The Master’s Tools

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In comments made at an academic conference during “The Personal and the Political Panel” in 1979, Audre Lourde said this:

For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. They may allow us temporarily to beat him at his own game but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change. And this fact is only threatening to those… who still define the master’s house as their only source of support. (Sister Outsider, Audre Lorde)

Considering the intersections of oppressions related to race, gender, sexuality, and class, Lourde argues that using tools that create and sustain them will never work as tools to undo them. For example, a hierarchical system which values men over women, cannot be used in a group of all women because the “tool” (in this case a system of hierarchy) will create a new value system in which some women are valued over other women.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS:

  1. Share specific instances when working “within the system” worked or didn’t work to dismantle racism. Do these examples support or challenge Lourde’s quote about the master’s tools?
  2. What biblical stories can you think of where the justice-fighter/s used “the master’s tools?” What tools were they? How did they get access to them?
  3. What biblical stories can you think of where the justice-fighter/s did not use “the master’s tools?” What tools were they? How did they get access to them?
  4. The United Methodist Church operates within a larger connection. How can The United Methodist Church, who has experience as the perpetrator of racism, also create or be used as a tool for fighting racism?
  5. How would you categorize the tools your church has used to dismantle racism within the walls of the church?
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