‘There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives’
Audre Lorde – 18 February 1934 – 17 November 1992.
Thinking about this year’s Black History Month, particularly with awareness of how disproportionately challenging the past 2 years have been for the Black community, I am reminded of the above quote by American writer Audre Lorde.
Audre Lorde described herself as: “black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet,” she used the various elements of her identity and her creative talent to confront and address the injustices of racism, sexism, classism, and homophobia.
In many ways, I feel the role of an Advocate is very much allied to also challenging injustice. As Advocates, we attempt to work towards greater equity for people for whom 1 or more parts of their identity may mean that they need care and support, or that they are at risk of experiencing abuse or neglect. Be it: race/ethnicity, gender, socio-economic status, sexual identity, sexual orientation, religion or disability – it is clear that the overlap and interplay of a person’s complex identities can lead to both experiences of discrimination and/or privilege. I would hope that as Advocates we listen to the story of each person with whom we work, with interest, open-ness and empathy – we recognise and respect their intersectionality – as well as our own.
Identity matters, issues of discrimination matter, people’s stories matter. They define both how individuals see themselves and their own experience and also how they may be viewed by society. Identities allow us to see commonalities and differences, ways in which individuals and groups may be both positively and negatively impacted – how people may come together and how they might diverge.
As Lorde points out, none of our lives are single-issue, we live life through the spectrum and filter of our identities, history and present experience. All of us will face shared and differing challenges in life, we will all need help and support at times. I would hope that through our day-to-day actions as both people and Professionals, during Black History Month and beyond, that we are all allies, recognising shared humanity, acting upon injustice and working towards ongoing positive social change.
“I have been woman
for a long time
beware my smile
I am treacherous with old magic
and the noon’s new fury
with all your wide futures
and not white.”
From: Audre Lorde, “A Woman Speaks” from The Collected Poems of Audre Lorde. Copyright © 1997 by Audre Lorde. Reprinted with the permission of Charlotte Sheedy Literary Agency and W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., www.nortonpoets.com.
Source: The Collected Poems of Audre Lorde (W. W. Norton and Company Inc., 1997)