Audre Lorde, in her essay “Eye to Eye” (1983), says that all the hate that has been poured into her by white people since she was a little black girl in Harlem in the 1930s is what makes her so angry. But that anger is not directed so much at white people, but at other black women. Because it will hit the mark. Because they remind her of herself, the self she cannot love and accept. Yet they are the only ones who could ever help to make her whole again.
The essay was shortened and printed in Essence magazine in October 1983, but you can read it in all its 30-page glory in her book “Sister Outsider”.
One winter when she was five she sat next to a rich white woman on the subway train. The woman pulled herself away from her and looked at her with such hate in her eyes. Lorde looked at her new snowsuit thinking there was something wrong with it. But it was not her snowsuit – it was her! Her Snowsuit Moment, as I call it.
One time she was at the library. The white lady there was reading “Little Black Sambo” and laughing. All the white children were laughing too. But she was not.
“SO WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU, ANYWAY? DON’T BE SO SENSITIVE!”
In a thousand and one ways she was told she was worthless, that she did not matter.
She has seen “my wished-for death, seen in the eyes of so many white people from the time I could see”.
All this hate that she could not understand got laid up in her heart over the years and in time became anger, “a molten pond at the core of me”, an everyday part of her – “I know the anger that lies inside of me like I know the beat of my heart and the taste of my spit.” Her daughter kept asking, “Are you angry about something, Mommy?”
But, “in order to withstand the weather, we had to become stone, and now we bruise ourselves upon the other who is closest.”
Not just by little acts of meanness, but also by the constant judgement by other black women: if you are not perfect you are no good – “the road to anger is paved with our unexpressed fear of each other’s judgement.”
The answer is for black women to mother and accept themselves and each other, “making a distinction between what is possible and what the outside world drives me to do in order to prove I am human”.
… I can look into the mirror and learn to love the stormy Black girl who once longed to be white or anything other than who she was, since all she was ever allowed to be was the sum of the color of her skin, and the textures of her hair, the shade of her knees and elbows, and those things were clearly not acceptable as human.