Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Black feminist book club: When and Where I Enter

[Note: I am dedicating this year to reading important works of black feminist writers. I hope you will join me in my Black Feminist Book Club. You, of course, needn't be black or a woman or a self-described feminist--just a reader hungry for good discussion. As part of the book club, I would love to showcase the writing of guest contributors and host some virtual group discussions. Contact whattamisaid@gmail.com if you would like to contribute or to submit a post about this book.]

So, I began reading When and Where I Enter last night and before I could even make it through the introduction, Paula Giddings had dropped some science. She writes about black women as "indispensable--'those who don't know our history, don't know their own.'" But that idea (and here Giddings paraphrases Toni Morrison) "pulled us back against our own interests when our winds should be pushing us in another direction. So we become indispensable to everyone but ourselves."

Deep.

All women are encouraged to define themselves through their relationships with others--mostly men and children. But I think this is even more so the case with black women, who are assigned to being the keepers of the black family..the black church...the black community...There is no need to explore the myth of the preternaturally strong black woman here. Ya'll know it.

But who are we alone--stripped of those relations and obligations? Giddings writes:
In the nineties and beyond, we might ask then, who are we as ourselves? What would we say to Anita Hill outside the earshot of whites or men or our mothers and fathers? What do we feel about a Million Man March, not withstanding the participation of our sons and brothers and husbands? Who are we when no one yearns for us, or when we are in full possession of our sexuality? Who are we when we are not someone's mother, or daughter, or sister, or aunt, or church elder or first black woman to be this or that?
I think this question is as important to ask of the individual and the collective.

Who are you?


Do you agree that black women are indispensable to everyone but ourselves? Why?


How can we correct this--personally and for future generations?

Giddings, by the way, says this:
In the next century, we should search our history for the answers to these questions, which I believe will evoke the extraordinary will, spirit, and transformative vision that can reconnect us to loved ones, communities, and reform movements in revolutionary ways. For what I have learned in the eighties and nineties is that the faith in progress our forebears taught was not only in terms of our status in society, but in our ability to gain increasing control of our own lives.

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