Blogging the Theoretical


September 23, 2011 · No Comments





White men and women are the dominant culture in society. As a result their views are considered the “norm”, for “suppressing the knowledge produced by any oppressed group makes it easier for dominant groups to rule because the seeming absence of dissent suggests that subordinate groups willingly collaborate in their own victimization” (Collins 5). In addition, “past practices such as denying literacy to slaves and relegating Black women to underfunded segregated southern schools worked to ensure that a quality education for black women remained the exception rather that the rule” (Collins 7).  Nevertheless, knowledge is not just gained in school; it is acquired through skills, observation, and experience. One does not need to know how to spell, read or write to be enlightened or knowledgeable, and African American women are a great example. For years these women have been silenced, but never silent among themselves, for they have been theorizing through out history.

Through observation and experience these women were able to make sense of the oppressor and in turn make sense of their situation. For example, “domestic work allowed African American women to see White Elites, both actual and aspiring, from perspectives largely obscured from Black men and from these groups themselves” (Collins 13).  This enabled them to gain knowledge that influenced black women’s critical social theory.

African American women also gained knowledge through living conditions; “the majority of African-American women lived in self-contained Black neighborhoods where their children attended overwhelmingly black schools, and where they themselves belonged to all-Black churches and similar community organizations” (Collins 12).  These conditions allowed them to discuss political and social issues, a long with family stories passed down from generations openly. This encouraged “African American men and women to craft distinctive oppositional knowledge’s designed to resist racial oppression” (Collins 12). Collins use of quotations from multiple voices such as intellectual Alice Walker, blues singer Aretha Franklin, to the everyday black women denies any possible view that only a few Black women can theorize emphasizing the importance of oral traditions.

Oral traditions educated black women on history and thoughts of others who were illiterate due to the political structure and social regulations imposed on them. This influenced the ideas and actions of Black women intellectuals. These intellectuals are discovering and reinterpreting the minds and talents of grandmother’s, mothers, and sisters who have been oppressed. “In my own work I write not only what I want to read- understanding fully and indelibly that if I don’t do it no one else is so vitally interested, or capable of doing it to my satisfaction- I write all the things I should have been able to read (Walker 1983, 13)” (Collins 16).  Through songs and writings one can begin to understand that among U.S Black women “all were in some way affected by intersecting oppressions of race, gender, and class” (Collins 15).

I believe that oral tradition was vital for theorizing Black women’s feminist thought. Many black women were illiterate and therefore in order to express their feelings and thoughts stories played a key role because they could be passed down through generations. Black women could gain knowledge through situations and experience’s from women who never stopped theorizing. From this they could talk about it and theorize more among each other through Black neighborhoods, schools, churches and other organizations. This created a “collective knowledge that served a similar purpose in fostering Black women’s empowerment” (Collins xi), for knowledge plays a key role in empowering the oppressed.



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


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