Utne Reader Visionary: Gloria Anzaldúa

We need to listen

| March-April 1996

This self-described “Chicana tejana patlache dyke poet and queer feminist writer” brings a poetic style steeped in Chicano/Chicana history and Aztec myth to bear upon issues that are too often treated in dry theoretical terms: gender, minority-majority relations, the cultural politics of the American mosaic. Her 1987 book, Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza, interpreted the new America of unstable and rich identities from the standpoint of the culturally complex but deeply rooted Chicano/Chicana sensibility. And her anthology, Making Face, Making Soul/ Haciendo Caras: Creative and Critical Perspectives by Feminists-of-Color (1990), subverted the white middle-class perspective of much mainstream feminism with analysis, testimony, story, and song.

“We need guidelines for how to come to know one another, talk to one another, listen to one another. We don’t know how to listen. Everybody seems to be listening, but what they’re really doing is rehearsing what to say next, when the other person shuts up and they can jump in with their agenda, their ‘I did this, I did that, this was my experience.’

“If you aren’t willing to listen to the Other, the one who is different from you—because you fear that person or what she or he represents, you’ll pay for it. The monster that you’re projecting onto the other person will get bigger and more terrifying, because your fear will feed it. If you turn away at a stage when you could have listened and spoken in a responsible and nonviolent way, there’ll be a violent explosion that will harm you and the other person. The monster you’ve created isn’t going to go away—it’s going to go on tripping you up until you deal with it.” 

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