Black feminist proponents of Intersectionality Theory have won the argument and won it big. What it will take to win the war is the question that increasingly occupies the thoughts of radical Black feminists? The confluence of events outlined here suggests we may be heading toward a tipping point among Black feminists on what we've characterized as the Intersectionality Moment.
Welcome to Black-Nationalism.com, and the launch of the Black Feminists/LGBTQ--Black Nationalists Exchange. For the next six months we invite Black Feminists, the LGBTQ community, and Black Nationalists to participate in our open forum on issues of mutual interest to us and the Darker Nation. We’re pleased to open our first exchange on the subject of Black Feminists and the Intersectionality Moment.
Call it ‘Me Too,’ the women’s movement, the struggle for gender equity or the feminist movement: By any name, wherever women are in political motion, Intersectionality lies at the center of discussions to dismantle structures of domination that oppress women.
Success, however, like defeat has consequences. Intersectionality’s exponential growth is posing new challenges for its Black Feminist founders. As scholar Patricia Hill Collins noted, ‘Having so many people claim Intersectionality and use it in such disparate ways creates definitional dilemmas.' Intersectionality’s ubiquity has rendered it vulnerable to increasingly nebulous and liberal interpretations.
Intersectionality’s detractors are also massing and growing ever more sophisticated in their subversion of the project. These challenges are occurring at the same time that internal differences among Black Feminists appear to be intensifying. Resolving these areas of contested terrain will require thoughtful and politically supple responses. How to optimize the debate while maintaining the movement’s sense of internal democracy and political coherence is a delicate proposition.
Thus, the Intersectionality Moment we speak of is an approaching inflection point. Alternative Black Nationalists believe a significant reassessment and retooling of Intersectional thought by Black Feminists is afoot. We regard this intellectual ferment as an excellent development. We’re confident Black feminists will leverage the moment because they’re alert to both its dangers and new possibilities.
In large measure, our confidence is buoyed by Black Feminists intellectual responses to the shifting political topography. Two new publications: Black Feminism Reimagined, and Intersectionality: As Critical Social Theory, bookend a complex spectrum of issues confronting Intersectionality. The former attends to the practical problematics of the present; the later scales the theoretical ramparts of the future.
In January 2019, Professor Jeanette Nash published Black Feminism Reimagined. Nash asserts that ‘contemporary academic black feminists’ response to Intersectionality’s growing institutional presence in the academy, especially white dominated women studies departments, has come to be ‘marked by defensiveness.’
Specifically, Nash charges that black feminists' defensiveness is ‘manifested most explicitly through black feminism’s proprietary attachments to intersectionality. These attachments conscript black feminism into a largely protective posture, leaving black feminists mired in policing intersectionality’s usages, demanding that intersectionality remain located within black feminism.’
Once dismissed as another contrived grievance theory of Black women, Black Feminists are now manning the ideological barricades to staunch the bleaching and appropriation of Intersectionality by predominantly white academics and women’s studies departments.
Nash argues that the academy has adopted Intersectionality as its prescription to remedy the soft bigotry and exclusionary practices of white dominated women’s studies departments. In Intersectionality, the academy has found an escape hatch to flee the medieval dungeon of Euro-centric race theories and certify its credentials as participants in the post-modern liberal multi-cultural project.
In the past, whether Black feminists quarreled with ersatz white feminists, male Black Power leaders or the literary critics establishment, they consistently maintained the offensive. Black feminists picked the time and place of battle, The choice of political weapons was theirs.
What concerns Black Nationalists, if true, is the notion that Intersectionality’s success has placed Black feminists on the defensive. Professor Nash suggests that Black Feminists reluctance to cut the umbilical cord with the academy is at the root of their defensiveness.
This is an important discussion, as is Nash’s observation that Black Feminists are inviting self-destruction by fighting their own ‘Intersectionality Wars’ over who originated Intersectionality Theory, and to what end.
While Professor Nash’s book raises a sobering set of practical challenges Black feminists must address, Black Feminist scholar Patricia Hill Collins new book, Intersectionality: As Social Theory (publishing on August 23, 2019), plumbs the depths of theoretical enlargement.
Collins describes her book this way, ‘It introduces and develops core concepts and guiding principles of what it will take to develop intersectionality as a critical social theory. Intersectionality is well on its way to becoming a critical social theory that can address contemporary social problems and the social changes needed to solve them.'
Based on Intersectionality's history, Collins further states that ‘Without analyzing how its own critical analysis and social actions are interrelated intersectionality may become trapped in its own crossroads, pulled in multiple directions and drowning in ideas. Without serious self-reflection, intersectionality could easily become just another social theory that implicitly upholds the status quo. It could become just another form of, as a friend of mine put it, ‘academic bullshit’ that joins an arsenal of projects whose progressive radical potential has waned.'
These books by Nash and Collins warn us of the dangers Intersectionality faces. While their emphasis and points of departure are different, their conclusions are essentially the same. At the end of the day, Black feminists must clarify, sharpen, and consolidate Intersectionality Theory.
Patricia Hill Collins also reminds us that the clock is ticking. ‘Time may be running out for advancing intersectionality as a critical social theory in the academy. If intersectionality does not clarify its own critical theoretical project, others will do so for it.’ Her admonishment echoes Nash’s sentiment that Black feminists are approaching a critical juncture that requires decisive action.
For Alternative Black Nationalists and others seeking to grasp the dynamics and key theoretical underpinnings of Intersectionality, we encourage reading both these publications. In our view Intersectionality is a concept whose horizons may be infinitely vaster than is currently envisioned.
Alternative Black Nationalists stand in support of Black feminists and LGBTQ Intersectionality activists. We support the eradication of all structures of domination that oppress Black women. We support Intersectionality as a tool that helps us realize that goal in this pre-revolutionary period, and the future when American Empire’s demise could lead to creating an independent Black nation.
Admittedly, our trend is behind the learning curve on Intersectionality Theory. Moreover, within the ranks of Black Nationalists (generally speaking) acceptance of Black feminists, the LGBTQ community and its issues continues to have its controversies and skeptics. Alternative Black Nationalists dissent from the legacy of these past practices and outlook. We can never forget the pain caused by our demeaning, exclusionary, condescending, violent, and sexist practices directed toward Black women, gay and lesbian communities.
Intersectionality is a vital instrument to demonstrate to Black Nationalists in real and tangible ways how the interlocking matrix of sexual, race, gender and class domination produce a qualitatively different level of oppression of Black women. This is a reality Black Nationalists have denied or minimized far too long. For these reasons, this exchange means far more to Black Nationalists than just gaining a deeper understanding of Intersectional Theory and praxis. It's also about "soul work," truth and reconciliation. On behalf of Black-Nationalism.com, we wish to convey our deep appreciation to Black Feminists and LGBTQ activists that have contributed to advancing Intersectionality Theory for more than two decades. We look forward to hearing responses to some of the issues raised in this communication.