Dear Sister Outsider

On Audre Lorde and writing oneself into existence
By Lavelle Porter

Dear Audre,

Two years, ago your name came up in one of the most improbable places. A few weeks before the St. Louis Rams drafted Michael Sam, making him the first openly gay player in NFL history, a white male sportscaster in Texas named Dale Hansen gave a passionate response to Sam's critics: "Civil rights activist Audre Lorde said, 'It is not our differences that divide us, it is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.'" I never thought I'd see the day that a silver-haired, Southern white sportscaster with a Texas accent would publicly quote you, a black lesbian feminist socialist poet, and would do so in defense of a black gay professional football player, but here we are. Hansen's full statement was powerful and drew attention. But the moment also made me wary. I thought about how this story of a gay athlete coming out in a major male sport was indicative of an assimilationist moment in queer politics. I wondered about your being reduced to an innocuous "civil rights activist" and not the militant poet who criticized the US invasion of your ancestral homeland Grenada, who spent time in the Soviet Union, and who might be critical of the macho, brutal sport that the young man plays or the billion-dollar corporation that runs it.

The lines that Hansen quoted are widely attributed to you on the web, but I can't find the original source. Some references cite the 1986 poetry collection Our Dead Behind Us, but it's not there. Certainly, the quote sounds like yours, and this idea of "difference" is one you expressed so well in your poetry and essays.

Read the full essay on the Poetry Foundation website.