There has been much emphasis on the issues faced by women of all colors in the recent years. We hear many people compared to past who recognize that women need to be considered equal to men and who believe that the feminist movements are justified in their cause. I believe that there is still a lot to be done. Especially when it comes to the rights of Black women and other women of color. I do not imply here that the white women do not need their issues to be highlighted but this is my believe that if we are to do a comparison, Black women and other women of color face two fold discrimination and deprivation. First is that they are women and the second is that they are not of white color. The purpose of this paper is to highlight the issues Black women and other women of color face in general and the academic practices that are centered on Black women and other women of color studies at three educational institutions in the DC area in particular. I would also propose some other academic practices centered at Black women and other women of color studies.
I would like to open the debate with a detailed account of courses, programs and seminars centered on Black women and other women of color in the DC area at UDC and two other educational institutions.
University of the District of Columbia
List of courses and Programs:
Course: HIST 265 Black Women in America
Trinity Washington University
Course: CJUS 303 Women & Minorities in Criminal Justice
The George Washington University
Course: HIST 3362 Black Women in U.S. History
I spent a great amount of time to find a seminars or a workshops specific to Black women or other women of color but I was not successful. In fact it was not easy to find a university or college that was offering courses specific to Black women or other women of color. I believe this is a very discouraging point as it is hard to even find information related to scholarships specific to the topic in discussion. I wish more resources can be allocated to finance scholarships targeted at Black women and other women of color to bring them forward in the society and let them reach their life goals that they have set for themselves.
Black Feminist Response
It has been a long struggle for Black women to survive the miseries they had to face throughout the history because of the color of their skin and because they were women. In the past many centuries, the society has been predominantly been controlled by men. Women were considered as lesser than man. Especially Black women has pay the consequences of being a “female” more severely than the white women had. Black women faced many brutalities but they had the courage to remain steadfast and struggle for the freedom they truly deserved (Murray, 1995). Black women had to go through many obstacles throughout the history. Their suffering of Black women has not been only due to discrimination by men. Black women have been facing political, social, economic issues in America due to the historical reason of being a Black human being and then a women in the male dominated society (Scales, 1989).
I have been reading the short story “Dreams of Violence” which is an account of the struggle of the struggle of a feminist about her survival in the man dominated society. What I have grasped from the story is that we cannot stick to the past and have to move on to carve the future for ourselves. Same way Black feminist like any other feminist have struggled to recognize themselves in the society and carve their own future. Black women have been seen engaging in the politics of respectability in a search of finding their true place in the society. In an article, Mauric E Dolberry has described the responsibility politics a way of identifying yourself with the white superior class and forgetting about the same poor Black people who you belong to (Dolberry, 2013). This leads to the development of a Black class who are neither Black nor white. They are left somewhere in the middle. But politics of respectability is not the answer to the struggle of the Black women. Frances White has presented a great criticism to the concept of the Politics of Respectability in her book “Dark Continent of Our Bodies”. She believes that Black women should be proud of her own heritage and struggle and try to identify themselves with their reality. I do not think that creating a distance with the less blessed people who are the same community as you are is in any way a solution to the problems that the back women is facing in the society. The cry of the Black women to wish to be represented is understandable but the politics of respectability is not going to take them even the half way towards their goals (Jarune, 2014). There are many differences between the attitudes, political perspectives and the historical struggles of Black and white feminist movements which the Black women need to recognize (Joseph, 1981) before indulging in the politics of respectability.
In my opinion, education is the best answer to the suffering and discrimination that the Black women have been facing. Katrin Dehoyos has mentioned in one of her article that it is the responsibility of a state to outlaw the discriminative treatment of any one and according to the author, this is the most efficient way of protecting the rights of the people whose rights are violated (“New York Considers Ban on Gay Conversion Therapy for Minors -,” 2013). I believe that the author is true in pointing out the role of the government but what about situation where there are clear laws but still they are being violated? I would say that to such kind of situations, education is the best answer. Both the targeted communities as well the people who have a derogatory behavior need to be educated.
We have a history of educated Black women who have been an agent of Black feminism. These women have been advocating the rights of Black women with their poetry, singing, autobiographies, storytelling and many other ways. Among many, Zora Neale, Billie Holiday, and Bessie Smith are the most famous Black women who served their community passionately (Collins, 2002). Zora was an intelligent lady who earned advanced degrees and was a Black singer. The success of Black women to get higher degrees like PHDs has a greater implication for not only the Black women but education for all (Freeman and Lee, 2012).The point that I want to make here is that it is the utmost responsibility of the Black women to be the agent of change for their community rather than waiting for others to intervene. I believe that more educated Black women need to explicitly work to create an awareness the Black women to strive for education. These educated Black women also need to use their influence to create more financial means for their community.
There was a concern in the last quarter of the twentieth century that the number of Black women administrators was nearly none in higher education (Mosley, 1980) and other organization in America. But the situation has changed rapidly since. Now we seen Black women actively playing their role in the country’s politics. We have has Condoleezza Rice as the secretary of state in the Bush administration and at present we have a Black President, Barak Obama whose wife is a well know figure of a successful Black women who have been a great help in the political career of her husband.
I believe that there is a greater need to include courses and programs related to Black women studies and other women of color studies to the course curriculum of the educational institutions to create awareness about the feminist movement carried forward by this segment of the society. Unfortunately, currently there are only a few courses offered at only a few universities. As I was doing an online search for this paper to find courses or programs related to Black women and other women of color in the DC area, I was really disappointed that even after spending enough time, I was unable to locate many educational institutions. The only institutions that I was able to find that were offering some programs that had courses related to our topic of discussion were University of the District of Columbia with a course titled “Black Women in America”, Trinity Washington did not have a specific course that would satisfy the needs of our topic but still I have included their course “Women and Minorities in the Criminal Justice” to the list. The George Washington University is offering a course titled, “Black Women in the U.S History”. I believe that the range of these courses is very limited. There are many more courses that can be a part of the course curriculum of these universities and others. I believe that courses related to the cross cultural survival of Black feminism can be included in the course curriculum. The intention of such courses would be to explore the issues like sex, class struggle, survival across different cultural societies and racial and gender inequality issues (Steady, 1981). Many Black women have been successfully performing leadership duties in different cultures (Bobo, 1995) and organizations. Universities can also consider the possibilities to include courses related to the leadership styles that the Black women have been employing in these cultures and organizations.
I have found some more courses from other universities related to Black women and women of other color. These courses are taught at different levels in these universities. I think that all of these courses or at least some of these courses should be introduced at the University of District of Columbia and the other two universities in order to provide more knowledge related to the topic under discussion in this paper. A few of these courses are:
- Course: WGSST 2367.04 | Black Women Writers: Text and Context, (The Ohio State University).
- Course: WGSST 2367.02 | U.S. Latina Writers: Text and Context, (The Ohio State University).
- Course: WMST (AFAM) 4060/6060 | Black Feminism, Institute for Women’s Studies, Franklin College.
- Course: WMST 7060 | Black Women’s Narratives, Institute for Women’s Studies, Franklin College.
- Course: WS 236 | Womanist Theology, Goucher College.
- Course: WS 237 | Gender and Migration in a Global Perspective, Goucher College.
- Course: WGST 304 | Representations of Black Women and Religion in Film, Case Western Reserve University.
- Course: WGST 339 | Black Women and Religion, Case Western Reserve University.
- Course: WGST 342 | Latin American Feminist Voices, Case Western Reserve University.
- Course: WGS1010H S | Black Feminist Thought, University of Toronto.
- Course: WGS1021H F | Black Diasporic Feminisms: Modernity, Freedom and Citizenship, University of Toronto.
Apart from the above list of courses related to Black women and women of other colors there are a variety of courses that can prove to be a beneficial part of the course curriculum of University of District of Columbia and the other two universities in Washington DC.
Here I would also like to talk about the availability of funds and scholarships for the specific purpose of educating the Black women and other women of color. I have searched for this paper and unfortunately there are not many. Student from any racial and gender group need financial assistance from parents or the government to successfully complete his/her education and especially higher education. A research carried out by Conger, Wallace, Sun, Simons, Mcloyd and Brody, (2002) suggested that Black African American families experience more economic and financial pressure as compared to other communities in the US. This fact make Black families and especially Black women more eligible for financial assistance than other communities in the US.
I would like to conclude my discussion by stating that the Black women have still a long way to go to achieve their goals of equality. There are many problems that they have to address one of which is their right to a good education. I do realize, from the research that I have done for this paper, that there are limited courses related to the Black women and other women of color in the Washington DC and around other states in the US. There are also a less number of scholarships available that are specifically centered at Black women and other women of color. The situation is not as satisfactory as it should in regards to academic practices centered at Black women and other women of color. But hope should not be lost and all those Black women and other women of color who are a part of any feminist movement or any other political party/movement has the responsibility towards the cause of equal opportunity and more financial resource allocation by the government or educational institutions for Black women and other women of color. As community members, we all share the same responsibilities. Every one of us should work in his/her capacity to advocate the importance of educational programs related to Black women and other women of color at educational institutions and scholarship programs centered at them.