hooks, bell. “Holding My Sister’s Hand: Feminist Solidarity.” Teaching to Trangress: Education as the Practice of Freedom. New York: Routlege, 1994. 93-110. Print.
In this essay, hooks examines issues of race and gender within the feminist movement. She is careful to put relations between black and white women in the U.S. within the context of racial oppression under the institution of slavery and beyond where black women were still subservient to white women as domestic servants. hooks maintains that the strained and distrustful relationships between black and white women then continues to have an impact on relations between these groups within feminist movements.
hooks stresses the importance of women of color and white women confronting and addressing racism in feminist settings (109-110). Collective, honest confrontation and dialogue about race and reciprocal interaction and the willingness to deal with racist assumptions, and mutual fears are key factors in establishing positive relationships between the groups (108).
hooks insists that even in the midst of racism in feminist settings, women of color should actively try to find ways to take part in discourse. [How does this mesh with issues of distrust and fears about appropriation 104-105.]
If revitalized feminist movement is to have a transformative impact on women, then creating a context where we can engage in open critical dialogue with one another, where we can debate and discuss without fear of emotional collapse, where we can hear or know one another in the difference and complexities of our experience, is essential (110).
In a semi-structured group interview with three middle-class African-American young women (one East Coast, 2 Midwestern), Elaine Richardson uses critical discourse analysis to explore ways that the young women negotiate stereotypical and hegemonic representations of black men and women. Richardson presents an analysis of her conversation with the young women about the video for Midwestern rapper Nelly and the St. Lunatics’ song “Tip Drill.” The controversial song and video portrays the commodified images of hypersexualized women of color and hypermasculine black men: ” The song could be considered a strip club anthem replete with signs of carnality and status, attractive young black women wielding their power signs – their beautiful shapely bodies…; virile men flashing their black men’s power signs – cash money…” (791)
Richardson’s primary question is: “How do young African American females negotiate stereotypical representations of African American culture, gender, labor, and sexual values in rap music videos?” (791) Through her conversation and critical discourse analysis, Richardson shows the “special knowledge” that the young women have about themselves, other black women and men, and their position in the racist, global, capitalistic system of the United States.
Richardson finds that the young women use Black and Hip-hop discourses, “smart talk” (Van Dijk 1997), and African American female literacies to understand and articulate their positions which are at times complicated and conflicted. One notable example of this is when one of the participants “represents” for the men in the video and their lived experience. “Representin'” as a part of Hip-hop discourse is a concept and practice that is “a part of the larger black discourse practice that emerged in the slavery experience and is akin to fictive kinship, wherein enslaved African devised a way of surviving, achieving prestige and creating a black human identity apart from dehumanized slave,” (797) Participants “BE” gives rapper Nelly the benefit of the doubt arguing that he would not talk to a woman of “class” the way he speaks to “Tip Drills,” women who are strippers, or opportunistic women that do not have class. This notion that implies that there is a category of black women unworthy of respect.
Richardson concludes that young people, like those in her study, are aware of the dominating forces that perpetuate stereotypes about African Americans, but they do not possess all of the necessary critical tools to “escape internal victim blaming for their predicament.” (806) She advocates for critical pedagogies that go beyond challenging to changing systems that allow for inequality, sexism, and racism. Of course, we can add a host of other “isms” based on social divisions.