Black Women Feminist Movement
Black feminism is the nexus between the Black liberation and the women's liberation movements, but it has its own distinct ideologies. Black feminist thought consists of specialized knowledge created by African American women that clarifies a standpoint of and for Black women. In other words, Black feminist thought encompasses theoretical interpretations of Black women's reality by those who actually live it. Black feminist perspectives stress how various forms of gender, race, and class oppression work together to form a matrix of social domination. These oppressions are deeply interwoven into social structures and work together to define the history of the lives of Black women in America and other women of color worldwide.
The history of these cultural oppressions can be traced back to the era of United States slavery during which time a social hierarchy developed locating White men at the top, White women next, followed by Black men, and finally, at the bottom, Black women. Because of the wide scope of these oppressors and the 400-year history associated with them, Black feminist writers and theorists reason that Black women have developed a distinct perspective and cognizance that provides them with keen social and economic survival skills, including utilizing everyday strategies of political resistance. The particular interactions of oppressions faced by Black women daily have forced particular perspectives on social reality.
Black feminists are highly critical of oversimplified models of oppression that suggest that Black women must identify as either Black or women, women first and Black second, or Black first and women second. Black feminists believe that when the lives of African American women are improved, there will be progressive development also for African American men, their families, and their communities. Black feminism can be identified with the celebrated historical tradition of Black female activists' commitment to empowering themselves to create a humanistic community for all.
Because middle-class White women within the traditional feminist movement have been accused of focusing on oppression primarily in terms of gender while paying scant attention to issues of race or class, theories of Black feminism were forged in resistance to this felt marginalization. It has been argued, too, that often times Black women had avoided the women's movement based on fear of interrogation by their own community members who linked racism with the women's movement.
Articles in the anthology Words of Fire: An Anthology of African-American Feminist Thought (Guy-Sheftall, 1995) contain some examples of this. Michelle Wallace, in her article, "Anger in Isolation: A Black Feminist's Search for Sisterhood," suggests that the women's movement simply exploits Black women to help it build integrity. bell hooks, in "Black Women Shaping Feminist Theory," complains of the assumption in the women's movement that all women share a common oppressor. The Black feminist critique of racism has demanded that White women claim responsibility for their own racism and not require Black women to either educate White women on issues of race or to applaud their efforts at becoming less racist.
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