Intersectionality in the Black Feminist Movement (by Aviva DeKornfeld)

 

Title: Intersectionality in the Black Feminist Movement (by Aviva DeKornfeld)

Standards: Intended Grade Level: 11-12

Key Ideas and Details: Determine the central ideas or information of a primary or secondary source; provide an accurate summary that makes clear the relationships among the key details and ideas.

Overview: This project will focus on intersectionality as a key theoretical concept in the Black feminist movement.

Framework: This lesson will ask students to look at intersectionality as a key theoretical concept in the Black feminist movement. The students will read a setion of one secondary document and analyze a one primary document. The students first will read an introduction of an essay by Kimberle Crenshaw, the woman who coined the term intersectionality, discussing the concept of intersectionality. They will be asked to depict the concept and then share how intersectionality is relevant to their own lives. This will encourage students to reflect inward. Then, students will be the asked to analyze main themes of the Combahee River Collective Statement, and discuss how the Statement addresses intersectionality. They will discuss in small groups why intersectionality is a key part of the Black feminist movement.

Essential Understanding: Students will understand the concept of intersectionality, and its importance in the Black feminist movement.

Essential Questions:

  • What is intersectionality?
  • What is its place in the Black feminist movement?
  • What do you think the title of the book that Crenshaw references, All the Women Are White, All the Blacks Are Men, But Some of Us Are Brave, means?
  • In which ways did Black women struggle against white feminists and Black men?
  • How does intersectionality help us have a more holistic approach to understanding a person or a movement?

Glossary:

  • Intersectionality– The study of intersections between forms or systems of oppression, domination or discrimination.
  • Interlocking Systems of Domination– the systems, such as the patriarchy, white supremacy or capitalism, that create interlocking oppressions.
  • Interlocking Systems of Oppression– the oppressions one faces, such as sexism, racism or classism, created by the interlocking systems of domination.
  • Self-determination– the process by which a person controls their own life.
  • Positionality– A person’s location within the interlocking systems of domination.

 

Introduction: Historically, when we think of a movement, we think of a group of people fighting against one specific oppression. For example, Civil Rights Activists fought for racial equality. The Suffragettes andd activists in the Women’s Liberation Movement fought for gender equality. Until relatively recently, the concept of multiple and simultaneous oppressions was largely either unknown or not widely discussed. While concepts of racism and sexism became increasingly recognized and addressed throughout the 20th century, few people considered the idea of racism and sexism affecting any group of people as the same time.

Black women have historically played very important roles in both Black Liberation and Women’s Liberation movements. However, they often found that they were not entirely represented by either movement. For example, many Black women suffered sexist treatment by Black men in the Civil Rights Movement and the Black Freedom Struggle. At the same time, they suffered racist treatment from white women in the Women’s Liberation Movement. Often times, Black women who addressed the sexism of the Black right’s movements were seem as disloyal, or traitors, since racial equality was deemed the most pressing issue of the time. And while many women in radical feminist circles wanted to separate from men entirely, Black women felt that they could not do that, since they needed their Brothers in the fight for racial justice.

It was clear to Black women that they suffered multiple oppressions, both racism and sexism, (as well as classism and other forms of oppression) with none of their oppressions taking more importance over another. This unique intersection of oppressions led Black women to create their own groups for Black women who also felt they suffered from multiple oppressions and did not feel they were fully represented in other movements. This project seeks to help you understand the concept of intersectionality in context of the Black feminist movement, as well as in your own lives.

Materials:

Activities:

  • Students will read part of an essay (the first section on page 57 and 58) by Kimberle Crenshaw about intersectionality, then each draw a picture to depict the concept.
  • Students will read The Combahee River Collective Statement and annotate the Statement with thoughts, questions, and reactions. They will discuss this in small groups, and talk about how the Statement applies intersectionality to the Black feminist movement.
  • Students will discuss the title of the book referenced in the Crenshaw essay, All the Women Are White, All the Blacks Are Men, But Some of Us Are Brave. (What do they think it means? What do they think it’s referencing?)
  • Students will have time to independently write about their positionality and how intersectionality manifests in their own lives.

Additional Sources:

  • Smith, Barbara, comp. The Combahee River Collective Statement: Black Feminist Organizing In The Seventies and Eighties. Boston: Kitchen Table: Women of Color, n.d. Print.
  • Brown, Elaine. A Taste of Power: A Black Woman’s Story. New York: Pantheon, 1992. Print.
  • Hooks, Bell. Feminist Theory from Margin to Center. Boston, MA: South End, 1984. Print.
  • Joseph, Peniel E. The Black Power Movement: Rethinking the Civil Rights-Black Power Era. New York: Routledge, 2006. Print.
  • Davis, Angela. “Racism, Birth Control and Reproductive Rights.” Women, Race and Class. London: Women’s, 1982. N. pag. Print.
  • Crenshaw, Kimberle. Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory, and Antiracist Politics [1989] (n.d.): n. pag. Web.

 

 

 

 

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