Black Feminist Consciousness for Black Men and Boys

by Ahmad R. Washington, Building Beloved Community Leadership Fellow

The following is an original article authored by Ahmad R. Washington, Assistant Professor in the Department of Counseling and Human Development at The University of Louisville, and CBMA's BBCL Fellow.

Early in her career, the preeminent scholar and cultural theorists bell hooks authored a comprehensive framework to describe the insidious and profound ways pervasive ideologies of white supremacy, male supremacy, and imperialist domination are made to comprise an interlocking political system of subjugation that governs this society.  This framework, which hooks entitled imperialist white-supremacist capitalist patriarchy, describes how our existing social and political systems, including the major socializing institutions (i.e., schools, media, families, churches, etc.), construct “knowledge” and circulate myths that legitimate the subordination of women, people of color, gender non-conforming folx, underpaid and underemployed people, and members of the LGBTQ community.  Because these systems of domination operate at optimum efficiency when their methods of reproduction are discrete, veiled, and uncontested, people are discouraged from engaging in the types of critical analyses that could usher in a radically different world.  

People who experience privilege and oppression within an imperialist white-supremacist capitalist patriarchy are dissuaded from contemplating how they suffer under and are complicit with the status quo.

It is only when we rely on liberatory theories and practices that are grounded in the lives of the people who are always having to negotiate and resist ubiquitous systems of dehumanization, violence and degradation that the possibility of constructing a collective vision of freedom even begins to become legible.

Developing my capacity to imagine an inclusive vision of Black liberation that is divorced from the confining precepts of Black conservatism, Black capitalism, Black respectability, and the endangered Black male trope was my primary reason for applying to the Imagining Otherwise: Black Feminist Consciousness for Black men and Boys summer camp at Vassar College.  Even now, more than four weeks removed from this meeting, I admit that my understanding of Black Feminism is still very, very limited.  My march towards embracing a Black Feminist ethos began after several Black women in my life, operating from a place of compassion, demanded that I acknowledge how my myopic indignation around Black suffering regularly ignored the unique ways Black women’s lives are constantly threatened by practices rooted in racism, sexism, and misogyny.  In hindsight, their assessments were totally on point.  Throughout my life, the primary frameworks for Black liberation I internalized centered the narratives, perspectives and leadership styles performed by cishet Black men.  Laudable Black men like Dr. King, Malcolm X and Paul Robeson were the archetypes to emulate. And while Black women like Modjeska Simkins and Mary McLeod Bethune were “present”, because they were referenced so infrequently, their contributions to struggles for Black liberation felt ancillary.

Only now am I beginning to appreciate how this approach not only overshadows the contributions of Black women like Ella Baker and Fannie Lou Hamer to the discourse and pursuit of Black liberation, but also how this approach reproduces an already pervasive disregard for Black girls and Black women.

Read the complete article here.