|From Monisha Das Gupta, Dissonances, (September 30, 1996)
Minnie Bruce Pratt's "Identity: Blood Skin Heart" in Yours in Struggle
a fine example of a rigorous search for the histories of oppression and struggle that hide
beneath the security of an identity, home and community.
From Mervat Hatem, The Womens Review of Books:
Its critical analytical stance pushes the consciousness of all the parties involved beyond
the self-righteousness and indignant protestations that have sabotaged previous
discussions of the subject. It sets new goals for the next stage by identifying the
problems and you and I as members of different groups have to confront if we are to
succeed in combating anti-Semitism and racism
.[T]he result is a dialogue that
propels us all forward.
From Booklist (American Library Association):
Yours in Struggle makes an important contribution to the development of feminist
ideology and to the growth of an anti-oppression ethic.
"A book we must all read."
From Barbara Houston, In Defense of a Politics of Identity (University of New
Minnie Bruce Pratt, a white, southern, Christian-raised, lesbian woman, in her essay
"Identity: Skin Blood Heart" in Yours In Struggle, addresses the urgent
obligations surrounding identity politics. In her struggle to reject the rigid identity of
her father, which sustains an appearance of stability by defining itself in terms of what
it is not: "not black, not female, not Jewish, not Catholic, not poor
Pratt has this dream:
On the night before my birthday, I slept and thought I heard someone walking through my
apartment. I wanted it to be my lover, but it was my father, walking unsteadily, old,
carrying something heavy, a box, a heavy box which he put down by my desk. He came through
the darkness, smoking a cigarette, glints of red sparks, and sat down on my bed, wanting
to rest: he was so tired. I flung my hands out angrily, told him to go, back to my mother;
but crying, because my heart ached: he was my father and so tired. He left, and when I
looked, the floor was a field of sandy dirt, with a diagonal track dragged through it, and
rows of tiny green seed just spouting.
The box was still there, with what I feared: my responsibility for what the men of my
culture have done, in my name, knowing my responsibility to change what my father had
done, without even knowing what his secrets were. I was angry. Why should I be left with
this? I didnt want it; Id done my best for years to reject it; I wanted no
part of what was in it the benefits of my privilege, the restrictions, the
injustice, the pain, the broken urgings of the heart, the unknown horrors.
And yet it is mine: I am my fathers daughter in the present, living in a world he
and my folks helped to create. A month after I dreamed this, he died. I honor the grief of
his life by striving to change much of what he believed in; and my own grief by
acknowledging that I saw him caught in the grip of racial, sexual, cultural fears that I
am still trying to understand in myself.
I think we do need micro-narratives that tell the story of interlocking oppressions,
stories of just the nature provided by Minnie Bruce Pratt.
Initially I resisted the suggestion that [we need] principles to order these conflictual,
fragmented identities, however, as I read more of Patricia Williams, Minnie Bruce Pratt,
Maria Lugones, Audre Lorde, June Jordan, Adrienne Rich and Gloria Anzaldua, I think that
there may be a principle after all. And it is a simple one. It is one that Vivian Paley
uses in her kindergarten class: "You cant say you cant play."
What does "You cant say you cant play" mean? Well, first and
foremost, it is a principle of non-exclusion. No identity can be excluded. If indeed as
one writer claims, postmodernism is "the return of the repressed," then I think
we are better off allowing the repressed into our conscious awareness.
practices a form of identity politics that exemplifies an "enlarged
mentality." It is an identity politics in which the individual takes responsibility
for her situatedness, and location. It is an identity politics that involves a material,
historical, bodily specificity about the interconnections between our own well being and
the existences of others. It recognizes how our identities are partly fungible [capable of
being used in exchange] with the lives of others, past and future. It involves asking the
questions: "What is the moral content of [my] cultural identity" and "What
are the political consequences of this moral content and cultural identity?"
Order Information for
Yours In Struggle:
Perspectives On Racism
with Elly Bulkin and Barbara Smith
paper ISBN 0-932379-53-2
cloth ISBN 0-932379-54-0
Is available from:
SPD/Small Press Distribution, Inc.
1341 Seventh St., Berkeley, CA 94710-1409