by Kelly Dayton
“Revolutionary Hope: A Conversation Between James Baldwin and Audre Lorde” documents a dialogue between two people that quickly turns from an argument against racism in America to an argument against each other. It emphasizes the idea that although Black people have been so strongly oppressed in America, the separation between Black men and Black women cannot be disregarded.
In the conversation, Lorde brings up the idea that this division between genders is exactly what makes it so hard to stand up against racism, stating “I don’t want to break all this down, then have to stop at the wall of male/female division” (148). She goes on to explain that by allowing themselves to be divided because of their differences instead of uniting as one group, Black Americans cannot progress.
Baldwin agrees with these remarks, but as soon as the power gap between men and women is introduced, he becomes defensive. It seems as though he feels that his struggles are being discredited when compared to those of a Black woman. From this point on in the conversation, the two who were once on one side are now pinned against each other.
The discussion ends with each participant attempting to one-up each other, fighting over whose life has had the most hardships. This exchange furthers the point that Lorde made toward the beginning of their conversation, as it highlights the barrier placed between them when the focus moves toward their differences. They both want the same thing but are unable to move past the construct of gender.
As we saw with our in-class discussion of Lemonade, many musical artists highlight these ideas in their work. Kanye West’s song “Blame Game” from his fifth studio album considers a similar situation. He sets a scene in which two people are arguing about whose actions caused the downfall of their relationship. He notes that in arguing, “We erased one another. So far from where we came with so much of everything — how do we leave with nothing?” He explains that the true failure of their relationship came from pointing fingers, not from one sole person’s actions, thus reinforcing the idea that acknowledging the differences between any two parties will inevitably lead to disunity and defeat. Just as two people in a solid relationship can quickly turn against one another, two distinct groups within one identity can get so caught up in their differences that they begin to neglect the original factor that brought them together. We see this idea throughout the text, as Lorde and Baldwin become more focused on their differing genders that their original unity disintegrates.