Document Type


Publication Date



“What is the appropriate role of former outsiders who are now on the inside?” I propose that the appropriate role for an outsider who is now an insider, is not to sprawl out on plush, white, crushed velvet sofas, sipping vintage wines or imported teas and nibbling at aged cheese and delicate crackers while enjoying being one among a quota or token few that made it to the inside. Rather, the role of a former outsider is to go to work from the inside to dismantle the house, shrewdly using available tools to remove the nails from the walls, loosening the foundation that separates the privileged ones from those who have undeservedly received lesser regard under the same legal structures. With the former outsiders, now insiders, engaging in this dismantling from the inside and with the remaining outsiders dismantling the system from the outside, eventually the walls that divide and oppress will come tumbling down. Instead of insiders living at the expense of outsiders, we will all be persons in America seeking a greater good. The goal of the “outsider revolution,” then, is not to get just a few token outsiders inside the walls of the house. Rather, the goal of this revolution is to take down the walls themselves. My essay reflects on my own particular experience as a fiftyish, black woman raised in the Deep South. My guess is that any outsiders inside, regardless of their particular race or gender, can see themselves in my story, although I will tell my story based on my experience of blackness, femaleness, and Southernness, which all together guarantee, it seems, that even when I get a seat inside, it will likely not be a steady one. So, while I am precariously seated inside, I may as well struggle to pull up a few floorboards to dismantle this oppressive house while I am here.