The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Wednesday June 7th

Column: The Black woman’s self-love


Columnist Jalynn Harris

In contemporary discourses on identity politics, the term “intersectionality” is often thrown around.

It is a term coined by Black academic Kimberlé Crenshaw that describes the way gender and race meet at a proverbial crossroads to compound oppression. As a term developed from the research of a Black woman, one cannot divorce the politics of her identity from the term itself.

True intersectionality is not an arbitrary sampling of crossroads oppressions but instead uses the fatal positionality of the Black woman as central to the discourse — how the Black woman is both racially othered and gendered as abject.

Racialization is a gendered process, and in that racism is gendered subjugation. In Frederick Douglass’ autobiography, he quotes pre-antebellum slave legislation saying, “the children of slave women shall in all cases follow the condition of their mothers.”

This law shows how self has been repeatedly defined for the Black woman ­ — who she is, what her children can be. It reduces the Black woman to a tool for labor production, notes her children as products of this machine and thusly exempts the white man of paternal duty to her children as well as any criminal relation to her sexual trauma.

The Black woman is both the producer and reproducer of the whole world. It is through her labor that the slave economy’s cotton was picked. It was through her labor that all enslaved peoples were begotten. Her resistive survival is both society’s greatest anomaly and its fundamental agent.

As social actors in exerting power and privilege, the white man has self-assigned himself as the arbiter of personhood. And the white woman is his complementing companion. But the Black woman is the companion to herself. And her liberation comes at emancipatory self-love. And inevitably, the revolution begins and ends with her.

A system that has defined the Black woman for herself — outside of her self — can only be dismantled by her. As she created the world she too will destroy it. Though legislation has thrashed the Black woman within her womb, media has erased the Black woman at her roots and men have abused the Black woman between her thighs, she continues to resist in love.

My sisters, we must reimagine ourselves for ourselves. Loving other Black women is the greatest form of self-love. We must craft reclamation. We must not forget who we are. We are the dynamism of poetry and fire. Emancipation at our own self-reconception is society’s biggest nightmare and our greatest victory.

We can no longer subscribe to body politics that police the breadth of our hair or the plum color of our skin because our ancestors are warriors, and we must honor them by continuing to soldier.

And in emancipatory self-love, we will recollect our talisman — soil between our toes, continents in our hips — lead the revolution and survive.


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