Black Power and Black Feminism Term Paper

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Power, Inequality and Conflict

The two theorists used in this paper to explore the theme of “power, inequality and conflict” are W. E. B. Du Bois and Patricia Hill Collins. The theme is one that gets to the heart of the struggle within the American Experience. The great attraction of the American Dream has always been that people are created equal and are endowed with a natural right to pursue life, liberty and happiness. For many minorities and marginalized persons in America, however, the Dream has a way of turning into a nightmare. Whether because of segregation, Jim Crow laws, gender pay gaps, or all manner of harassment (both sexual and racial), the theme of “power, inequality and conflict” has been a constant one throughout American history. While Du Bois explores this theme in “The Conversation of Races,” it is Patricia Hill Collins who is most helpful in providing understanding of this theme. That is because Collins discusses the theme from the standpoint of the politics of empowerment. Du Bois discusses it more from an academic standpoint—i.e., the need for the American Negro to quit his own “slavish” ways and embrace the realization that he has something unique and helpful to offer to the American public. Du Bois appears to accept the law of segregation in so far as he embraces the differences among the races. Collins firmly places the experiences of African-American women in the limelight to show how “power, inequality and conflict” can best be understood from the people themselves who have long had to deal with the struggle to be heard. Collins aims to “reconcile subjectivity and objectivity in producing scholarship” so as to create a “dialogue among people who have been silenced” (p. ix). By creating that dialogue, she illuminates the theme in a powerful way. This paper will discuss the strengths and weaknesses of her approach and show why hers is most helpful in understanding the theme of “power, inequality and conflict.”

What Collins (1990) shows is that there is a power struggle within the established order of American society. Others have likewise pointed this out. Angela Davis, for instance, has shown that America’s power structure is based on racist principles and that the American justice system is essentially an unjust means of controlling and enslaving (all over again) the African American. Collins follows suit and adopts the method of the socio-political activist to draw attention to the struggles of the oppressed and the marginalized, as it is through their eyes that one can best understand what the idea of power really means. For one does not really begin to understand something until it is denied them. Most readers who grow up benefitting from some sort of privilege cannot really understand the power they have—which is why they have to explore this concept through the lived and shared experiences of the disenfranchised. Collins allows the reader to do just that, which is why her approach is so powerful. It is her main strength that she is able to put the reader into the shoes of African American women so that the reader can see the world from a new, wholly unique perspective and begin at last to understand what a life can feel like without opportunity, without privilege and without a sense of fairness.

One of the main themes of American Transcendentalism was self-reliance. This was Ralph Waldo Emerson’s idea and one he wrote about often. Collins begins her book Black Feminist Thought by examining the teachings of a black feminist who called on African American women to create their own sense of self-reliance. Collins notes that Maria Stewart “urged Black women to forge self definitions of self reliance and independence” because there were too many “negative images of Black womanhood” in…

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…read is just not enough. So while the theme could have perhaps been explored more tersely with fewer words and illustrations, Collins’ aim is not to be short-winded but rather to give a full depiction that couples the subjective and the objective—and she does just that.

For that reason, Collins is the most helpful in understanding the theme of “power, inequality and conflict.” She represents the issues in clear and distinct ways that can easily be comprehended. They are rooted in actual examples of lived experience. She uses the struggle to create and foster an identity of Black womanhood as one way to explore the issue. She uses the politics of empowerment as another way to explore the theme. She is never without resources and is under no obligation to provide her thesis within a pre-determined number of words. Indeed, it is clear that the more words and examples and theories and facts she gives, the more illuminated the theme becomes. It stands out by the end of the book like a bright light that one cannot get away from no matter where one looks. That is what makes her approach so helpful. It is so powerful and direct that it begins to enlighten every other aspect of one’s thought. The reader will not be able to go back to his or her life without first considering how it might interact with, impact or be impacted by Black feminist thought and be part of the overall dialogue and construction of power, inequality and conflict in America. The life of privilege or lack of privilege that one experiences may in the end find more food for thought than one ever thought possible by using the theoretical orientation of Collins to examine life from a new direction, and to put oneself in the shoes of a marginalized group of people so as to truly better understand what is….....

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Collins, P. H. (1990). Black Feminist Thought. Psychology Press.

Davis, A. (2012). The Meaning of Freedom. San Francisco, CA: City Light Books.

German, K. M. (2017). Promises of Citizenship: Film Recruitment of African Americans in World War 2. University Press of Mississippi.

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