Are Black Feminists on to Something?
In the review of Race, Gender and the Activism of Black Feminist Theory: Working with Audre Lorde, Geneva Reynaga-Abiko comments on an aspect of racial scholarship that often goes unexamined in U.S. psychology. What is meant by the term Black and how do varying definitions of Black affect the validity and utility of scholarship addressing social issues that focus on or include race? How might this issue affect the way that we conceptualize and discuss issues of race daily? I am not sure that psychologists referencing literature, or those who seek to contribute to the literature on race, always consider the importance of the terms used or the need to be clear on what is being conveyed about whom. More importantly, Reynaga-Abiko’s review points to the potential contribution that Race, Gender and the Activism of Black Feminist Theory: Working with Audre Lorde and Black feminist thought can make to psychology’s approach to oppression and social justice.
The term Black typically references those of African descent, but can vary in the inclusion of those born only in the United States, those born in the diaspora, or those born on the continent. Over time, I have learned that when reading the European literature, I must broaden my focus to include all people of color, regardless of their relationship to the continent of Africa. However, Reynaga-Abiko notes an even broader use of the term; Black can also be seen as “a political term which includes all oppressed ethnic groups (Parmar & Kay, 2004, as cited on p. 23)" (para. 1). The political use of the term might be best represented today in the use of #BlackLivesMatter and the debate that ensued over its use. The critique and discussions have focused on the need for a statement that “all lives matter,” feelings of exclusion and alienation on the part of potential allies, feelings that we are too quick to turn social and economic issues into issues about race, etc.
It is interesting to observe and think through the solidarity shown toward #BlackLivesMatter around the world in contrast to concern and debate over its use in the United States, recognition of or a nod to the political definition and use of the term Black. Perhaps the world is suggesting a second look at psychology’s and the U.S. approach to race and oppression. Perhaps there is a role and a need for Black feminist thought in psychology and psychological research.
By Geneva Reynaga-Abiko
PsycCRITIQUES, 2015 Vol 60(19)