By Amanda Ahadizadeh
In honor of Black History Month, we will be discussing articles particularly related to racial equality for the next few meetings. For our first meeting of the month, our members read the Combahee River Collective Statement, which was written in 1977 by a group of Black Feminists in Boston. The Combahee River Collective was actually a Black Feminist Lesbian group named after the guerrilla action led by Harriet Tubman in 1863 in Port Royal, SC. These women formed out of the Boston chapter of the National Black Feminist Organization (NBFO), an antiracist AND antisexist group. They built their identity around their social status as the most disadvantaged group in society: “…being on the bottom, we would have to do what no one else has done: we would have to fight the world.” Just fight the world, no big deal. (scoff)
The defining characteristic of Black Feminism, especially in the 70s, was utter lack of privilege. These women did not have the male privilege of Black men, nor could they share in the racial privilege of white women. As for white men, “Black women have always embodied, if not only in their physical manifestation, an adversary stance to white male rule…” Black women are basically the arch nemeses of white men. The bane of their existence. The Harry to their Voldemort (it’s funny because Voldemort was so pale). Black men, according to the statement, reacted negatively to Black Feminism, which relates to what we discussed last week in the white privilege article. “They realize that they might not only lose valuable and hard-working allies in their struggles but that they might also be forced to change their habitually sexist ways of interacting with and oppressing Black women.” Basically, Black men felt like the success of a Black feminist movement would take away any sense of supremacy they had. How sad! The statement also points out that while “eliminating racism in the white women’s movement is by definition work for white women to do,” the progress within the white women’s movement reveals an awful negligence on their behalf. It was as if white women only had enough energy to fight for their rights specifically. They couldn’t be bothered to take a stand against racial discrimination, even though their cause is basically invalidated by condoning oppression of any kind. But I guess they didn’t realize that.
In our discussion, one of our members pointed out that Black women’s cause should be fought by all women, because, as the statement points out, the success of their movement would mean the “liberation of all oppressed people.” Because Black women are the most disadvantaged demographic, their deliverance would mean the deliverance of everyone less disadvantaged. It may be Black women’s cause, but it should be all women’s concern.
Interestingly, the Combahee River Collective also offered an economic stance.
“We realize that the liberation of all oppressed peoples necessitates the destruction of the political-economic systems of capitalism and imperialism as well as patriarchy. We are socialist because we believe the work must be organized for the collective benefit of those who do the work and create the products, and not for the profit of the bosses.” Stick it to the man. Hell yeah.
This brought up a discussion among a couple of our members about economic structure and oppression. Someone pointed out the more left-leaning economic structures of Western Europe and correlated that with seemingly less oppressive societies. Another person said that economic success, in whatever structure, is the foundation for social liberation. Many prominent members of society make their voices heard by financial means.
So what do you think? Does economic structure hurt or help oppressed groups? Or is the economy irrelevant? And as for white/black/male/female, what responsibilities do you think each demographic has for the others?
As always, here’s the link.