Blogging the Theoretical

The Solution: By Brooke Hessney

September 21, 2011 · No Comments

In Black Feminist Thought, Patricia Hill Collins promotes a heavy emphasis on gaining empowerment through the power of knowledge in order to evoke systemic change. She brings to attention that there is no concrete answer to the core issues associated with oppression of black women but there are ways to engage in the praxis of change. The fact of the matter is that our society has created a perpetuating problem and a collective intervention is imperative to gain understanding of why things are this way. She notes that by forming new epistemic communities there is hope for change. Although this process may seem counter-intuitive, it will break down existing normative discourses and influence change among social institutions. According to Collins, “…[forming new epistemological positions] provide alternatives to the way things are supposed to be” (Collins, 305). Collins has thus drawn out a search for ways in which we can move this ongoing process forward. She feels as though Black women must understand how to utilize knowledge in various matrices of power in order to be successful to change systems of oppression. This demonstrates her keen insight regarding the power of knowledge and that empowerment directly results from this dichotomy; however, she also poses that, “ Historically, U.S. Black women’s activism demonstrates that becoming empowered requires more than changing the consciousness of individual Black women via Black community development strategies ” (Collins, 291). Although knowledge is seen as a vital aspect towards empowerment it is not enough to change systems of oppression. Collins claims that, “Empowerment also requires transforming unjust social institutions that African-Americans encounter from one generation to the next” (Collins, 291). Due to this, Black women must not only consider their epistemological tenet but rather their standpoint positionalities within the United States. This is because all humans are deeply entrenched within multiple social locations whose normative conventions have outlines their ways of life. It is then crucial to develop a self-representation as an additional alternative standpoint that challenges the existence of unjust social institutions.

Collins also speaks favorably of autonomy used as a means and modality for empowerment. She denotes that, “rather than seeing social change or lack of it as preordained and outside the realm of human action, the notion of a dialectical relationship suggests that change results from human agency” (Collins, 292). This concept of a dialectical relationship indicates that oppression and activism coincide; therefore, Black women must alter the power of the oppressors on an individualistic level. It means that in order for Black women to progress within the social justice project they must each modify the ways in which they think and act within the world. Thus, the solution itself is contingent upon agency and it is noteworthy that she indicates there is no singular way to approach the normative issues regarding black female oppression as long as it is a collective endeavor as she states, “As each individual African-American woman changes her ideas and actions, so does the overall shape of power itself change. In the absence of Black feminist thought and other comparable oppositional knowledges, these micro-changes may remain invisible to individual women. Yet collectively, they can have a profound impact” (Collins, 293). By this she means Black women can have an immense influence on a social revolution if they start at the basis of individual knowledge as power and culminate a unified praxis towards systemic change.  Ultimately, Collins suggests that this notion of empowerment through knowledge serves as the conceptual tool that ought to be utilized in order to change systems of oppression towards Black women.


Collins, Patricia Hill. Black Feminist Thought. New York: Routledge Classics, 2009.


Categories: Brooke · Group Two

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