But Some of Us Are Brave

The Work of Rebecca Hall, JD, PhD

Racialized Gender

Racialized Gender is a subject central to my legal and historical research and publications, as well as my activism. Intersectionality, an analysis developed by the African American legal scholar and Critical Race theorist Kimberle Crenshaw, maps where different structures of oppression intersect to create qualitatively different systems of domination and oppression. Race and Gender oppression combined is not merely additive, it is geometric. She first articulated this theory in her 1989 Article “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Anti-Discrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Anti-Racist Politics.” Click here for article

The intersection of race and gender calls to mind an image of intersecting streets. Race is a street, and when it intersects with Gender street, you have the intersection of Race and Gender. Racialized Gender on the other hand, focuses on how the race street comes to the intersection already  gendered, and vice versa. So the concept of race and racialized bodies is partially instantiated through gender. Indigenous people were deemed by colonial powers as wrong and fit only for subjugation because they performed gender wrong. African Americans could be understood as chattel slaves through a legal regime that constructed Black women as only capable of giving birth to property. Here is an article I wrote that develops this and recovers the history of African American women leading slave revolts: Not Killing Me Softly: African American Women, Slave Revolts, and Historical Constructions of Racialized Gender.

Some other recommended readings:

Hidden Histories, Racialized Gender and the Legacy of Reconstruction (A chapter in the text book Women in the Law Stories I co-wrote with Angelas Harris. This link makes you pay 5$ to the publisher. I will see if there is a way to legally post it on this website).

Good Wives, Nasty Wenches and Anxious Patriarchs, by Kathleen Brown. “Kathleen Brown examines the origins of racism and slavery in British North America from the perspective of gender. Both a basic social relationship and a model for other social hierarchies, gender helped determine the construction of racial categories and the institution of slavery in Virginia. But the rise of racial slavery also transformed gender relations, including ideals of masculinity. In response to the presence of Indians, the shortage of labor, and the insecurity of social rank, Virginia’s colonial government tried to reinforce its authority by regulating the labor and sexuality of English servants and by making legal distinctions between English and African women. This practice, along with making slavery hereditary through the mother, contributed to the cultural shift whereby women of African descent assumed from lower-class English women both the burden of fieldwork and the stigma of moral corruption. Brown’s analysis extends through Bacon’s Rebellion in 1676, an important juncture in consolidating the colony’s white male public culture, and into the eighteenth century. She demonstrates that, despite elite planters’ dominance, wives, children, free people of color, and enslaved men and women continued to influence the meaning of race and class in colonial Virginia.”

We Specialize in the Wholly Impossible, Hine, King & Reeds, eds.

From the introduction:
This book was put together to reclaim, and to create heightened awareness about, individuals, contributions, and struggles that have made African-American survival and progress possible. We cannot accurately comprehend either our hidden potential or the full range of problems that besiege us until we know about the successful struggles that generations of foremothers waged against virtually insurmountable obstacles. We can, and will, chart a coherent future and win essential opportunities with a clear understanding of the past in all its pain and glory.

Here, in a single volume, is a sweeping panorama of black women’s experience throughout history and across classes and continents. Containing over 30 crucial essays by the most influential and prominent scholars in the field, including Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, Linda Gordon, and Nell Irvin Painter, We Specialize in the Wholly Impossible is a comprehensive assessment of black women’s lives.

The book is divided into six sections: theory; Africa; the Caribbean and Canada; 18th-century United States; 19th-century United States; and 20th-century United States. A remarkably diverse range of topics are covered, with chapters on such subjects as working-class consciousness among Afro-American women; the impact of slavery on family structure; black women missionaries in South Africa; slavery, sharecropping, and sexual inequality; black women during the American Revolution; imprisoned black women in the American West; women’s welfare activism; SNCC and black women’s activism; and property-owning free African-American women in the 19th-century South.

More recommendations to come.


Leave a Reply