Women in Higher Education

By W. Todd Furniss; Patricia Albjerg Graham | Go to book overview

MABEL M. SMYTHE


Feminism and Black Liberation

When we look at liberation movements in historical perspective, some basic principles seem to emerge, along with common problems, common needs, and common experience.

In all American movements to liberate a segment of the population, the American creed is a potential asset. It sets a moral ideal that is offended by conditions calling for liberation; thus, the failure or refusal to accord equality and justice is seen as a violation of the code.

At the same time, the existence of an ideal of equality encourages people to hide from themselves the reality that the ideal is being breached. Thus many "decent" people have had difficulty in perceiving that black citizens were miserable with their poverty and lack of opportunity, or that women had just cause for dissatisfaction with their traditionally assigned roles. As a result, "consciousness-raising" must necessarily precede the process of liberation, making people aware of the evil to be overcome before enrolling them in activities designed to achieve that end. In this sense, women's liberation and the civil rights movement have traveled the same road.

Liberation movements vary in prestige; they take their status from those engaging in them. In American society, on the color scale, whites have more status than blacks. Among whites, men have higher status. Among social classes, the poor and disadvantaged have lowest status (and less to lose). There is a tendency for higher status groups to coopt and exploit quickly and completely and gains made by any group on a lower level. "Higher echelon groups," says Dr. Charles A. Pinderhughes, "are less repressed, have more status and resources, and encounter less resistance. Thus liberation of women has advanced further and faster than has liberation of blacks."1

____________________
1
Reply to letter of inquiry from the author, dated June 12, 1972.

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