In the exploration of what it is to be human, coupling is ever a problem; coupling disturbs or at least complicates the conceptualization of being, the philosophical deliberation of the one. This troubling is amplified for the black female subject, whose access to ideological oneness is rendered impossible in the logics of antiblackness and patriarchy. Using Audre Lorde’s writing, especially her theorizing of difference and audacity in The Cancer Journals, this essay argues for a black female “one,” for a conceit of black female relationality that doesn’t reify black femaleness as a hegemonic other. Central here is Lorde’s navigation of the notion of family—and the black heterosexual companionate unit—that haunts the imagining of black freedom. Indeed, Lorde’s thinking overcomes the troubled calculus of domesticity by asserting relationality not through the twoness of coupling, but through the audacious capacious black female one. And it is this construct of black female rightness, this relationality, that provides a framework for thinking about the many unconventional couplings in Toni Morrison’s Sula, as well as for situating outrageousness in Beyoncé’s Lemonade, both works where black female audacity is relation.
To Be (a) One: Notes on Coupling and Black Female Audacity
kevin quashie is a professor of English at Brown University. He is the author or editor of three books, most recently The Sovereignty of Quiet: Beyond Resistance in Black Culture (Rutgers University Press, 2012). He is currently at work on a book on black aliveness.