bell hooks is a well-known American
author, feminist and social activist. In her book, Ain’t I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism, she uses a feministic
lens to examine sexism and racism, and its effects on black women’s
experiences. She parallels some of her findings with the feminist movement and black
female sexism. bell hooks claims that black women are seen as either being
black or a woman, never both, causing them to be victims of racism and sexism.
This marginalizing of their social location leads to a privileged and situated
epistemology. Just like bell hooks, Kimberlé Crenshaw,
who is a legal scholar, civil rights activist and professor at the University
of California, Los Angeles, also speaks of racism and sexism among black women
in her article “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black
Feminist Critique of Administration Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist
Politics.” She created intersectionality theory, which is the idea that oppressed
identities intersect and fundamentally create a whole identity that is
different from individual aspects. Kimberlé Crenshaw
believes that black women need to be viewed in intersections rather than
independently as being black or a woman, in order to emphasize their unique
experience of being both black and a woman. In comparison, in W.E.B. Du
Bois’s book, The Souls of Black Folk, he
claims, “the problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color line”
(10). He speaks of black people’s struggle with liberation and the concept of
the veil of race. W.E.B. Du Bois believes that black people, specifically black
men, are born with a veil which causes them to see the world with a truer self
consciousness; this results in living life with a sense of double
consciousness. In this essay I will introduce and
expound on ideas from bell hooks, Kimberlé Crenshaw, and W.E.B. Du Bois. I will
then define situated epistemology, epistemic privilege, and the standpoint
theory, and how they are relevant to each authors’ work. Finally, I will emphasize the importance of
demarginalizing black women, particularly how their situated epistemology is
beneficial to the feminist movement. The marginalization of black women has
caused them to be victims of racism and sexism; by effectively demarginalizing
them, their unique experiences with race and gender discrimination can be used
to expand feminist and political discussions.

            Marginalized social locations are critical because they
aid in the comprehension of what it means to live life through intersections.
Ultimately, inferior groups must go between two domains, or intersections:
theirs, the marginalized, and the superior groups’. This theory goes by many
names such as standpoint theory, situated epistemology, and epistemic
privilege. The combined experiences that an individual has in life create a
standpoint, a point of view, in which they can view and understand the world;
oppressed groups can offer a more insightful view of the world due to their
constant marginalization. Standpoint theory claims that marginalized groups
view the world through a socially situated perspective and in turn it asserts
epistemic privilege. Epistemic privilege is the notion that oppressed
individuals have a heightened ability of what it means to see things from an
oppressed group’s viewpoint as well as the viewpoint of a dominant group. For
example, in bell hook’s book Feminist Theory: From Margin
to Center,
she claims that in order for the feminist theory to incorporate a larger group
of human experiences, it must utilize individuals that have knowledge of both
the margin and center (x). Since black women have
experiences of both racism and sexism, they can utilize their epistemic
privilege to embrace their different identities. Moreover, black women have the
advantage of viewing both sides and they can provide an intrinsic standpoint
that is beneficial to the feminist movement; thus granting them a situated
perspective of what it means to be oppressed. A situated perspective, or situated
epistemology, is the concept that marginalized individuals have a particular
type of knowledge, which reflects their situation or perspective. With this
situated epistemology, they can apprehend many different viewpoints. Situated
epistemology makes it easier for oppressed groups to be more conscious of certain
things than it is for non- marginalized groups. Each of these theories is
critical in the understanding of black feminism and the feminist movement
today.

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In bell hooks’s book, Ain’t
I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism, she presents the idea that black women
are not seen as being both black and women, causing them to be stuck between
black men’s liberation and white women’s suffrage. Black women’s struggles are
substantially ignored, and they are made to pick sides when they should be able
to support both causes. By black women supporting only black men, they would be
also supporting a patriarchal society, which makes them the victims of sexism.
On the other hand, if black women were to only support white women they would
be promoting white supremacy and racism towards themselves. bell hooks believes
that, “black women were placed in a double bind; to support women’s suffrage
would imply that they are allying themselves with white women activists who had
publicly revealed their racism, but to support only black male suffrage will
endorse a patriarchal social order that would grant them no political voice”
(3). Throughout time, black women have had to suppress their oppression while
black men and white women gained their freedom and suffrage; the pain and
suffering of black women was seen as insignificant. Their oppression “could not
precede over male pain,” and white women would often “romanticize the black
female experience rather than discuss the negative impact” (hooks, 6). Because
of this, black women were expected to be strong and were forced to play a
supporting role to black men and white women. 
Being seen as strong became normative for black women. bell hooks states
that black women were advised to “find our dignity not in liberation from
sexist oppression but in how well we could adjust, adapt, and cope” (7). Instead
of society dealing with black women’s problems, they made black women conceal
their issues; it was never discussed how sexism and racism oppressed them. Furthermore,
bell hooks wants black women
to be able to simultaneously exist as being black and
a woman. In her book Feminist Theory:
From Margin to Center hooks states “it is essential for continued feminist
struggle that black women recognize the special vantage point our marginality
gives us and make use of this perspective to criticize the dominant racist,
classist, sexist hegemony as well as to envision and create a counter-hegemony”
(15). Since black women experience life as being both black and a woman, they
can offer a different perspective for feminists. They cannot only condemn the multiple domains they interact with, but they
can also dismantle hegemonic supremacyM1 . By black women having the
capability to view both the oppressed and dominant viewpoints, they can
challenge the current racist and sexist circumstances in which they are
discriminated against. This supports the epistemic privilege theory; black
women are oppressed and because of their oppression they can identify with
multiple experiences dealing with racism and sexism. Although they are
considered outsiders, they have greater knowledge of oppression and therefore
can greatly contribute to feminist theory.

Similarly, Kimberlé Crenshaw claims that
black women are discriminated against twice as much simply because they are black
and women. M2 She created the
intersectionality theory, which describes the phenomenon of multiple social
dynamics coming together to produce oppression that are different from the
individual components. In her article “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race
and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Administration Doctrine, Feminist Theory
and Antiracist Politics,” Crenshaw analyzes how law and politics see being
black and a woman as mutually exclusive rather than mutually inclusive. She
claims that black women often face “double-discrimination – the combined
effects of practices which discriminate on the basis of race, and on the basis
of sex” (149). The courts only see women or blacks and often fail to recognize
black women. Because black women are not just black or a woman, their struggles
are typically forgotten about. Since the justice system often does not take
race and gender into consideration, black women are excluded. However,
intersectionality theory can be used to bring awareness to the marginalization
of black women. Intersectionality addresses the failure of the judicial system to
see black women as being both black and women. By the courts, as well as
feminists, not viewing black women through their different oppressions they are
hindering black women’s amalgamation of unique experiences and situations
(Crenshaw, 150). By being viewed intersectionally, black women’s experiences
can be a vital source in critiquing a racist and patriarchal society (Crenshaw,
153). Crenshaw’s concept of intersectionality supports the standpoint theory; since
black women can identify with racist and sexist oppression, they have a
different and unique outlook from black men and white women. With this unique
perspective, they can acknowledge problems that the dominant group cannot. Crenshaw also
states, “Problems of exclusion cannot be solved simply by including Black women
within an already established analytical structure” (140).M3  Additionally, if intersectionality
is not taken into account when trying to demarginalize black women, they will
remain disenfranchised. Society must rethink and rework original biases, in
order to accurately view black women as both black and women.

In W.E.B. Du Bois’s book, The
Souls of Black Folk, he introduces
the idea of “the veil” and “double-consciousness” (3). He claims that black men
are born with a veil, which grants them a sense of double consciousness; with
this double consciousness, black men are viewed as “two souls, two thoughts,
two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body…” (Du Bois, 3).
Ultimately, black men view themselves as separately being black and a man,
causing them to have no sense of true self-consciousness. They live in “a world
which yields them no true self-consciousness, but only lets them see
themselves through the revelation of the world” (Du Bois, 3). Living with a
sense of double consciousness makes it difficult for black males to see
themselves as one collective identity. Not only are they struggling internally,
trying to combat being black and male simultaneously, but they are also
struggling trying to be a part of a subjective white society. Du Bois states
“He simply wishes to make it possible for a man to be both a Negro and an
American, without being cursed and spit upon by his fellows, without having the
doors of Opportunity closed roughly in his face” (3).  Additionally, being black in a predominately
white society that oppresses and belittles African Americans makes it
challenging for them to advance in life. Without education and a sense of true
self-consciousness, black men are “prisoned souls within the Veil,” (Du Bois,
68). If black men viewed themselves as one, black and male, they could possibly
have the same opportunities as white people and even liberate themselves from
an oppressive society. Although double consciousness allows black men to view
themselves from a different perspective, it also allows them to “look at
one’s self through the eyes of others,” (Du Bois, 3). With this double consciousness,
they are able to identify how they might be viewed by the outside world. Double
consciousness can be similar to situated epistemology. Since black men are not
viewed as being both black and male inclusively, they have a deeper understanding
of what it means to be oppressed. Their experiences with oppression can add to
the many racial equality movements because they are outsiders looking in.

Although Du Bois’s claims are
very similar to those of hooks and Crenshaw, he only advocated for the rights
of black men, not black women. He only mentioned black women when referring to rape
and slavery, never once promoting women’s rights or liberation. He spoke of the
“systematic legal defilement of Negro women” and “loss of ancient African
chastity…from white adulterers” (Du Bois, 7). During slavery, masters would use
rape to assert authority over their slaves, specifically black women. This
would dehumanize the women and cause them to obey their master’s orders. Similarly,
Crenshaw believed that “when Black women were raped by white males, they were
being raped not as women generally, but as Black women specifically;” the rape
tactic was “a weapon of racial terror” (Crenshaw, 158). In Ain’t
I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism, hooks claims that rape was
used as an “institutionalized method of terrorism,” which evoked submissiveness
within black women (27). Now it is being used to “undermine antiracist
objectives,” (Crenshaw, 160). Once again, black women are stuck having to choose
between their race and gender. Though Du Bois highlighted some issues black
women face, he still never advocated for their rights as he did for black men.
Nevertheless, black men and women have both been oppressed due to their race
but black women are being oppressed due to their race and gender. Black men
eventually received their liberation and rights, whereas today black women are
still fighting. M4 

In order for the feminist
movement to advance in liberation for women, feminists need to fight for the
rights of all women. Feminism needs to move marginalized groups from the margin
to the center of feminist discussion. In Feminist
Theory: From Margin to Center bell hooks states, “white women who dominate
feminist discourse today rarely question whether or not their perspective on
women’s reality is true to the lived experiences of a woman as a collective
group” (3). Since white women are only oppressed by their gender and not their
race, they cannot relate with black women, as well as other women of color.
Therefore, their experiences do not account for all women. Additionally,
because black women are viewed separately as being black and as women, they know
what it means to be a part of a dominant group while still being an outsider. Since
they can evaluate both sides, their epistemic privilege can be used to inform
feminists on “the formation of a liberatory feminist theory and praxis” (hooks,
15), thus enhancing the feminist movement as a whole.

 M1Define/unpack
hegemonic supremacy

 M2″twice
as much” = oppression Olympics. Find a quote to support or take out &
replace

 M3How
does this support my argument? How does this relate to my thesis
?

 M4Unpack,
explain, justify. Find example?