by Dr. Brittney Cooper
A professor explores the ways “sexism, and racism, and classism work together to fuck shit up for everybody” and how feminism can begin undoing the damage.
“We [black women] are told we are irrational, crazy, out of touch, entitled, disruptive and not team players,” writes Cooper (Women and Gender Studies, Africana Studies/Rutgers Univ.). But as her feminist foremother Audre Lorde once remarked, this anger was not only legitimate; it was also “a powerful source of energy serving progress and change.” Here, Cooper brings together essays tracing her evolution as a feminist while giving voice to the political (out)rage seething within. The author begins by detailing the difficult journey that led her to “disidentify with [the] whiteness” of mainstream feminism and learn to embrace her “particular Black girl magic.” Her quest for political authenticity meant fighting with white women over racism and black men over sexism. Participating in these separate battles did not blind her to the need for alliances with both groups, however; they only made her more aware of the need for creating solidarity across communities to topple patriarchy. Cooper’s feminist journey also forced her to shed cultural “baggage”—such as the racism of a white society that questioned her movements on American streets and the sexism of black society that sought to control her sexuality through the church—that limited her passage through the world. Once uncovered and focused, however, the rage that inevitably comes from such injustices is of tremendous benefit to all. Cooper points to tennis star Serena Williams, former first lady Michelle Obama, and singer Beyoncé as contemporary black feminist role models. By learning how to channel their rage in their areas of endeavor, they have earned game-changing respect that has transcended race and gender. Sharp and always humane, Cooper’s book suggests important ways in which feminism needs to evolve for the betterment not just of black women, but society as a whole.
A timely and provocative book that shows “what you build is infinitely more important than what you tear down.”