Weekly Reads: Your Silence Will Not Protect You

Your Silence Will Not Protect You is a posthumous collection of essays, speeches and poems by Audre Lorde. In her work and throughout her life, Lorde was unsilenced, believing wholly in her truth and fully in the art of openness. With each intersection of her identity, Lorde asserted her existence in a world that often resisted her right to survive and to live as she was.

Lorde assured her audience that becoming quiet and shrinking themselves would make them no less afraid; that differences were not what would immobilize communities, but rather silence. She questioned her fears, noting that pain would either change or end. She described each word stifled as tyrannies that people swallow and attempt to make their own, as they grow sicker with each passing day, with death as the final silence. She insisted on another way, on committing to the work, and that revolution had never been a “one-time event.”

“I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own,” wrote Lorde. “And I am not free as long as one person of color remains chained. Nor is any one of you.”

Lorde spoke extensively of intersectionality before the term was coined, embracing each facet and ingredient of her identity — woman, black, lesbian, mother, poet. She urged readers to understand the importance of hearing experiences unlike their own and to acknowledge those differences, while remembering that it didn’t need to separate them from each other. She shared: “Community must not mean a shedding of our differences, nor the pathetic pretense that these differences do not exist.”

Honoring Black history should not be relegated simply to the month of February. A withstanding effort throughout the year to celebrate and learn from Black creators, educators and academics will only further foster knowledge and community. Your Silence Will Not Protect You is an insightful, essential read, and perhaps a place to begin or continue.