What is this black in #blackfeminisms?

Polish 800m runner, Joanna Jozwik is reported as saying she felt like a silver medalist even though she placed fifth:

“I’m glad I’m the first European, the second white.”

The top three places in the 800m went to African women: South Africa’s Caster Semenya, Burundi’s  Francine Niyonsaba and Kenya’s Margaret Wambui.

By Jozwik’s logic these three African women are not women. The only women are white women which is why she states that she is proud to be the second white to cross the finish line.

The category “woman” is saturated with whiteness, with white femininity.   Black women’s exclusion from this category also marks our exclusion from the human.

Radical black Caribbean intellectual, Sylvia Wynter argues that the project of Black Studies that emerged in the 1960s was NOT one of an ethnic studies a la multiculturalism but the undoing of the entire system of Western thought itself and the racist, ecological and anti-human violence which it supports.

That must be the goal of any feminism worth having. Not leaning in to an unsustainable lifestyle based on consumption on white, Western bourgeois terms.

Garinagu involvement in revolutionary movements in Honduras similarly identifies the confluence of white supremacy and global capitalist interests in ecological destruction, repressive violence against activists and threats to the livity of Indigenous and African peoples. As Miriam Miranda states:

We have to challenge this model of living, because it is a predatory one, a murderous one which dehumanises us.

Black feminisms ask:

How do we create a world where we value each other, all human and non-human animals and the environment of which we are a part?

How do we create a world where the most marginalized among us can learn to trust our own consciousness?

A world which recognises multiple ways of being and being human.

A world that makes rural living sustainable.

A world that recognises Black and Indigenous Peoples’ right to be.

A world without prisons, warfare, violence.

A world where gender is not a source of violence.

A world that is not disabling.

Black feminisms is not an ethnicized, separatist, compartmentalised standpoint. It is not a sedimented, essentialist, atavistic identity politics.  (Don’t let the white supremacists nor the black nationalists fool you.)

Black feminisms and the solidarity communities we make with the sources of our strength, these are the feminisms and movements that we need now.

View the #blackfeminisms blog carnival entries here and submit your own stories.

Learn more about AWID’s Black Feminisms Forum here.  CODE RED for gender justice is proud to be a Black Feminisms Forum content partner.



3 thoughts on “What is this black in #blackfeminisms?

  1. TAM says:

    As much as I cannot say that I know exactly what Joswik meant when she made her comment, I cannot say your commentary is spot on either. I read her comment as meaning she did well in an event that’s dominated by blacks. Yona Knight-Wisdom could have said the same thing having made it to the semi-finals in a predominantly white event (3m springboard diving). Simone Manuel, Simone Biles, Gabby Douglas could have said the same thing if they were 5th in their events. I know Joswik also complained about Caster Semenya being allowed to participate as a female but if the tables were turned and Caster were white and dominating a middle distance event don’t you think the Kenyans would be complaining as well?


    • Except that the women’s 800m has not been historically “dominated by blacks”. And Jozwik complained about ALL the African athletes. Anyway, this post was NOT about the 800 meters. I was merely using her comments to illustrate how the Western concept of “women” is one that is always already saturated with whiteness.


      • judith wedderburn says:

        Agree! Western concepts completely ignore well _ established female African writers who highlight the Womanist way of being (in so many diverse ways) and doing that are central to their communities and families.


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