ABSTRACT

Black women scholars and professionals cannot afford to ignore the straits of our sisters who are acquainted with the immediacy of oppression in a way many of us are not.The process of empowerment cannot be simplistically defined in accordance with our own particular class interests. We must learn to lift as we climb. —Angela Davis 1989, 9

Within U.S. Black feminism, race, class gender, and sexuality constitute mutually constructing systems of oppression (Davis 1981; Smith 1983; Lorde 1984; Crenshaw 1991). Intersectional paradigms make two important contributions to understanding the connections between knowledge and empowerment. For one, they stimulate new interpretations of African-American women’s experiences. Much of the work on U.S. Black women reported in earlier chapters relies on intersectional paradigms of some sort. For example, African-American women’s confinement to domestic work revealed how race and gender influenced Black women’s social class experiences. Similarly, the sexual politics of Black womanhood that shaped Black women’s experiences with pornography, prostitution, and rape relied upon racist, sexist, and heterosexist ideologies to construct Black women’s sexualities as deviant. Not only do intersectional paradigms prove useful in explaining U.S. Black women’s experiences, such paradigms suggest that intersecting oppressions also shape the experiences of other groups as well. Puerto Ricans, U.S. White men,Asian American gays and lesbians, U.S.White women, and other historically identifiable groups all have distinctive histories that reflect their unique placement in intersecting oppressions (Andersen and Collins 1998).