University of California Race Social Construct Reflection Paper In order to engage with these prompts, I recommend that you consider the readings with the

University of California Race Social Construct Reflection Paper In order to engage with these prompts, I recommend that you consider the readings with the fol-lowing queries:1. Understand how each author is defining race2. What is his/her key argument?3. How are these media alike or different? Do the relate to any other concepts we’ve pre-viously learned?4. What are the flaws (theoretical or practical) in their claims?Write a reflection following the requirement above for the two text that I upload. 100 words for each S

Audre Lorde, “Age, Race, Class and Sex: Women Redefinin Diffe
rence,” in Sister Outsider: Essays and
Speeches (Freedom, CA: Crossing Press, 1984), pp. 114123.__
Age, Race, Class,
and Sex: Women Redefining




history conditions us to see hu
man differences in simplistic opposition to each “other: dom
inant/subordinate, good/bad, up/down, superior/inferior. In a
society where the good is defined in terms of profit rather than
in terms of human need, there must always be some group of
people who, through systematized oppression, can be made to
feel surplus, to occupy the place of the dehumanized inferior.
Within this society, that group is made up of Black and Third
World people, working-class people, older people, and women.
As a forty-nine-year-old Black lesbian feminist socialist
mother of two, including one boy, and a member of an interracial couple, I usually find myself a part of some group defined
as other, deviant, inferior, or just plain wrong. Traditionally, in
american society, it is the members of oppressed, objectified
groups who are expected to stretch out and bridge the gap between the actualities of our lives and the consciousness of our
oppressor. For in order to survive, those of us for whom oppres
sion is as american as apple pie have always had to be watchers,
to become familiar with the language and manners of the op
pressor, even sometimes adopting them for some illusion of protection. Whenever the need for some pretense of communica
tion arises, those who profit from our oppression call upon us to
share our knowledge with them. In other words, it is the respon
sibility of the oppressed to teach the oppressors their mistakes. I
Paper delivered at the Copeland Colloquium, Amherst College, April
am responsible for educating teachers who dismiss my
culture in school. Black and Third World people are
expected to
educate white people as to our humanity. Women
are expected
to educate men. Lesbians and gay men are expected
to educate
the heterosexual world. The oppressors maintain
their position
and evade responsibility for their own actions. Ther
e is a constant drain of energy which might be better used
in redefining
ourselves and devising realistic scenarios for altering
the present
and constructing the future.
Institutionalized rejection of difference is an abso
lute necessijy
in a profit economy which needs outsiders as surp
lus people. As
members of such an economy, we have all been
programmed to
respond to the human differences between
us with fear and
loathing and to handle that difference in one
of three ways: ignore it, and if that is not possible, copy it if we
think it is domi
nant, or destroy it if we think it is subordinate.
But we have no•
patterns for relating across our human differenc
es as equals. As
a result, those differences have been misnamed
and misused in
the service of separation and confusion.
Certainly there are very real differences betw
een us of race,
age, and sex. But it is not those differences
between us that are
separating us. It is rather our refusal to
recognize those dif
ferences, and to examine the distortions whic
h result from our
misnaming them and their effects upon hum
an behavior and
Racism, the belief in the inherent superiority of
one race over all
others and thereby the right to dominance. Sexism,
the belief in the inherent superiority of one sex over the other and
thereby the right to
dominance. Ageisr,t Heterosexism. Elitism. Clas
It is a lifetime pursuit for each one of us to
extract these distor
tions from our living at the same time as
we recognize, reclaim,
and define those differences upon which they
are imposed. For
we have all been raised in a society where thos
e distortions were
endemic within our living. Too often, we pour
the energy needed for recognizing and exploring difference
into pretending
those differences are insurmountable barriers,
or that they do
not exist at all. This results in a voluntary isola
tion, or false and
treacherous connections. Either way, we do
not develop tools
for using human difference as a springboard
for creative change


1 16

within otir lives. We speak not of human difference, but of
human deviance.
Somewhere, on the edge of consciousness, there is what I call
a mythical norm, which each one of us within our hearts knows
“that is not me.” In america, this norm is usually defined as
white, thin, male, young, heterosexual, christian, and financially secure. It i with this mythical norm that the trappings of
power reside within this society. Those of us who stand outside
that power often identify one way in which we are different, and
we assume that to be the primary cause of all oppression, forgetting other distortions around difference, some of which we
ourselves may be practising. By and large within the women’s
movement today, white women focus upon their oppression as
and ignore differences of race, sexual preference, class,
age. There is a pretense to a homogeneity of experience
covered by the word sisterhood that does not in fact exist.
Unacknowledged class differences rob women of each others’
energy and creative insight. Recently a women’s magazine col
lective made the decision for one issue to print only prose, saying poetry was a less “rigorous” or “serious” art form. Yet even
the form our creativity takes is often a class issue. Of all the art
forms,. poetry is the most economical. It is thç one which is the
most secret, which requires the least physical labor, the least
material, and the one which can be done between shifts, in the
hospital pantry, on the subway, and on scraps of surplus paper.
Over the last few years, writing a novel on tight finances, I came
to appreciate the enormous differences in the material demands
between poetry and prose. As we reclaim our literature, poetry
has been the major voice of poor, working class, and Colored
women. A room of one’s own may be a necessity for writing
prose, but so are reams of paper, a typewriter, and plenty of
time. The actual requirements to produce the visual arts also
help determine, along class lines, whose art is whose. In this day
of inflated prices for material, who are our sculptors, our
painters, our photographers? When wespeak of a broadly based
women’s culture, we need to be aware of the effect of class and
economic differences on the supplies available for producing art.
As we move toward creating a society within which we can
each flourish, ageism is another distortion of relationship which
interferes without vision. By ignoring the past, we are encour
aged to repeat its mistakes. The “generation gap” is an important
social tool for any repressive society. If the younger members of
a community view the older members as contemptible or
suspect or excess, they will never be able to join hands and ex
amine the living memories of the community, nor ask the all im
portant question, “Why?” This gives rise to a historical amnesia
that keeps us working to invent the wheel every time we have to
go to the store for bread.
We find ourselves having to repeat and relearn the same old
lessons over and over that our mothers did because we do not
pass on what we have learned, or because we are unable to
listen. For instance, how many times has this all been said
before? For another, who would have believed that once again
our daughters are allowing their bodies to be hampered and
purgatoried by girdles and high heels and hobble skirts?
Ignoring the differences of race between women and the im
plications of those differences presents the most serious threat to
the mobilization ofwomen’s joint power.
As white women ignore their built-in privilege of whiteness
and define woman in terms of their own experience alone, then
women of Color become “other,” the outsider whose experience
and tradition is too “alien” to comprehend. An example of this
is the signal absence of the experience of women of Color as a
resource for women’s studies courses. The literature ofwomen of
Color is seldom included in women’s literature courses and
almost never in other literature courses, nor in women’s studies
as a whole. All too often, the excuse given is that the literatures
of women of Color can only be taught by Colored women, or
that they are too difficult to understand, or that classes cannot
“get into” them because they come out of experiences that are
“too different.” I have heard this argument presented by white
women of otherwise quite clear intelligence, women who seem
to have no trouble at all teaching and reviewing work that
comes out of the vastly different experiences of Shakespeare,
Moliere, Dostoyefsky, and Aristophanes. Surely there must be
some other explanation.
This is a very complex question, but I believe one of the
reasons white women have such difficulty reading Black
women’s work is because of their reluctance to see Black women
as women and different from themselves. To examine Black
women’s literature effectively requires that we be seen as whole
people in our actual complexities as individuals, as women, as
human rather than as one of those problematic but familiar
stereotypes provided in this society in place of genunine images
of Black women. And I believe this holds true for the literatures
of other women of Color who are not Black.
The literatures of all women of Color recreate the textures of
our lives, and many white women are heavily invested in ignor
ing the real differences. For as long as any difference between us
means one of us must be inferior, then the recognition of any
difference must be fraught with guilt. To allow women of Color
to step out of stereotypes is too guilt provoking, for it threatens
the complacency of those women who view oppression only in
terms of sex.
Refusing to recognize difference makes it impossible to see the
different problems and pitfalls facing us as women.
Thus, in a patriarchal power system where whiteskin privilege
is a major prop, the entrapments used to neutralize Black
women and white women are not the same. For example, it is
easy for Black women to be used by the power structure against
Black men, not because they are men, but because they are
Black. Therefore, for Black women, it is necessary at all times to
separate the needs of the oppressor from our own legitimate
conflicts within our communities. This same problem does not
exist for white women. Black women and men have shared
oppression and still share it, although in different ways.
Out of that
shared oppression we have developed joint defenses
and joint vulnerabilities to each other that are not duplicated in
white community, with the exception of the relationship
between Jewish women and Jewish men.
On the other hand, white women face the pitfall of being
seduced into joining the oppressor under the pretense of sharing
power. This possibility does not exist in the same way for
women of Color. The tokenism that is sometimes extended to
us is not an invitation to join power; our racial “otherness” is a
visible reality that makes that quite clear. For white women

there is a wider range of pretended choices and rewards for iden
tifying with patriarchal power and its tools.
Today, with the defeat of ERA, the tightening economy, and
increased conservatism, it is easier once again for white women
to believe the dangerous fantasy that if you are good enough,
pretty enough, sweet enough, quiet enough, teach the children
to behave, hate the right people, and marry the right men, then
you will be allowed to co-exist with patriarchy in relative peace,
at least until a man needs your job or theneighborhood rapist
happens along. And true, unless one lives and loves in the
trenches it is difficult to remember that the war against dehu
manization is ceaseless.
But Black women and our children know the fabric of our
lives is stitched with violence and with hatred, that there is no
rest. We do not deal with it only on the picket lines, or in dark
midnight alleys, or in the places where we dare to verbalize our
resistance. For us, increasingly, violence weaves through the
daily tissues of our living
in the supermarket, in the
classroom, in the elevator, in the clinic and the schoolyard,
from the plumber, the baker, the saleswoman, the bus drivr,
thebank teller, the waitress who does not serve us.
Some problems we share as women, some we do not. You fear
your children will grow up to join the patriarchy and testify
against you, we fear our children will be dragged from a car and
shot down in the street, and you will turn your backs upon the
reasons they are dying.
The threat of difference has been no less blinding to people of
Those of us who are Black must see that the reality of
our lives and our struggle does not make us immune to the er
rors of ignoring and misnaming difference. Within Black cornmunities where racism is a living reality, differences among us
often seem dangerous and suspect. The need for unity is often
misnamed as a need for homogeneity, and a Black feminist vision mistaken for betrayal of our common interests as a people.
Because of the continuous battle against racial erasure that
Black women and Black men share, some Black women still
refuse to recognize that we are also oppressed as women, and
that sexual hostility against Black women is practiced not only



by the white racist society, but implemented within our Black
communities as well. It is a disease striking the heart of Black
nationhood, and silence will not make it disappear. Exacerbated
by racism and the pressures of powerlessness, violence against
Black women and children often becomes a standard within our
communities, one by which manliness can be measured. But
these woman-hating acts are rarely discussed as crimes against
Black women.
As a group, women of Color are the lowest paid wage earners
in america. We are the primary targets of abortion and steriliza
tion abuse, here and abroad. In certain parts of Africa, small
girls are still being sewed shut between their legs to keep them
docile and for men’s pleasure. This is known as
female circurnci
sion, and it is not a cultural affair as the late Jomo Kenyatta in.
sisted, it is a crime against Black women.
Black women’s literature is full of the pain of frequent assault,
not only by a racist patriarchy, but also by Black men. Yet the
necessity for and history of shared battle have made us, Black
women, particularly vulnerable to the false accusation that anti
sexist is antiBlack. Meanwhile, womanhating as a recourse of
the powerless is sapping strength from Black communities, and
our very lives. Rape is on the increase, reported and unreported,
and rape is not aggressIve sexuality, it is sexualized aggression.
As Kalamu ya Salaam, a Black male writer points out, “As long
as male domination exists, rape will exist. Only women
revolting and men made conscious of their responsibility to
fight sexism can collectively stop rape.”*
Differences between ourselves as Black women are also being
misnamed and used to separate us from one another. As a Black
lesbian feminist comfortable with the many different ingre
dients of my identity, and a woman committed to racial and
sexual freedom from oppression, I find I am constantly being encouraged to pluck out some one aspect of myself and present
this as the meaningful whole, eclipsing or denying the other
parts of self. But this is a destructive and fragmenting way to
live, My fullest concentration of energy is available to me only
when I integrate all the parts of who 1 am, openly, allowing
From “Rape: A Radical Analysis, An African-American Perspective” by Kalamu
Salaam in Black Books Bulletin, vol. 6, no. 4(1980).
power from particular sources of my living to flow back and
forth freely through all my different selves, without the restric
tions of externally imposed definition. Only then can I bring
myself and my energies as a whole to the service of those strug
gles which I embrace as part of my living.
A fear of lesbians, or of being accused of being a lesbian, has
led many Black women into testifying against themselves. It has
led some of us into destructive alliances, and others into despair
and isolation. In the white women’s communities, heterosexism
is sometimes a result of identifying with the white patriarchy, a
rejection of that interdependence between women-identified
women which allows the self to be, rather than to be used in the
service of men. Sometimes it reflects a die-hard belief in the protective coloration of heterosexual relationships, sometimes a
self-hate which all women have to fight against, taught us from
Although elements of these attitudes exist for all women,
there are particular resonances of heterosexism and homopho
bia among Black women. Despite the fact that woman-bonding
has a long and honorable history in the African and Africanamerican communities, and despite the knowledge and accomplishments of many strong and creative women-identified
Black women in the political, social and cultural fields,
heterosexual Black women often tend to ignore or discount the
existence and work of Black lesbians. Part of this attitude has
come from an understandable terror of Black male attack
within the close confines of Black society, where the punishment for any female self-assertion is still to be accused of being a
lesbian and therefore unworthy of the attention or support of
the scarce Black male. But part of this need to misname and ig
nore Black lesbians comes from a very real fear that openly
women-identified Black women who are no longer dependent
upon men for their self-definition may well reorder our whole
concept of social relationships.
Black women who once insisted that lesbianism was a white
woman’s problem now insist that Black lesbians are a threat to
Black nationhood, are consorting with the enemy, are basically
un-Black. These accusations, coming from the very women to
whom we look for deep and real understanding, have served to

keep many Black lesbians in hiding, caught between the
of white women and the homophobia of their sisters. Often,
their work has been ignored, trivialized, or misnamed, as
the work of Angelina Grimke, Alice Dunbar..Nelson, Lorrain
Hansberry. Yet women-bonded women have always been
part of the power of Black communities, from our unmar
aunts to the amazons of Dahomey.
And it is certainly not Black lesbians who are assault
women and raping children and grandmothers on the streets
our communities.
Across this country, as in Boston during the spring of
following the unsolved murders of twelve Black women,
lesbians are spearheading movements against violence agains
Black women.
What are the particular details within each of our lives that
can be scrutinized and altered to help bring about change
? How
do we redefine difference for all women? It is not our differe
which separate women, but our reluctance to recognize those
differences and to deal effectively with the distortions which
have resulted from the ignoring and misnaming of those
As a tool of social control, women have been encouraged to
recognize only one area of human difference as legitimate, those
differences which exist between women and men. And we have
learned to deal across those differences wi…
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