Break the Silence
Daisy A. 12th - Oakland, CA
In Audre Lorde’s essay, “The Transformation of Silence into Language,” Lorde analyzes the concept of the power one’s voice holds and the repercussions associated with one’s voice being taken away. Lorde argues that breaking silence and helping free the voices of those who have been oppressed and marginalized by society is the responsibility we hold as an interconnected community. Alice Walker’s essay “Am I Blue” describes how we are all interconnected through a horse that represents the oppressed groups/people in our world. Walker uses this metaphor to convey to her readers that we should all treat each other as equals because we are all human. Walker fights for equality, and Lorde fights for an outlet to accomplish this, our voice. Lorde writes that “your silence will not protect you.” Lorde is opposed to keeping ourselves trapped in a box where we are incapable of speaking our mind and our truth.
Throughout Lorde’s essay, we see this view on silence being explained more thoroughly: “the words of women are crying to be heard, we must each of us recognize our responsibility to seek those words out.” Lorde explains how women are marginalized by society because they are perceived to be inferior to men. Women stay silent out of fear of being judged by men. Lorde uses “in the cause of silence, each of us draws the face of her own fear [. . .] fear of [. . .] judgment” to convey this to us. Women are forced to live in silence out of fear, unable to say or express their true feelings. This is demonstrated in Jamaica Kincaid’s short story titled “Girl” which is about a mother preparing a girl for society’s expectations and the consequences if she doesn’t live up to them. Kincaid writes, “this is how to behave in the presence of men who don't know you very well, and this way they won't recognize immediately the slut I have warned you against becoming.” Through her writing, Kincaid demonstrates how the actions women take and their behavior needs to be approved by a man. If women do something men don’t like, they are labeled “slut[s].” Women are forced to live in silence and limit themselves due to the fear of how men might respond.
Lorde believes it is our responsibility to break the silence women live in and let them out of the box they have been trapped in. We are connected to these marginalized groups and individuals through our very being; we are all human. People seem to forget this when they pay more attention to the barriers that separate us, but we are all interconnected.
“Treat others the way you would want to be treated.” This is a saying most children are told when they begin to learn empathy. Walker’s main message is that we should treat others with empathy, and Lorde agrees with this. Lorde believes that empathy will allow us to feel like those who are voiceless, and with this feeling in mind, we will help them find the confidence to use their voice. As children, we learn about empathy and oftentimes practice it, but as we grow older we forget it. As adults, we are independent. We have nobody to guide us in what is right or wrong. All we have is our values and beliefs, and it is a struggle to defend them when they are challenged. Lorde reminds us of this throughout her essay. She ends this text, leaving us with this last statement: “there are many silences to be broken” reminding us that it is our responsibility to break them. We must bring a counter narrative to our society.
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Students 6th-12th Grades