1) BWE (Black Women Empowerment) writers do not see black women as ‘bound to operate only within the boundaries of 'black community’ in terms of their social range and in terms of meeting their social needs. The locating of the black woman as 'an entity of and for the black community', and the subsequent analysis generated as a result of this view, has been a problematic characteristic of many older style black feminism efforts.
Positioning blck women as black community bound, might have been necessary in times past but in the now, it produces the feeling of being trapped, of anxiety and feelings of lack, in black women, as they survey their lot and realize that their depleted pastures mean that they have to engage in intense competition with other black women etc, if they are ever to have their needs met.
BWE/IR open up a world of opportunity and possibility to women and refute the idea that black women are morally bound to situate themselves only in black community, eking out whatever existence they are afforded within these boundaries. In addition, BWE are all about unyoking black women from ‘servitude to race’ as a way of life. A good portion of BWE writing is geared towards extricating black women from a felt yet unreciprocated obligation towards black men, and a believed dependence on black men for self actualization.
2) Most BWE/IR bloggers believe that black women deserve to engage the current system and its rules in a way that ensures they achieve their life's ambitions. This is as as opposed to waiting till some progressive era sets in or waiting for the change to happen in the overarching conditions in society. ‘Wait till XYZ situation is achieved before you attempt to live well’, continues to be the underlying injunction issued to black women through other channels including older black female centered work. But patriarchy isnt going anywhere soon and black women must and deserve to find a way to navigate the now and live the most fulfilled life that they can under the current conditions.
Many of the black female centred work before current BWE/IR, has focussed on diagnosing the problems and the challenges faced by black women but have gone no further neither urged black women to take on the system and win, nor produced some suggested winning strategies for the current situation (probably because of the underlying feeling that it would be 'immoral' for black women to participate and dabble into the current set up and immoral oppressive system of which they should want no part!). BWE/IR recognize that black women have one life to live and can only do it in the now and thus a good portion of BWE/IR will focus on how black women can strategize to win under current conditions.
It has always been problematic that black women have been happy to just point out their situation engage in some resistance but not be energetic in trying to ensure they don’t continue to be victims of the system by strategically navigating it to ensure their social needs are met and met despite the devices of the system. Much of older black female ‘progressive’ work tends to take the route of delineating the situation and then ‘appealing’ for allies, to government for intervention or for wider consideration, without the understanding that other factions are often not willing to give up the few privileges they are afforded by the system or by being priviledged to black women.
However it is more worrying that black female centred work has remained one that simply talks about the situation with little focus on communicating a need for black women to be tactical and to go forth tactically in their own social game plan. BWE/IR have solutions rather than just analysis, and continued to focus on getting black women to put together their winning strategy which will see them succeed despite the set up against them. BWE/IR writers tell black women, ‘Don’t forget to live!’
3) BWE/IR emphasize the seriousness of the oppression black women face ‘within community’, and this is made the key focus as opposed to a side issue. This is in clear contrast to other black female centred work where the operating assumption is that the black community provides security and succour, and any oppression worth noting comes from outside the black community.
Often previous black women centred work is only happy to acknowledge intraracial violence and oppression against black women, when it is made a function of wider social oppression. Many BWE/IR actually state that black women face more immediate danger and damage from the internal community and hence preach a need for divestment even strongly suggest that black women consider as urgent, integration into the wider society as a way of achieving a measure of safety, sanity and even some stability. This marks one clear departure of BWE/IR from former efforts that rely on the predictive theory that blacks would naturally supply safety, acceptance and support to each other, while white structures would only be oppressive.
4) In continuation of the above point, BWE/IR work admit ‘witnessing’ from black women as a valid analytical tool. It collects evidence of black women's felt and vocalized experience to provide a clearer picture of the situation for black women (a type of reconnaissance of bw situation). This is about black women exchanging insight and joining the dots on their situation, the kind that has ultimately revealed that the popular and common frames of examining what is going on for black women actually fail black women and obscure, a huge portion of the situation as it stands for them. Often black women’s testimonies of suffering the likes of 'colorism', black racism, racio-misogyny etc are discounted or made of little consequence because they do not mesh with acceptable discourses of whites being the cause of all oppression. BWE/IR admit the testimonies of black women to give an accurate picture of the de facto situation as opposed to discussions mired only in what theory would predict for black women.
5) A good number of BWE/IR writers think the idea of saving the black group as a whole is unrealistic, this is in part due to their recognizing that the necessary factors for this to be possibile in particular, the full commitment of black men to the project, remains missing. BWE/IR recognize the reality, that there is a deadweight of black men who will not participate in their salvation but will indeed sabotage any forward movement because the current status quo provides them with a measure of benefits and privileges compared to black women and this is prefarrable to the hard graft, discipline and principled living that would be necessary to build a thriving black community. Until such a time as indications change ,black women are urged by BWE to worry about themselves and their individual aspirations and life goals. Many black people and black feminsists however believe black women should continue to labour on behalf of 'race'.
6) BWE work has done a lot to reveal the deep hostility and dislike that black men bear towards black women (BWE see black men acting as direct 'conduits' for the wider racism and deliberately drawing down and focussing this unto black women, causing untold harm and damage), and the fact that black men have positioned black women as their rivals for white patronage.
They make this a key part of the discussions on why black women need to rethink certain notions about their brothers in the struggle etc and about working with black men and where they can find a measure of safety and acceptance, and also why it is necessary to rethink other self-placed restrictions that in light of the emerging realities are ill advised.
The whole idea of black men serving as oppressive instruments has been one which many black women writers have long since been uncomfortable highlighting and an issue they have been hesitatnt to rightly ‘position’ and give appropriate ‘weight’ to, hence something that black women have continually overlooked or been discouraged from firmly organizing against.
BWE/IR hold that black male hostility to black women has become too acute to remain a non-issue or to be placed as a secondary issue to others. BWE notice that black male reactions are self-serving in nature and self-generating, and that we can quite rightly ‘detached’ black male oppressiveness from the excuse of it being because black men are victims of white social oppression. BWE hold that black male racism is a central discussion and represents the dissolution of any unity and cooperation pact between black genders. The fact that black men are now 'gunning' for black women and directing their anger at them (especially in the face of the fact that black women continue see black men as their brothers in the fight against white oppression and respond to them accordingly), means this is a safety issue for black women to disconnect from black men and any notion of 'joint partnership' and indeed highlights that a whole new approach is necessary for black women for the sake of self-preservation and survival.
BWE are involved in retheorizing and reworking the analysis and models presented by those who are external to black womanhood. Such analysis and theories are often seen as of 'universal application' and being standard analysis. BWE are involved in reworking these ideas and frames with the black woman in mind and with the black woman in central focus, in order to safeguard black women's rights of life and their aspirations.
BWE have essentially ‘reclassified’ black males and do not automatically assume them as allies and brothers (uncoupling our working assumptions). They note that a critical mass of them have become ‘effective agents’ of white racism and sexism against black women for it to continue to be sensible to assume they are brothers.
The work of BWE writers is solution-focussed and is moored in practicality, in the notion that black women have to find practical solutions in how to live effectively in the now and not merely delineate and discuss.
What BWE continue to emphasize is that black women have a right to do what is expedient, indeed to get on living in the now, grapple and win in the 'now' however imperfect the conditions are. Black women have a right to find away to get their needs secured and met with today’s opportunities. Life is not a dress rehearsal which will be repeated later, neither do black women have ‘nine lives’ to be able to forgo few in the hope of living fully down the line. So black women strategizing for living in the now is a key plank of BWE work.
It is indeed important that black women 'square the circle' to in addition to analysing the situation for what it is detail strategies for overcoming and winning despite the overall situation.
Gain insight into the relationship reality facing black women today, and find out more about the Interracial Option, read the IR E-book
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