Friday, February 21, 2014
Black Feminist! Are you Black first? Or are you a Woman first?
Are you Black first? Or are you a woman first?
I get this question all the time because I am a Black feminist. People want to know if this means that I care less about the political realities of being Black. If I am now only concerned with being a woman. Or do I allow my blackness to get in the way of caring about issues impacting women.
It's not physically possible for me to separate my race from my gender. I cannot choose to one day be Black Danielle who has no gender and the next day be Danielle the Woman who has no race. And yet, socially and politically Black women are expected to split their identities all the time.
Black feminism is the rejection of this.
As a Black feminist, I vow to bring all of my marginalized identities to any political or sociological discussion. I also vow to support marginalized identities which I do not possess because everything we advocate for needs to be mindful to not harm the people it claims to support. This is the application of the concept called "intersectionality" which legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw blessed us with in 1989.
Oftentimes, Black women are asked to forget their gender by Black men or forget their race by white women simply because Black womanhood is not valued in many spaces other than explicitly Black woman centered spaces. Black womanhood is a conflation of myriad forms of marginalization and as such our experiences are not often centered.
We're often told it's too difficult and complex to consider our experiences. We are told that we hurt the causes of white women and Black men. This is ironic because when the issues of Black women are addressed, or even more specifically, when the issues of low income and LGBT Black women are addressed, everybody wins.
It is like Anna Julia Cooper famously said, "When and where I enter, in the quiet undisputed dignity of my womanhood, without violence and without suing or special patronage, then and there the whole Negro race enters with me."
Anna Julia Cooper was ahead of her time. And now in the 21st century we can extend this idea beyond race and gender to include issues such as class and sexuality to see how when and where that person enters everybody enters with them. Intersectionality is not a burden. It's a tool we can use to fully dismantle oppressive systems by taking a margin to center approach.
So to answer the original question: I am neither a woman first or Black first. I am Danielle who is a Black woman. I am also a lot of other things. And part of empowering myself is believing that I have the right to assert all of who I am at any given time.
I am unwilling to dissect myself so that I am easier to digest by people who refuse to be intersectional.