The Combahee River Collective Statement focuses on race, class and sex as factors of oppression. The Combahee River Collective is a group of women that consist of Black feminists and lesbians that believed that these factors of oppression “create the conditions of our lives.” These factors were driving and interacting forces that shaped and changed the lives of black women. This statement primarily focuses on the belief of Black feminists and tackling issues of oppression amongst Black women.
When these women talk about the genesis of contemporary Black feminism, they pinpoint how Black women have struggled for survival and liberation and how this stems from the American Political System which is a system of white, male rule. I agree with this because if you think back to slavery, white men were the masters and they owned the slaves. White men were the rulers. I feel like white, male rule originated from slavery. When coming across this quote, “Contemporary Black feminism is the outgrowth of countless generations of personal sacrifice, militancy, and work by our mothers and sisters,” I can feel the pain that our Black mothers and sisters have endured, it makes me think of all of them and the sacrifices that they made for us.
These women believe that all Black women are “inherently valuable.” They talk about how only Black women care about each other and if they don’t who else will? No one will. No one else has acknowledged the oppressions they face, nor do they try to stop them. When these women say: “Merely naming the pejorative stereotypes attributed to Black women (e.g. mammy, matriarch, Sapphire, whore, bulldagger), let alone cataloguing the cruel, often murderous, treatment we receive, indicates how little value has been placed upon our lives”, it shows how little value Black women have because they have gone through so much pain and unjust treatment. That is why I agree with these women when they say that only Black women care about other Black women because only, we know what we go through and it is important that we help each other get through that.
When it comes to sex these women believe that race and class cannot be separated from sex oppression because they all happen at the same time. They know that racial sexual oppression exists, and this is seen through the history of rape of Black women by white men as a weapon of political control. This is very much true because race, class and sex tie together especially when talking about how Black women were raped by white men. White men had all the power because they were white and high up in the hierarchy whereas Black women did not have any privileges because they were Black women and were at the bottom.
I agree with the statement “if Black women were free everyone else would be free” because Black women have gone through the most oppression, endured so much struggle, and experienced so much pain. With that being said, freedom for them means freedom for all because only a Black woman whose experienced oppression, can fully understand. I love that these women also believe in helping women, Third World and working class. They don’t just focus on the factors of oppression. They also want white women to understand and become aware of their racism which is why they will continue to speak on this issue. The Combahee River Collective are indeed Black Feminists in power, they strive to help change and bring awareness on the lives of Black women.
-- works cited --
The Combahee River Collective. “Combahee River Collective Statement.” In Home Girls: A Black Feminist Anthology, edited by Barbara Smith, 264. New Brunswick, N.J: Rutgers University Press, 2000.