chapter  2
26 Pages

Race, Gender, and Critique: African American Women and Domestic Violence in the 1980s and 1990s

In this chapter, I focus on young adult working-class and poor African American women and White women. Both groups currently lead lives of pain, frustration, and passion, lives that are directly linked to historically rooted racism, patriarchy, the privileging of white skin, and the new economy, as well as to the current dismantling of the urban public sector. Given historically distinct racial trajectories, I ask here, where do these women lodge social critique? Where do they locate the cause of and imagine the remedy for the troubles they endure? My analysis of “critique,” or expressed site of problems, does not stem from data gathered in response to direct questions about critique per se. Rather, it is critique as woven throughout in-depth narrative responses that constitutes the site for analysis. As I will suggest, it is easy to hear pain, alienation, and blame. While these broad parameters are common across all races, women of different races place blame differently. As sociologists and social psychologists have long contended, where people locate critique-that is, where they place blame and responsibility for tough times-bears serious consequence for how they conceptualize remedy, if they can imagine alternative possibilities for themselves and their children, and whether they can see themselves as potential activists engaged for social change (Crosby, 1976; Fine, 1991; Janoff-Bulman, 1979; Weis, 1990).1