Herstory: The Origins and Continued Relevancy of Black Feminist Thought in the United States

Cherise Charleswell I Women's Issues I Analysis I February 27th, 2014

Academics, second-wave, and third-wave feminists would likely agree that the Black Feminist movement grew out of, and more importantly, in response to, the Black Liberation Movement (itself an out-growth of the Civil Rights Movement), and the Women's Movement taking place in the United States and the West. The title of the groundbreaking anthology, All the Women are White, All the Blacks are Men, But some of us are Brave , published in 1982, and edited by Gloria T. Hull, Patricia Bell Scott, and Barbara Smith, perfectly illustrates the sentiments behind the need for the development of the Black Feminist Movement. In short, Black women were being marginalized and openly discriminated against in both movements, and they were finding it difficult or impossible to build solidarity with those who were also acting as their oppressors. All too often, "black" was equated with black men and "woman" was equated with white women; and the end result of this was that black women were an invisible group whose existence and needs were (and many would rightfully argue continues) to be ignored. Frustrations over this led to the formation of the National Black Feminist Organization in New York in 1973. Thus, Black Feminism is merely an effort, coping mechanism, and tool to be utilized by Black women who are racially oppressed within the Women's Movement, and sexually oppressed within the Black Liberation Movement, as well as within the patriarchal system of the Black community, which simply mimics the sexist ideas of the larger society.

Documentary filmmaker Nevline Nnaji's film, Reflections Unheard: Black Women in Civil Rights, released in 2013 along with the Association of Black Women's Historians text, The True worth of a Race: African American Women and the Struggle for Freedom, which was released to commemorate the 150 th Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington, both carry out the wonderful mission of giving a voice to the Black women involved in the Civil Rights Movement, Black Liberation Movement, and other liberation struggles. These women include the likes of Mary Church Terrell, Fannie Lou Baker, Ida B. Wells, bell hooks, Audre Loure, Barbara Christian, Angela Davis, and the many other women who have gone on nameless and forgotten by history. These are the women who were told to stand in the back as Black people were collectively fighting to sit at the front of the bus and at the lunch counter. These are the women who were fighting to end racial inequality, while dealing with gender inequality and sexism. These were the women who were expected to just keep on marching, singing, sexing, and birthing "babies for the revolution." This revolution did not include their liberation and was subsequently nothing more than a fallacy. As explained by Michele Wallace in her book, Black Macho and the Myth of the Superwoman, "There is no revolution if, at the end of it, you ask any group of people to continue their subjugation."[1] Therefore, these women declared the following manifesto:

Black Woman's Manifesto

Racism and capitalism have trampled the potential of black people in this country and thwarted their self-determination. Initially, the physical characteristics of those of African descent were used to fit blacks into the lowest niche in the capitalist hierarchy - that of maintenance. Therefore, black women and men of today do not encourage division by extending physical characteristics to serve as a criterion for a social hierarchy. If the potential of the black woman is seen mainly as a supportive role for the black man, then the black woman becomes an object to be utilized by another human being. Her potential stagnates and she cannot begin to think in terms of self-determination for herself and all black people. It is not right that her existence should be validated only by the existence of the black man.

The black woman is demanding a new set of female definitions and recognition of herself of a citizen, companion and confidant, not a matriarchal villain or a step stool baby-maker. Role integration advocates the complementary recognition of man and woman, not the competitive recognition of same. [2]

Daring to become an activist and join the various Black Liberation struggles meant that a Black woman would have to face constant sexism. Viewing Black women as merely objects to be controlled meant that even their bodies and sexuality would be controlled. The following comment by feminist, author, popular speaker, and social activist bell hooks, explains the nature of this control as well as the underlining hypocrisy: "Black men overemphasize[d] white male sexual exploitation of black womanhood as a way to explain their disapproval of inter-racial relationships." It was, however, no contradiction of their political views to have inter-racial relationships themselves. Again, part of "freedom" and "manhood" was the right of men to have indiscriminate access to and control over any woman's body." [3] In other words, these attitudes, again, only represent a desire to switch or assume the position of the oppressor, and not truly bring about liberation and equality.

Within the Black liberation struggles, there was also a blatant disregard for Black women's humanity, autonomy, and bodies; and so, they were subjected to sexist statements, practices, and even violence. Even Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was guilty of being a male chauvinist. In particular, he resisted allowing women to take on leadership positions within his own organizations. [4] In the article, "Martin Luther King, Jr. Revisited: A Black Power Feminist Pays Homage to the King," Gwendylon Zoharah Simmons, a former Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) volunteer, provides an account of her experiences with this widely known chauvinism and rampant sexism within the Civil Rights Movements:

"Sexism was definitely a problem throughout all civil rights organizations. Dr. King, not surprisingly -- like most if not all men in the movement who were products of the Black Church and American culture was sexist. ... The civil rights movement was hardly a model of female inclusion in the area of leadership. Patriarchy plagued the black freedom struggle on all sides. ...All men had difficulty seeing women in leadership roles."

She goes on to say that "King's inability to see movement women as his peers and even mentors prevented him from forging strong connections with radical black women who could have been his greatest allies in the struggle he was about to launch against economic oppression."[5]

Even more appalling were the daily acts of misogyny. Former Black Panther Party member, Elaine Brown, shared the following recollection of those experiences:

During an organizational meeting of the Black Congress in which she and the other women were forced to wait to eat until the men were served food for which they had all contributed money. The "rules" were then explained to her and a friend: "Sisters... did not challenge Brothers. Sisters... stood behind their black men, supported their men, and respected them. In essence... it was not only 'unsisterly' of us to want to eat with our Brothers, it was a sacrilege for which blood could be shed."

Much of this was carried out minus any criticism; and, of course, speaking about it openly would have been, and remains to be, deemed as a form of treason, or "airing out dirty laundry." Nevertheless, when Black liberation leaders would speak, much of the vocabulary they would choose and statements they would make focused on the greatness of the Black man, the needs of the Black man, and the oppression of the Black man; all while rarely mentioning the Black woman.

Consider the following statements that exemplify the disregard of the humanity of Black women:

We have black MEN who have mastered the field of medicine, we have black MEN who have mastered other fields, but very seldom do we have black MEN in America who have mastered the knowledge of the HIStory of the black MAN himself. We have among our people those who are experts in every field, but seldom can you find one among us who is an expert on the HIStory of the black MAN.

- Malcolm X, The Black MAN's History, December 1962

And so this separation [of black men and women] is the cause of our need for self-consciousness, and eventual healing. But we must erase the separateness by providing ourselves with healthy African identities. By embracing a value system that knows of no separation but only of the divine complement the black woman is for her man. For instance, we do not believe in them 'equality' of men and women. We cannot understand what the devils and the devilishly influenced mean when they say equality for women. We could never be equals... Nature has not provided thus."

- Amiri Baraka statements expressing that gender equality between Black women and men are unequal, and that Black women are complements "for" Black men.

I became a rapist. To refine my technique and modus operandi, I started out by PRACTICING on black girls in the ghetto-in the black ghetto where vicious and dark deeds appear NOT as aberrations or deviations from the norm, but as part of the sufficiency of the Evil of a day-and when I considered myself smooth enough, I crossed the tracks and sought out white prey.

- Black Panther, misogynist, rapist, and wife beater, Eldrige Cleaver, discussing his predatory pattern. It is telling that he viewed violence committed against black women to be "less serious, less criminal," than that against their white counterparts.

Feminism, White Women, & Hierarchy

That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain't I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain't I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man - when I could get it - and bear the lash as well! And ain't I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother's grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain't I a woman?

- Sojourner Truth, "Ain't I A Woman," Delivered in 1851 at the Women's Convention in Akron, Ohio.

The above sentiments delivered by abolitionist and pioneering Black feminist Sojourner Truth speaks to the problem of marginalization and invisibility that plagues Black women. In fact, she repeatedly punctuates her speech with the question, "Ain't I A Woman?" and, in essence, is pointing out that she and other Black women are indeed women, and equals to white women. Therefore, their humanity should also be recognized. Sojourner Truth delivered this speech during a time when women's suffrage and other empowerment movements were beginning to take root; however, these movements almost always focused on solidarity and the rights of white women only. At times, the exclusion or undeniable racism was quite blatant. This difficult dance of sisterhood was continued into the 20th century, particularly during the 1960s, when the feminist movement re-emerged. However, the racism that Black women experienced was more subtle and structural in nature. A number of Black women were invited to engage in the movement and women's studies courses only to discover they were treated as tokens.

Much of these frustrations with inherent racism, classism, etc. in the feminist movement and women's studies exploded, and were explored during the first National Women's Studies Association Conference held in 1979 in Lawrence, Kansas. Barbara Smith, an attendee of that Conference shared the following during her address:

Although my proposed topic is black women's studies, I have decided to focus my remarks in a different way. Given that this is a gathering of predominantly white women and given what has occurred during this conference, it makes much more sense to discuss the issue of racism: racism in women's studies and racism in the women's movement generally." Oh no, "I can hear some of you groaning inwardly. Not that again. That's all we've talked about since we got here." This of course is not true. If it had been all we had all talked about since we got here, we might be at a point of radical transformation on the last day of this Conference that we clearly are not.

For those of you who are tired of hearing about racism, imagine how much more tired we are of constantly experiencing it, second by literal second, how much more exhausted we are to see it constantly in your eyes. The degree to which it is hard or uncomfortable for you to have the issue raised is the degree to which you know inside of yourselves that you aren't dealing with the issue, the degree to which you are hiding from the oppression that undermines Third World women's lives. I want to say right here that this is not a "guilt trip." It's a fact trip. The assessment of what's actually going on. [6]

Barbara's calls for the honest discussion of racism apparently went unheard by many of the majority-white female audience that she spoke to, and feminists as a whole. This disregard became quite apparent during a NWSA's Conference that took place much later, in 1990, in Akron, Ohio. Viewed as a watershed moment, over a hundred women of color and their allies got up and walked out of the Conference in protest to the entrenched and continued racism existing within the movement. Again, the concerns and viewpoints of Black women, and other women of color, were relegated to the margins. The fundamental issue was that the experiences of white, middle class women were viewed as the universal experience of women, without any considerations for race, class, sexuality, and so on. Compounding this problem was/is that many white women operate, often times unknowingly, from this point of privilege. The walk-out signified the frustration of having to educate another group about the privilege they enjoy (in this case, racial privilege), and having to deal with their discomfort and push-back in the process.

Just last year (yes, this is still an issue in 2013), the issue grabbed national headlines during a two-day Twitter campaign on the topic #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen. Writer Mikki Kendall started the hash tag during a discussion about Hugo Schwyzer, who gained notoriety for being an admitted manipulator and antagonizer of women, especially women of color. So, what was the problem? Well, a number of white women rushed in to defend Schwyzer after he claimed he was being bullied and attacked. In other words, so much for sisterhood and solidarity. Women of color watched, and later reacted to, the actions of their "sisters," and these actions once again made it clear that white women's issues and stances continued to be a priority over women of color; and yes, true solidarity was/is for white women. In an article for The Guardian, Mikki explained the following regarding the controversy, "It appeared that these feminists were, once again, dismissing women of color (WOC) in favor of a brand of solidarity that centers on the safety and comfort of white women. For it to be at the expense of people who were doing the same work was exceptionally aggravating." Black women and the issues that directly impacted them (such as racism) were again being shout out, silenced, ignored, and marginalized by white women's positions of privilege in feminism.

The trending topic #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen quickly spread to other media platforms, and women shared the following sentiments on Twitter:

Ayesha A. Siddiqi (@pushinghoops) August 12, 2013

#SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen when you idolize Susan B. Anthony & claim her racism didn't matter.

Mikki Kendall (@Karnythia) August 12, 2013

#SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen when "sexpositivity" never includes women of color.

SaltedCarmelSouthron (@deluxvivens) August 12, 2013

#SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen white feminists get seen as 'heroes' for starting feminist societies, but WOCs are brushed off as 'aggressive'

Angry Black Fangirl (@TheAngryFangirl) August 13, 2013

I know #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen when any critique of white privilege in feminism is written off as "racist" and "divisive."

Cabbage Patch Ninja (@thewayoftheld) August 13, 2013

#SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen means criticizing Beyonce for wearing onesies while applauding Lena Dunham for going topless.

Rania Khalek (@RaniaKhalek) August 15, 2013

SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen on display: Alice Walker disinvited from U of Michigan's women center 4 Israel comments.

Ebony in Inwood (@TheRealMsMurphy) February 22, 2014

@TheRealRoseanne supports Tommy Sotomayor's black woman hatred and calls ME a bigot. Isn't that cute? #solidarityisforwhitewomen


When considering their daily interactions, as well as academic and professional experiences, it became apparent that is difficult, or impossible, for Black women to separate race from class and sex oppression, because they experience them simultaneously. Kimberle Crenshaw coined the term "Intersectionality" to describe this phenomenon. Patricia Hill Collins, in her groundbreaking book, Black Feminist Thought, explains why the theory of Intersectionality is central to Black feminist thought: "Black feminist thought fosters a fundamental paradigmatic shift in how we think about oppression. By embracing a paradigm of race, class, and gender as interlocking systems of oppression, Black feminist thought re conceptualizes the social relations of domination and resistance."[7] Thus, in considering intersectionality, Black feminist thought makes it clear that Black women do not have the luxury of focusing on issues of gender oppression, in comparison to their white counterparts. Instead, they must be equally, or more so, vigilant on issues of race, class, sexuality, etc. that is tied to separate means of oppression and discrimination.

For instance, consider the following:

26.5% of African American women are poor, compared to 22.3% African American men, 11.6% of white women, and 9.4% of white men. [8] Thus, Black women are twice as likely as white women to be living in poverty, a fact that creates a different set and larger amount of challenges and obstacles in life. Further, white woman are more likely to be tied to white men, those with the greatest degree of social equity and lowest rates of poverty, which allows them to benefit from the higher degree of privilege experienced by their male counterparts. Understandably, the concerns between the two groups of women will be different.

Black women and other women of color have been historically failed and ostracized by the communities which they identify with, whether based on race/ethnicity or gender. The extent of this failure could easily be discerned by simply looking at the nation's health indicators. African American women have much higher rates of disease prevalence and mortality than Caucasian women - differences which are not purely explained by genetic and physiology factors. Instead, the differences are mostly due to socio-economic conditions (again varying intersectional factors) within the built environment. In comparison to Caucasian women, more women of color live in low income and impoverished areas; and this lack of resources and access to health services - especially preventative care, nutritional foods, safe living conditions, and employment opportunities - help to account for the great health inequities. Consequently, the question of whether feminism and women studies have any real benefit to Black women, on the surface, seems valid. However, within their own ethnic and racially-identified communities, Black women and other women of color continue to face abject sexism and cultural norms that reinforce their positions of inferiority; and these circumstances stand as testimony to the need for women of color to be actively involved in feminism/womanism.

What about Our Daughters?

"White girls don't call their men 'brothers' - and that made their struggle enviably simpler than mine. Racism and the will to survive, it creates a sense of intra-racial loyalty that makes it impossible for black women to turn our backs on black men - even in their ugliest and most sexist of moments. I needed a feminism that would allow us to continue loving ourselves and the brothers who hurt us without letting race loyalty buy us early tombstones," [9] shares Joan Morgan in her book, When Chickenheads Come Home To Roost. Joan's statement helps to explain the paradox of loyalty-and-priority that black women face. While racial oppression has forced black women to constantly rally around black men, reciprocity is often not carried out. Due to "loyalty," black women are expected to accept these unfair circumstances, and in fact address those who often act as their oppressor as "brotha." Even in the rhetoric of the Black Liberation movements, race was tremendously sexualized and freedom itself was equated with manhood; and this continues to be the case. When there was talk about "The Man," it was primarily due to frustrations of Black men who wanted to switch places with that oppressor so that he could be as dominant; which, again, leaves Black women in a position of subjugation. These sentiments continue today, where Black men continue to view the loss of manhood as the real tragedy of racism, and openly accuse Black women of assisting in the emasculation of Black men. For Black women are expected to "hold a brotha down," even when there is no reciprocity for her actions. Black feminism provides the means to point out these double-standards and hypocrisies.

Pioneering Black feminists and women's suffragists, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, expressed this cautionary statement about the need for Black women to be empowered and guaranteed the same rights of men, particularly Black men, whose liberation is not tied to Black women's:

There is a great stir bout colored men getting their rights, but not a word about the colored women; and if colored men get their rights and not colored women theirs, the colored men will be masters over the women, and it will be just as bad as it was before. So, I am keeping the thing going while things are stirring; because if we wait till it is still, it will take a great while to get it going again.

- Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, 1867 AERA Meeting

Her warnings essentially foreshadowed exactly what would begin to manifest in the later Black liberation movements, within the Black church, and within the Black community; the accepted subjugation and disrespect of Black women. As of recent, there have finally been honest discussions about Black men failing to "Show Up" for Black women.

In her article, On Black Men Showing Up for Black Women at the Scene of the Crime , a Crunk Feminist Collective contributor recounted her experience on a panel that included a white woman and Black man, where her questions and prodding of this man to provide a deeper analysis of gender dynamics, instead of his repeated statement about "what he had done for us [women]," resulted in her being cut off, yelled at, publicly humiliated, frightened (by his towering frame), and with her face and clothing soaking wet by the cup of water the man threw at her during his abrupt departure. The most interesting or worrisome and sad part about her ordeal is that no one, not even the other Black women in the room (who of course have been programmed to accept this behavior and only rally for Black men in need) readily stepped in or stood up to defend her. In considering her ordeal, one has to ask whether those who witnessed the exchange truly believe she deserved this treatment due to her audacity to question a Black man's authority, to challenge him to admit there is rampant sexism in our communities, and for not remaining silent.

Yet, similar scenes are played out on street corners and other areas every day; and, again, no one, particularly no Black man Shows Up in defense of Black women. Just consider the historical epidemic of Street harassment, where for generations Black girls and women have to cope with cat-calling, uninvited conversations, being stared at, taunted, and touched by random Black men as they attempt to navigate city streets. Regardless of how offensive the act, or whether or not they are actually interested in these men who cross their paths, they are expected to accept the behavior, to feign some sort of appreciation for the unsolicited compliments, and, above all, smile through the ordeal and refrain from challenging these men, unless they want to be victimized - whether verbally or physically. These situations are played out daily - and often, when a Black girl or woman finds herself in this predicament, she quickly realizes that the other Black men who are witnessing the behavior will not Show Up in her defense. Proving that #SolidarityIsAlsoForBlackMen.

While Black women have traditionally taken to the streets to rally against forces of oppression that harm Black men and boys, the same amount of fervor is not given to them in return. The focus continues to be on Black men and boys - leaving many to ask, What About Our Daughters? A website with this name launched in April 2007 in response to the Oprah Winfrey Show episode entitled, "After Imus: Now What?," which focused on the infamous "nappy headed hoes" remark made by radio commentator Don Imus. Adding fuel to the fire were the distasteful comments, under the guise of comedy, made by comedian-actor DL Hugley. The mission of the website is as such, "Unapologetic, uncompromising, and unbowed in defense of Black women and girls." In other words, the website steps forward to fill a gap - to uplift and protect Black women and girls from the constant waves of oppression, discrimination, and prevalence of destructive images of Black womanhood.

Further, those who have assisted in creating and disseminating much of these negative images of Black womanhood have unfortunately been Black men. It is Black men who have helped to make the terminology and images of the "sassy, lazy, over-sexed, ratchet, Black vixen…ho, slut, bitch" popular and ubiquitous globally, which, contrary to misconceptions, started before the hip hop generation. During the Blaxploitation era, Black women were still portrayed as hyper-sexual caricatures and prostitutes, while pimps were celebrated as pop culture figures.

It is not difficult to trace the continuation of pimp/misogynistic culture from the 1970s to the present, particularly when looking at hip hop. Jay Z boastfully rapped about Big Pimpin', Bishop Don Juan, dressed in his stereotypical pimp attire, became part of Snoop Dog's entourage, Snoop's mannerisms and speech have always been reminiscent of the celebrated pimps, and Three 6 Mafia's "It's Hard Out Here For A Pimp," part of the Hustle & Flow soundtrack, even won an Oscar for best original song. Indeed, the pimp culture has ingrained itself in Black culture, and this is problematic because it represents the celebration of a figure whose "job description" is controlling, using, and often abusing women. Therefore, pimp culture is nothing more than a means to protect and celebrate the "Black Macho." It is for this reason why, despite wanting to address the issue of cultural appropriation, Black women, and particularly Black feminists, found it difficult to stand in solidarity with Black men who were angered over Seattle, Washington born-and-bred, Caucasian rapper, Macklemore, winning "best rap album" at the 2014 Grammy Awards. Instead, they were forced to be honest with themselves and admit they could appreciate a rap/hip hop album that wasn't filled with misogynistic lyrics that caused them to flinch each time their favorite rapper called women "bitches" and "hoes" - or described them as nothing more than conquests. As pointed out in the viral article, " Why Macklemore Beat Your Favorite Rapper ," Macklemore actually presented music that was void of hyper-consumerism and the glorification of luxury and material items, and instead touched on topics of social justice.

The Numbers - #BlackPowerIsForBlackMen

The fact that Black women have been taught, or arguably programmed, to constantly protect and Show Up for Black men results in them having to be silent about their own abuse and oppression. It has to do with the push-pull historical factors of prioritizing race or gender. Essentially, Black women are typically unwilling to "offer up" yet another Black man to a system they know to be corrupt and unjust, even when they are victimized by the same Black man. This is one of the many ways that Black women Show Up for Black men.

The Truth - across the board, Black women have the highest rates of victimization of rape, intimate partner violence (or domestic violence) and homicide, and their attackers are usually Black men - not surprising, since most cases of violence are intra-racial:

Black females experience intimate partner violence at a rate 35% higher than that of white females, and about 22 times the rate of women of other races. [10]

African-American women experience significantly more domestic violence than White women in the age group of 20-24. [11]

Approximately 40% of Black women report coercive contact of a sexual nature by age 18. [12]

The number one killer of African-American women ages 15 to 34 is homicide at the hands of a current or former intimate partner. [12]

Black females made up 35% (or 1,200) of the nearly 3,500 female homicide victims. [13]

In 2005, most homicides involving one victim and one offender were intra-racial. [13]

In a study of African-American sexual assault survivors, only 17% reported the assault to police. [12]

For every white woman that reports her rape, at least 5 white women do not report theirs; and yet, for every African-American woman that reports her rape, at least 15 African-American women do not report theirs. [13]

It is on these issues - harassment, abuse, and violence - that Black feminists and Black women in general truly need the support of male allies. When looking at these statistics, the relevancy and need for Black feminism cannot be denied or dismissed. In her article, Why #BlackPowerIsforBlackMen: Exploring Intragroup Domestic Violence , Bea Hilton, intersectional activist and founder of the Freedom Project, eloquently shares the following sentiments: "It is imperative that Black men unpack their privilege and begin to accept these truisms not as betrayal, personal attacks or attempts at emasculation, but as acts of self-love, as steps toward a more equal and peaceful reality."

In an attempt to address this hypocrisy and inequality, the hashtag #BlackPowerisforBlackMen was created, and the posted comments provided concrete examples as to why this continues to be the case:

FilthyFreedom @Filthy Freedom August 14, 2013

#BlackPowerisforBlackMen because reporting domestic abuse also means serving up another black man to an unjust system - & - u don't get that

Zellie @Zelliemani August 14, 2013

#BlackPowerisforBlackMen because black on black violence never includes sexual violence against women

KayJacks RT @ RobinDGKelley February 25, 2014

#BlackPowerIsForBlackMen When we can name Emmett Till but can't name Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson…

GRSurvivingRape : RT @ BlackCanseco I got nuthin. Thx @ UncleRush RT @ LurieDFavors #blackpowerisforblackmen when female slave rape parodies are mass marketed.…

Posted in regards to Russell Simmons' endorsement

GRSurvivingRape : RT @ nealcarter : Another "black america" panel, without one black women's voice http://t.co/cY25ytPnaD #blackpowerisforblackmen

Posted in regards to this:

Auset93 : RT @ thembithembi: #blackpowerisforblackmen when we agreed that Trayvon was no thug but divided on whether Rachel Jeantel had an "attitude" …

@_theELLE_ # blackpowerisforblackmen when a Black man's way of uplifting Black women is writing a book telling her what she needs to change to get a man

Demetria Lucas @abelleinbk RT @ GradientLair: # blackpowerisforblackmen When Stop & Frisk is deemed wrong, yet BM street harass me 10-75 a week for TWENTY YEARS

Essentially, Black feminism, which advocates for the removal of all systems of oppression, is a means to truly bring about solidarity within the Black community - a solidarity that does not depend upon the subjugation of one group in order to uplift and coddle another.

Conclusive Statements

Black feminism continues to remain relevant for a plethora of factors, including the fact that Black women are often asked to choose a side or are shamed into putting race and ethnicity over their gender; and, for this reason, many of them shy away from the title, feminist, instead accepting the more appropriate title, Womanist. From the beginning, the Black women who took part in the Black liberation movements (Civil Rights, Black Power), the Suffrage movement, and Women's movement, were often discriminated against sexually and racially. Anna Julia Cooper, a Black woman who was also a staunch suffragists, is best known for the statement, "Only the BLACK WOMAN can say when and where I enter in the quiet undisputed dignity of my womanhood, without violence or special patronage; then and there the whole Negro race enters with me." Rightfully, Cooper believed and was particularly effective in emphasizing to Black women the fact that their access to the ballot and right to vote was important for their own determination, and crucial to ensure their needs were addressed; instead of the erroneous belief that Black men's experiences and needs were the same as theirs.

Nevertheless, Black feminists continue to be reminded by men of color, and to some extent White feminists, that the Feminist movement is also a place of inequality and privilege. White women were and continue to be the greatest beneficiaries of the Feminist movement - a fact that cannot be ignored, as it is often thrown in the face of Black women and other women of color who attempt to assert themselves as being women who are also interested in gender equality. Ultimately, white feminists are not burdened by the additional barriers of racism and prejudice; such as the anxiety African American female job seekers face when it comes to how they wear their hair, particularly if it is natural, and whether or not their hairstyle will disqualify them as a job candidate.

Black women have to cope with a multitude of these intersecting factors, as well as the intra-racial issues with sexism, misogyny, abuse, and violence. For this reason, True solidarity and Black liberation will not be brought about by mimicking the patriarchal system of the broader society and replacing one oppressor (white male) with another (black male). Instead, it depends on the removal of all forms of oppression, particularly gender oppression, which Black feminism works towards.

The following sentiments of Huey P. Newton, co-founder of the Black Panther Party, speaks to the fact that continued support and acceptance of oppression and discrimination cannot be viewed as revolutionary, or as any part of a revolutionary values system:

Remember, we have not established a revolutionary value system; we are only in the process of establishing it. I do not remember our ever constituting any value that said that a revolutionary must say offensive things towards homosexuals, or that a revolutionary should make sure that women do not speak out about their own particular kind of oppression. As a matter of fact, it is just the opposite: we say that we recognize the women's right to be free. [14]

Thus, the purpose of Black feminism is the development of theory which can adequately address the way race, gender, and class are interconnected in our lives, in order to take action to stop racist, sexist, and classist discrimination. In the end, Black women's strength does not equal the emasculation of Black men; and Black women's subjugation is not a requirement for Black men to be men.


Wallace, M. Black Macho and the Myth of the Superwoman. Verso Books: New York; 1999.

La Rue, L. The Black Movement and Women's Liberation, Black Women's Manifesto. The Black Scholar, Vol. I. May, 1970. p.42 http://library.duke.edu/rubenstein/scriptorium/wlm/blkmanif/

But Some of Us Are Brave: A History of Black Feminism in the United States. Retrieved from: http://www.mit.edu/~thistle/v9/9.01/6blackf.html

Dyson, Michael Eric. I May Not Get There With You: The True Martin Luther King, Jr. Free Press: New York, 2000.

Zoharah-Simmons, G. Martin Luther King Jr. Revisited a black power feminist pays homage to the king. Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion. 2008; 24(2):189-213

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