple try to show those who are oppressed as sources of energy, but instead first shows their suffering and struggles and then attempts to encourage them and tries to promote change. This often occurs in her poems and an example of this is in ‘a litany for survival’. In this poem, Lorde talks of the sacrifices that that those oppressed from colonised countries had to make, especially for the sake of their kids. Lorde goes over some of these sacrifices in the poem. One of which being having to sacrifice their freedom to make choices and how this seems like a luxury for them, as well as not being able to dream, “for those of us who cannot indulge the passing dreams of choice”. Lorde also talks of the constant fear that those whose countries were colonised had to face and this idea is repeated throughout the poem, “and when the sun rises we are afraid […] when the sun sets we are afraid […]”. This quote reflects how those who are oppressed have to constantly live in fear, regardless of whether something good happens or not. Nevertheless, much like the other poems, Lorde turns this into something to reassure others saying, “it is better to speak remember we were never meant to survive” and whilst this quote does seem quite sombre, it is instead used to encourage others. This quote holds meaning that can be connected to slavery and the racial segregation in America and the speaker uses this to show how the oppressed have managed to overcome these tragedies even though it wasn’t expected and so they should be proud and should speak up.  

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