race / Social Justice

You’ve Gotta Read This Book

Hey you. Yes, you. The person with eyes and a brain that is reading these words right now. You gotta read this book.

I know, I know. I just started a new series called “Currently Reading”, this is only the second blog in the series, and I’m already titling my posts off-script but, I didn’t expect to read this book- it caught my attention in the New Books section at the library so I grabbed it on our way out.

And I’m so glad that I did.  So glad, in fact, that I’m TELLING you that you have to read it too.

You might think that there’s nothing a Black feminist could say that you need to hear, but you would be wrong (and I’m assuming that both women AND men are reading this).

First things first, this is basically a love letter to Black women. It’s almost as if this book allows you to listen in on a conversation that Black women would only have amongst themselves. As a person who wants to continue confront her own biases by learning and listening to marginalized people, this kind of book is invaluable to me because it doesn’t require me to ask my friends of color to do the emotional work of educating me on what it’s like to be them. Dr Cooper has kindly handed all of us a book on what it feels like to be in her skin.

Let me start by saying that this is no dry feminist manifesto.  Dr Cooper’s voice throughout the book is conversational. She uses stories to ground her analysis of racism and patriarchy, which makes the book enjoyable to read. I went through it in a weekend.

While I’ve done alot of work on trying to educate myself on racism, I haven’t actually done much feminist reading so Dr Cooper’s analysis of patriarchy was an interesting read for me. Being that Black women stand at the intersection of racism and sexism, it’s important for all of us to understand how those two systems of oppression mingle and play off one another. I thought that she very clearly articulated what patriarchy/white supremacy are and how they shows up in the lives of Black women. And everyone needs to know how these things show up in the lives of Black women! There’s a chapter on white woman’s tears, which sounds like something my high school boyfriend would have said he eats for breakfast (except for the white part). She delineates the difference that Black women and white women are treated, even with the great “feminist” strides that we’ve made (ahem, WHOO HOO WOMEN HAVE THE RIGHT TO VOTE! PARTY LIKE IT’S 1920! Oops, I mean white women. WHITE WOMEN HAVE THE RIGHT TO VOTE!)

The chapter that I loved best was her chapter on theology, and specifically theology related to sexuality.  She describes her process of learning to untangle herself from an evangelical theology constructed by powerful (almost exclusively white) men that has given her a script that contributes to her oppression instead of liberating her from it. It was a challenging read because it made me confront my own scripts that were handed to me as a kid. She’s open and unapologetic about what’s working and not working for her.

As I was reading this chapter, I realized that this was exactly the sort of thing that i need to be reading right now. As I work through this faith deconstruction, I’m finding it much easier to tear things down than find new things to build it back up. I needed to read about Dr Cooper’s process, how she was able to pull apart the things that she wanted to keep and the things that didn’t serve her well. Honestly, I needed permission from someone to do that, which is so strange! I didn’t think about it in terms of permission but now it’s clear to me that’s exactly what I needed. Even though Dr Cooper probably wasn’t thinking about me when she wrote this book, I appreciate the permission that she gives herself to do life on her own terms. Her strength and honesty have given me permission to do some things too.

I appreciate the insights that this book gave me, both with confronting more of my biases and amending my understanding of white supremacy and how it works and also for my own personal deconstruction/disentangling process.

I’ll leave you with this, which is a few paragraphs from the conclusion.
“The term ‘feminist killjoys’ is well-earned. Sometimes, in the bid for rightness, feminists and hyperwoke folks can take the joy out of everything. I actually think it’s irresponsible to wreck shop in people’s world without giving them the tools to rebuild. It’s fine to quote Audre Lorde to people and tell them, ‘The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.’ The harder work is helping people find better tools to work with. We have to smash the patriarchy, for sure. And we have to dismantle white supremacy, and homophobia, and a whole bunch of other terrible shit that makes life difficult for people. Rage is great at helping us to destroy things. That’s why people are so afraid of it.

But part of what I’ve been trying to say is that rage can help us build things, too. The clarity that comes from rage should also tell us what kind of world we want to see, not just what kind of things we want to get rid of. I’m not interested in a feminist project that only works to tear down things. Black women know that justice is rarely found in the rubble. If your rage can do anything for you, I hope it can do for you what it has done for me – help us to build the world we want to see. (273-274)”



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