Notes and Quotes from Black Feminist Thought, by Patricia Hill Collins
Sons of Malcolm
These are some summaries, quotations and some observations and comments from me on reading this book. I have re-doubled my efforts at engaging with issues of white-supremacist-patriarchy and the general disastrous conditions that brothers and sisters find themselves in when trying to relate to each other socially, politically, culturally and intimately.
My personal opinion is that too much of so-called 'feminist' analysis amongst too many of our brothers and especially sisters is more often than not a projection of strategical divisions promoted by the white power structure between brothers and sisters.
I was spurred onto to look into these issues a little more deeply after what I considered the highly classist and white-supremacist and not to mention totally patronising manner in which three critiques of brother Jaja Soze's 'Beautiful Sister' music video was being scrutinised by 'ceasefire' (should really be called 'whitefire' for the way it tails the white power structure in the most trickiest of fashions), the 'Black Feminist blog', and brother Anthony Anaxagorou. Not to say I would agree with everything brother Soze said and the way he said it, but the responses to him were so off the mark, and so insulting in so many ways that I wanted to have no association with those critiques in any way shape or form.
My quotes, comments and notes on this book are not done in any academically formal or structured way, and I dont care at all for that really, but its clearly readable etc.
I hope this is of interest to people. I'll endeavor to put up further quotes from this and other books I am about to read on this general subject, including Audre Lourde's 'Sister Outsider', Joan Morgan's 'When Chickenheads Came Home to Roost', and Althea Prince & Susan Silva-Wayne's 'Feminisms and Womanisms: A Women's Studies Reader'. I would appreciate it if militantly pro-Black Power sisters recommended other texts on patriarchy and sexism and challenges of uniting brothers and sisters.
Author says in preface that she is not gonna use academic language as she wants the book accessible to non-academic black women. I liked that.
She then also says she will not be writing and constantly comparing with white feminism, as she feels this will belittle black feminism, and that black feminism stands on its own without needing to compare etc. I liked that too.
Finally, she also says thus far that I have read, that she will not use well known black feminists in this work, she will also use unknown black women cos this breaks down the problematic dynamic of a few known women speaking for the rest, rather 'the rest' should be cited as well as. I liked that a lot as well.
This is interesting, still in the preface: "When I considered that Black feminist thought is currently embedded in a larger political and intellectual context that challenges its very right to exist, I decided not to stress the contradictions, frictions, and inconsistencies of Black feminist thought. Instead I present Black feminist thought as overly coherent, but I do so because I suspect this approach is most appropriate for this historical moment." - (xiv, preface)
This is something I dont quite agree with. I positively get the sentiment, but dont agree wholly. Obviously she is repping her/our community, but also its right of her to give the space to other to come in on this too, to allow them and give encouragement to them to "speak for herself". But of course she is representing the community about which she is writing. I suppose the biggest problem I have with this is that it shift one away from collective power to an atomised and individualistic context which has the danger of slipping into individualistic identity politics. Anyways, here's the quote:
" 'How can I as one person speak for such a large and complex group as African-American women?' I asked myself. The answer is that I cannot and should not because each of us must learn to speak for herself. In the course of writing the book I cam to see my work as being part of a larger process, as one voice in a dialogue among people who had been silenced." (xv)
She quotes one of the pioneers of Black women intellectuals, Maria Stewart (who called Black women in the usa as 'daughters of Africa'), in 1831:
" 'It is useless for us any longer to sit with our hands folded, reproaching the whites; for that will never elevate us,' she exorted. 'Possess the spirit of independence.. possess the spirit of men [! - Sukant], bold and enterprising, fearless and undaunted." (pg 3-4)
"The shadow obscuring Black women's intellectual tradition is neither accidental nor benign. Suppressing the knowledge produced by any oppressed group makes it easier for dominant groups to rule because the seeming absence of an independent consciousness in the oppressed can be taken to mean that subordinate groups willingly collaborate in their own victimisation." (p5)
3 areas where Black women, in Collins mind, have been supressed:
1, as slaves and general household drudgery means they had/have got little to no time to push fwd the theoritical discussions etc for their own situation and liberation
2, political and educational poverty, relegated to the worst schooling etc, and discrimination in the criminal justice system
3, "controlling images of Black women", like jezebals, whores, pancake mamas, breeder women of slavery etc.
"This larger system of oppression works to suppress the ideas of Black women intellectuals and to protect elite white male interests and worldviews" (pg.6/7)
"Ironically, feminist theory has also suppressed Black women's ideas .. Theories advanced as being universally applicable to women as a group on closer examination appear greatly limited by the white, middle class origins of their proponents"
"African-American women have long been included in Black social and political organisations .. Even though Black women intellectuals have asserted their right to speak both as African-Americans and as women, historically these women have not held top leadership positions in Black organisations." (pgs 7/8)
She then gives the example of the Ella Baker who basically ran the Southern Christian Leadership Council, but had to defer to the council of males for leadership decisions.
I would add that while the Panthers had their fair share of the mirrored patriarchy in their organisation from wider society, there were many powerful and strong women in leadership positions who also made leadership decisions.
She is now saying that although slavery and segregation in the south pre 2ndWW was to control and exploit the Black community, it allowed the community to forge its own conceptions of Black womanhood, derived from West African heritage (where the people were kidnapped and enslaved from).