For the Book About a Current World Issue (2018 Reading Challenge), I chose Eloquent Rage by Brittney Cooper, PhD. The book discusses Black Feminism, a branch of feminism that uses intersectionality (the idea that race, gender, economics etc. all impact a person’s life) to try to bring about fair and just treatment for Black women and girls. Given that countries in Africa still practice genital mutilation and child marriage because of outdated and dangerous patriarchal struggles, Black feminism is and should be a world issue.
Cooper grew up in the south in the nineteen-eighties. Placed in predominantly white classes, she gained unique insight to the thoughts and actions of the white world while still maintaining a space in the black community. Never completely welcomed in either place, Cooper developed a unique outsider-on-the-inside perspective that shaped her feminist outlook.
In a style that’s part memoir, manifesto and textbook, Dr. Cooper lays out the who, what where, when, why and how of Black Feminism (capital B, capital F). Her tone easily swings from front porch banter to erudite academia to (much needed) straight up scolding and back again.
Her journey to woke was marked with the pains and humiliations that come with most life changing realization. White classmates that accepted her (to a degree), mean Black girls that shook her, religious Black patriarchy that shamed her, White patriarchy that questioned her worth–all of it comes together to form the person she eventually becomes. Her first steps begin with shedding her reluctance to wear the Angry Black Woman label after being called out by a friend. “She helped me to realize that my anger could be a powerful force for good.” Once she acknowledged her deserved anger, she was able to focus it in a way that made a difference to her identity, her relationship to others, her politics and her life.
Through topics ranging from intersectionality, politics, black churches, her father, Black and white mean girls, Beyonce and bell hooks and more, Cooper discusses why Black Feminism is so important in Black women’s lives. She points out painful but true ways that groups have done Black women harm leading Black women to hurt each other.
This is an uncomfortable read. I would argue that it’s a necessary discomfort. No one group gets a pass, not even Black Feminists, not even groups Dr. Cooper belongs to. I would guess that for every “damn, right” uttered, there’s probably a “well, hold up a minute…” a few pages later. And to me that’s the mark of a book that’s meant to challenge paradigms, not placate egos.