Recently the poet David J. Bauman shared some lines from Audre Lourde. My eyes are still wet while processing her words about listening and speaking and all the nuance in between.
We had a spirited dinner discussion last night about the power of listening and when to speak. My daughter’s junior exhibition this spring centered on listening to each other in bridging the divide in the national debate about guns.
So when do we listen and when do we speak?
There is so much shouting and so little listening.
The voices are fierce and overlapping. When I can get to a quiet place I rethink what I said and what I wish I had said. My daughter is resolute in her desire to listen and not change minds. To gain the trust of someone who is different from her. My husband believes there are times when we need to disagree and try to share a differing view, if only to leak in an idea that could change a perception. I sat in the center of the ping pong match seeing both of their points, and knowing this is a conversation that we need to keeping having. Over and over.
So Audre’s words hit me in a tender place this morning. In my position of white privilege I can be afraid to speak because I don’t want to get it wrong. However, in my place of white privilege, I can speak and be listened to. So, with fumbling I will learn from my daughter and listen. I will learn from my husband and challenge. I will learn from my friend Kathrine and be strong. I will learn from my friend Sara and be slightly absurd. I will learn from my friend Erin and provide nourishment.
I will learn from those who cannot speak because they are too afraid, so as to become invisible. The camps at our southern border fill me with a deep unease, and until these people fleeing violence in their home countries are given sanctuary, we need to take action and raise the alarm.
We must write poems, and make art, and talk to each other, and listen to each other. And when we see a deep wrong, like the internments at our border, we need to say, “This is wrong.”
“Your silence will not protect you,”
is perhaps her most chilling.
Excerpt from “A Litany for Survival.”
by Audre Lorde, from The Collected Poems of Audre Lorde by Audre Lorde.
And when the sun rises we are afraid
it might not remain
when the sun sets we are afraid
it might not rise in the morning
when our stomachs are full we are afraid
when our stomachs are empty we are afraid
we may never eat again
when we are loved we are afraid
love will vanish
when we are alone we are afraid
love will never return
and when we speak we are afraid
our words will not be heard
but when we are silent
we are still afraid
So it is better to speak
we were never meant to survive.
Read the entire poem here.