In this excerpt from Ain’t I Woman: Black Women and Feminism, author bell hooks describes the insidious nature of racism and sexism and the links between patriarchy and white supremacy. Understanding this type of analysis is critical to understanding how oppression functions within civilization as a tool of social control. While hooks uses the term “American,” the same analysis applies across much of the world.
Racism and Feminism: The Issue Of Accountability
By bell hooks
American women of all races are socialized to think of racism solely in the context of race hatred.
Specifically in the case of black and white people, the term racism is usually seen as synonymous with discrimination or prejudice against black people by white people.
For most women the first knowledge of racism as institutionalized oppression is engendered either by direct personal experience or through information gleaned from conversations, books, television, or movies. Consequently, the American woman’s understanding of racism as a political tool of colonialism and imperialism is severely limited.
To experience the pain of race hatred or to witness that pain is not to understand its origin, evolution, or impact on world history. The inability of American women to understand racism in the context of American politics is not due to any inherent deficiency in the woman’s psyche. It merely reflects the extent of our victimization.
No history books used in public schools informed us about racial imperialism.
Instead we were given romantic notions of the “new world“ the “American dream.” America as a great melting pot where all races come together as one. We were taught that Columbus discovered America; that “Indians“ was Scalphunters, killers of innocent women and children; that black people were enslaved because of the biblical curse of Ham, that God “himself” had decreed they would be hewers of wood, tillers of the field, and bringers of water.
No one talked of Africa as the cradle of civilization, of the African and Asian people who came to America before Columbus. No one mentioned mass murder of native Americans as genocide, or the rape of native American and African women as terrorism. No one discussed slavery as a foundation for the growth of capitalism. No one describe the forced breeding of white wives to increase the white population as sexist oppression.
I am a black woman. I attended all black public schools. I grew up in the south were all around me was the fact of racial discrimination, hatred, and for segregation. Yet my education to the politics of race in American society was not that different from that of white female students I met in integrated high schools, in college, or in various women’s groups.
The majority of us understood racism as a social evil perpetrated by prejudiced white people that could be overcome through bonding between blacks and liberal whites, through military protest, changing of laws or racial integration. Higher educational institutions did nothing to increase our limited understanding of racism as a political ideology. Instead professors systematically denied us truth, teaching us to accept racial polarity in the form of white supremacy and sexual polarity in the form of male dominance.
American women have been socialized, even brainwashed, to accept a version of American history that was created to uphold and maintain racial imperialism in the form of white supremacy and sexual imperialism in the form of patriarchy. One measure of the success of such indoctrinate indoctrination is that we perpetrate both consciously and unconsciously the very evils that oppress us.
Gloria Jean Watkins, better known by her pen name bell hooks, is an American author, professor, feminist, and social activist.
Featured image: Armenian Graffiti in the city of Yerevan. It is a translated quote of the author bell hooks which reads “To be oppressed means to be deprived of your ability to choose.” By RaffiKojian, CC BY SA 4.0.