From Black Power to Hip Hop: Racism, Nationalism, and Feminism

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From Black Power to Hip Hop: Racism, Nationalism, and Feminism by Patricia Hill Collins. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2007, 256 pp., $20.95, paperback.

As one of the leading [Black] women scholars of the third wave of feminism Patricia Hill Collins has focused her work on unmasking the sociological, cultural, and historical factors that affect the lives of primarily, but not exclusively, African American women from the working class to academia, through racism, sexism, classism and other forms of discrimination. While primarily addressing issues that touch the lives of her female audience, Patricia Hill Collins is also very cognizant of the intricate social forces that affect and threaten to disable African American men. However, from texts like Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness and Empowerment (1991), Fighting Words: Black Women and the Search for Justice (1998), and Black Sexual Politics: African Americans, Gender and the New Racism (2004), Hill Collins has combined understandings of the ways in which racial, class, and gender discriminations in the United States are linked to historic and contemporary formulations of nationhood and issues of citizenship and justice, with insights into strategies for empowerment of the African American community, while addressing specific gender concerns.

The latest work titled, From Black Power to Hip Hop: Racism, Nationalism and Feminism, is a collection of essays that reflect her studies in critical social theory over the past decade and a half. While the introductory quotes range from gang member Shanyika Shakur, a Village Voice article on the hip-hop generation to Queen Latifah, and an excerpt from rapper Sister Souljah's novel, The Coldest Winter Ever (2000), the overarching thesis of the essays is not specifically geared toward African American youth or hip-hop culture, but is instead a deconstruction of what Hill Collins describes as patterns of converging and cross-cutting racism, nationalism, and feminism that are vitally important to the Black hip-hop generation. In addition, the emphasis on the intersections of race, class, nation, gender, and sexuality as well as the connection of racial communities and political action and mobilization, broadens the applicability of the text to the African American community in general regardless of age, gender or class.

The text is organized in three parts that form the foundation for the connections of race, gender, and national identity (a) Part I: "Race, Family and the U.S. Nation-State"; and analyze the political responses in the Black community, specifically looking at the strengths and weaknesses of Black nationalism movements; (b) Part II: "Ethnicity, Culture and Black Nationalist Politics", in order to ultimately focus on contemporary mobilizations of African American women and their relationship to feminism and nationalism; and (c) Part III: "Feminism, Nationalism and African-American Women".

For Hill Collins the need for recognition and strategic intervention by African Americans, peoples of African descent, and other minorities is especially salient in this time of "new racism" or "colorblind racism" that render peoples of African descent in U.S. culture both hyper-visible and invisible. She points to the acute effects of globalization that people of African descent face, the domestic and transnational mass media representations of Blacks, and the ineffective responses of Black leadership and political strategies, as three key elements that characterize this "new racism."

The strength through the organization of the essays is the theoretical and sociological foundation found in each section, which opens the arguments for the sections to follow. Chapter 1 establishes the metaphor of the family in the context of American nationalism. This is the basis for understanding the given role African Americans, particularly women. By analyzing family constructions and socialization (in part through the work of Alice Childress' Like One of the Family: Conversations from a Domestic's Life) and its application to nation-state policies of social movements Hill Collins's analysis of the power dynamics of subordination, exclusion, and containment demonstrates the co-existing civic nationalism and ethnic nationalism that define the American experience. …