The topic of race contracts and intersectionality can be traced in the works of various scholars. Moreover, the feminist agenda is also inextricably linked to issues of race. This essay analyzes academic articles discussing major concepts in the study of racism and gender essentialism. Besides, the paper will closely investigate several notable ideas of the concerned scholarship tracing the roots and developing a deeper understanding of the problem.
“Combahee River Collective Manifesto” by Weiss
In his “Combahee River Collective Manifesto,” Weiss (2018) investigates the premises and significance of the Combahee Collective Statement, citing the publication’s text. The basis for the unification of feminists in the Combahee River Collective was mainly the fact that, according to the members themselves, activists from different social groups could not combine and promote the specific needs of the Black lesbian population. The distinctive role of Black women, thus is in fighting oppression collectively by addressing race, sex, and class issues. Moreover, the manifesto laid a foundation for the concept of identity politics, allowing activists to establish a relevant agenda for a specific identity. The notion of intersectionality is also referred to as proclaiming the role of modes of discrimination. Overall, the Statement has strongly influenced the development of a social activist agenda by deepening the understanding of feminism and highlighting identity as a new foundation for social policy.
“Race and Essentialism in Feminist Legal Theory” by Harris
In her essay on Race and Essentialism in Feminist Legal Theory, Angela Harris uses two distinct but extreme voices: the “I” – the title character from Jorge Luis Borges’ short story, and the “We” of “We the People,” the words that the U.S. Declaration of Independence begins with. According to Harris, even though “We the People” refers to the “unanimous” voice of all the People residing in 13 states, this statement speaks only for a political fraction.
Besides, Harris notes that the political fraction, which the “We the People” speaks for, tries to unite all voices. Thus, this fraction constitutes itself as “a unit of many disparate voices.” However, Harris underlines that their power lasts unless the contradictory voices decide to break the silence. Similarly, the author states that the voices of black women have been being silenced by gender essentialism. Furthermore, it is noted that feminism’s aim is not simply to silence one agent over another, but as Harris states, “to be home both to the first and second voices, and all the other voices in between.”
“The Racial Contract” by Mills
In his Racial Contract, Charles Mills tries to conceptualize an actual historically formed Social Contract. The Social Contract premises justify the government in terms of people’s consent to be ruled by the state [ref]. According to Mills, Social Contract theory lacks actuality and thus is considered as a normative account. In fact, Mills, early in the text, distinguishes descriptive reports from the normative or prescriptive account.
Hence, he claims that his peculiar contract is the most descriptive, by which he means that Racial Contract is the most actual and corresponds to reality. Also, he states that the Racial Contract is not the agreement between superior and inferior races. Still, it is the agreement among the superior race that excludes the inferior race from the interaction. Thus, Mills affirms that the Racial Contract, the most actual account, is about excluding minor races.
“An Unsettled Feminist Discourse” by Massaquoi
In “An Unsettled Feminist Discourse”, Massaquoi brings up several problems, one of which is the lack of connection between African feminist scholars and Africa itself. In the text, the Author argues that African-centred feminism “understands the diaspora as definitionally-ambiguous”, and points out that there is a critical need for the creation of a space for African feminist projects within Canada. She also notes that such projects must consider the cultural diversity of African women that reside in Canada today. Also, she affirms that historical entry points to Canada are of great importance as well because the time when black women entered and everyday life at that certain historical point seriously affected black women’s life.
“Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence against Women of Color” by Crenshaw
Crenshaw’s text on intersectionality and violence against women of color is the author’s attempt to distinguish black women’s location from white women’s. In the text, Crenshaw claims that male violence against women of color is caused by both racism and sexism. Also, Crenshaw tries to understand this violence by considering concrete situations and locating women’s experiences and observing structural, political, and representational aspects of violence against women of color.
In addition, Crenshaw states that the location of women of color makes their situation different than that of white women, specifically concerning domestic violence and rape. For instance, she affirms that women of color often deal with poverty, lack of job skills, discriminatory housing processes, etc. Further in the text, Crenshaw gives an example of the Immigration Act of 1990, which requires immigrant couples to be married for two years to apply for citizenship. Thus, migrant women who experienced domestic violence were forced to stay in the marriage, not to be deported.
Crenshaw, K. (1991). Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence against Women of Color. Stanford Law Review, 43(6), 1241.
Harris, A. P. (2013). Race and Essentialism in Feminist Legal Theory. In R. Delgado & J. Stefancic (Ed.), Critical race theory: The cutting edge (3rd edition, pp. 347-357). Philadelphia, Pa: Temple University Press.
Massaquoi, N. (2007). An Unsettled Feminist Discourse. In Theorizing empowerment: Canadian perspectives on Black feminist thought. Njoki Nathani Wane and Notisha Massaquoi (ed.), Toronto, Canada: Inanna Publications and Education.
Mills, C. W. (1999). The racial contract (pp.120-133). Cornell University Press.
Weiss, P. A. (2018). Combahee river collective manifesto. In M. Brueske (Ed.), Feminist manifestos: A global documentary reader (pp. 269–277). NYU Press.