Can black males offer useful insights on black women and
patriarchy? Many black feminists are doubtful. Their skepticism
derives in part from a history of explosive encounters with black
men who blamed feminism for stigmatizing black men and undermining
racial solidarity and in part from a perception that black male
feminists are opportunists capitalizing on the current popularity
of black women's writing and criticism. In Breaking the Silence,
David Ikard goes boldly to the crux of this debate through a series
of provocative readings of key African American texts that
demonstrate the possibility and value of a viable black male
Seeking to advance the primary objectives of black feminism,
Ikard provides literary models from Chester Himes's If He Hollers
Let Him Go, James Baldwin's Go Tell It on the Mountain, Toni
Morrison's Paradise, Toni Cade Bambara's The Salt Eaters, and
Walter Mosley's Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned and Walkin'
the Dog that consciously wrestle with the concept of victim status
for black men and women. He looks at how complicity across gender
lines, far from rooting out patriarchy in the black community, has
allowed it to thrive. This complicity, Ikard explains, is a process
by which victimized groups invest in victim status to the point
that they unintentionally concede power to their victimizers and
engage in patterns of behavior that are perceived as revolutionary
but actually reinforce the status quo.
While black feminism has fostered important and necessary
discussions regarding the problems of patriarchy within the black
community, little attention has been paid to the intersecting
dynamics of complicity. By laying bare the nexus between victim
status and complicity in oppression, Breaking the Silence charts a
new direction for conceptualizing black women's complex humanity
and provides the foundations for more expansive feminist approaches
to resolving intraracial gender conflicts.
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