The Price of "Mastery."

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Audre Lorde once concluded in a debate of authorship and political and cultural transition, "For the master's instruments would never dismantle the master's home." They will encourage us to beat him at his own game for a while, but they will never allow us to effect genuine change.” This paper examines Audre Lorde's quotation in the context of racial history in the United States. It addresses what "mastery" of the instruments of American identity entails, ranging from assimilation to linguistic mastery. Also, it explains the cost of that mastery by considering how authors, specifically Ralph Ellison (Invisible Man) and Gloria Anzaldua (Borderlands La Frontera) engage with the idea of mastery – or, just provocatively, how they decide to create new “tools” to bring about change.

Mastery of the tools entails the inability to see or even act beyond the cultures and norms of America. They are instead treated with contempt or even better. In Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, he introduces metaphors that allow the readers to see the effects of racism on both the perpetrator and the victim. The author faces discrimination because he is a black and the whites refuse to see him. In the novel, the author describes the whites as blind people and portrays himself as invisible. In the article Invisible Man, identity is brought out through the conflict between self-perception and projection of others. The only way to understand himself is to isolate himself from the society intentionally. The novel through the narrator touches so much on the issue of race. However, the story tries to transcend race among other things that are used in categorizing people. The narrator is invisible since his race for long defines his identity.

The master’s tools are not only racial divide, but area education and class divides too.

A language is a powerful tool that marks one’s identity. Linguistics bears a close relationship with cultural superiority, notion and power. Language is one of the tools that was used in incorporating new Americans as the country expanded by Americanizing them. Americanizing means refers to the assimilation of new Americans into America. Both American identity and a common language are key components of the American culture.

Becoming an American meant that one had to act like the White Americans, that is act like a civilized person and furthermore, one had to learn English. English skills are a necessity for not only entry but participation in the American society. Becoming an American called for one to adopt not only the American culture but also the American values which are most likely to be found only in the language.

Proficiency in English was not enough since social coercion made the New American adopt English monolingualism. The forced assimilation, both sociocultural and linguistic led to the loss of the native language. Therefore, it means the cost of mastery is the loss of the native languages of the new Americans. In Gloria Anzaldua’s Borderlands La Frontera she states that if one wants to hurt her, then they should just talk badly about her language. She goes ahead and says that she is her language and therefore, she cannot take pride in herself before she takes pride in her language. Her work is based on borders and identity. Language is one of her primary theme in this.

November 03, 2022

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