As some friends and I read through, Sister Outsider, we embarked upon the small essay, Sexism: An American Disease in Blackface. Throughout this essay Audre Lorde dismantles patriarchy in her poetic fashion yet never muddying Blackness—holding it accountable but never muddying it. It is a delicate walk that she masters unlike many. She makes vivid comparative observations where survival is the leitmotif where Black women forgo care for themselves in order to care for “whites because we had to for pay or survival.” This sensibility and protective practice from Lorde’s writing unsettles patriarchy and Blackness unlike most things. Her proclamation that Black liberation is futile unless it first begins with the unfettered love, fair and ethical treatment of Black women.
But, I must admit the thing that had me aghast is her use of the sexism as a disease; and, not only diseased but in blackface. This characterization of sexism as a disease rocked me to my core. But, my understanding was not through sexism because I can’t say that I have dealt with sexism in the same way that she or any sister has. Therefore, I thought about it through the lens of racism. Seeing racism as a disease was something that never really materialized in my imagination. Though it makes clear sense, I never really wanted to make racism even more concrete than it already was. By making it a disease makes it even more tangible. Nevertheless, as we were bouncing thoughts and images about racism being this disease, this cancer, and plague, Walter brings us back to soberness. He solemnly says, “And, that’s how women view sexism. “
In my mind all I could say was, “Damn, Damn, Damn.”