Social Justice Usage
Source: Lorde, Audre. “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House,” 1984.
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.
Source: Crenshaw, Kimberlé Williams, Luke Charles Harris, Daniel Martinez HoSang, and George Lipsitz (eds.). Seeing Race Again: Countering Colorblindness Across the Disciplines. University of California Press, 2019, pp. 15–16.
As Kimberlé Crenshaw has observed, there is an opportunity now for “scholars across the disciplines not only to reveal how disciplinary conventions themselves constitute racial power, but also to provide an inventory of the critical tools developed over time to weaken and potentially dismantle them.”
New Discourses Commentary
The term “dismantle” appears frequently in the Critical Social Justice literature, nearly always in the context of a declared immediate imperative to dismantle the (usually intersecting) systems of power, dominance, and oppression that allegedly plague our societies. These include racism, sexism, homophobia and heteronormativity, transphobia and cisnormativity, ableism and disableism, fatphobia and thin-normativity, patriarchy, misogyny, and white supremacy, to name a few. The goal is to tear down (dismantle) these systems, which, Critical Social Justice holds, can only be done by tearing down the system they are embedded in that creates, maintains, inscribes, and re-inscribes them.
In fact, Critical Social Justice does not hold that these unjust systems merely plague our societies; they insist that they are woven into the fabric of our societies. Thus, the call to dismantle the “existing systems of dominance and oppression” is little more than a thinly veiled call for social revolution to replace the liberal order (that which should be dismantled) for a new critical order (arranged “self-critically” in accordance with Theory—see also, critical and Critical Theory). It was used particularly famously in 1984 by black feminist Audre Lorde in her statement: “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.”
Ableism; Black feminism; Change; Cisnormativity; Critical; Critical Theory; Deconstruction; Disruption; Disableism; Dominance; Fatphobia; Heteronormativity; Homophobia; Injustice; Intersectionality; Liberalism; Master’s tools; Misogyny; Oppression; Patriarchy; Power (systemic); Racism (systemic); Revolution; Sexism (systemic); Social Justice; Subversion; Theory; Thin-normativity; Transphobia; White supremacy
Source: Collins, Patricia Hill. Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment, second edition. Routledge, 2000, p. 117.
“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” (Lorde 1984, 112). In this passage Audre Lorde explores how independent self-definitions empower Black women to bring about social change. By struggling for self-defined womanist perspectives that reject the “master’s” images, African-American women change ourselves. A critical mass of individuals with a changed consciousness can in turn foster Black women’s collective empowerment. A changed consciousness encourages people to change the conditions of their lives.
Source: López, Ian F. Haney. “White by Law.” In Critical Race Theory: The Cutting Edge, third edition, Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic (eds.), Temple University Press, 2013, p. 780.
This relational construction of the content of white identity points toward a programmatic practice of dismantling whiteness as it is currently constituted. Certainly, in a setting in which white identity exists as the superior antonym to the identity of non-whites, elaborating a positive white racial identity is a dangerous proposition. It ignores the reality that whiteness is already defined almost exclusively in terms of positive attributes. Further, it disregards the extent to which positive white attributes seem to require the negative traits that supposedly define minorities. Recognizing that white identity is a self-fashioned, hierarchical fantasy, whites should attempt to dismantle whiteness as it currently exists. Whites should renounce their privileged racial character, though not simply out of guilt or any sense of self-deprecation. Rather, they should dismantle the edifice of whiteness because this mythological construct stands at the vortex of racial inequality in America. The persistence of whiteness in its current incarnation perpetuates and necessitates patterns of superiority and inferiority. In both structure and content, whiteness stands squarely between this society’s present injustices and any future of racial equality. Whites must consciously repudiate whiteness as it is currently constituted in the systems of meaning that are races.
Revision date: 7/13/20