Serena Mayeri, “Reasoning from Race: Feminism, Law, and the Civil Rights Revolution”
Anyone interested in feminist jurisprudence or rights discourse will want to read this new book by Serena Mayeri (Penn): Reasoning from Race Feminism, Law, and the Civil Rights Revolution. The publisher’s description is here. Mayeri uncovers the history of an often misunderstood connection at the heart of American antidiscrimination law. Her study details how a tumultuous political and legal climate transformed the links between race and sex equality, civil rights and feminism. Battles over employment discrimination, school segregation, reproductive freedom, affirmative action, and constitutional change reveal the promise and peril of reasoning from race—and offer a vivid picture of Pauli Murray, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and others who defined feminists’ agenda. Looking beneath the surface of Supreme Court opinions to the deliberations of feminist advocates, their opponents, and the legal decision makers who heard—or chose not to hear—their claims.
Reasoning from Race showcases previously hidden struggles that continue to shape the scope and meaning of equality under the law. That description is a bit too modest, in my view. Mayeri pulls back the layers of the complicated story behind constitutional litigation and looks at how advocates for sex equality borrowed from Civil Rights-era ideas and discourse to advance women’s claims. This work is nothing short of spectacular. -Bridget Crawford
LAUREN ANDERSON, American Ballet Dancer and a former Principal Dancer with the Houston Ballet. In 1990, she was the First African American Ballerina to become a Principal Dancer for a Major Dance Company, an important milestone in American Ballet.
Two young ladies (names unknown) contributing to the war effort back in the States. Although “Rosie the Riveter,” outfitted in overalls and wielding industrial tools in a defense plant, was the most popular icon of the feminine home front, women’s contributions toward allied victory were defined far more broadly than welding ships or riveting bombers. Women drove cabs and delivered mail, they refurbished railroad cars to carry troops and charted the positions of enemy aircraft. While doors ultimately opened wide to women in many defense factories, not all were recruited as eagerly. African Americans were usually stuck in lower-wage work once they landed a shipyard job, and were more likely to find employment in canneries, railroads and military supply facilities, which paid half of shipyard wages. Still the war moved many black women out of domestic service—as one woman put it “Hitler was the one that got us out of the kitchen.” NPS:WWII by Donna Graves
As African American women left the plantation economy behind, many entered domestic service in southern cities and towns. Cooking was one of the primary jobs they performed, feeding generations of white families and, in the process, profoundly shaping southern foodways and culture. Rebecca Sharpless argues that, in the face of discrimination, long workdays, and low wages, African American cooks worked to assert measures of control over their own lives. As employment opportunities expanded in the twentieth century, most African American women chose to leave cooking for more lucrative and less oppressive manufacturing, clerical, or professional positions. Through letters, autobiography, and oral history, Sharpless evokes African American women’s voices from slavery to the open economy, examining their lives at work and at home.
The Pansy Craze was the name given to the movement of outrageous queer performers who entertained in speakeasies during the Prohibition Era. They performed transgressive gender identities despite laws prohibiting them. Performing in speakeasies across the country, they broke through to mainstream audiences with their outrageous mix of camp wit, androgynous poise and savior faire.
Buffet Flats was the name of the alternative food and lodging provided by black Harlemites for black travelers who were sometimes not permitted to get lodging in segregated hotels. Later these apartments evolved into renowned venues, serving up an exuberant mix of artistic risk to satisfy a variety of subversive tastes and pleasures. Diverse audiences came from all over to eat, drink, sing, dance, and participate in the creative revelry.
Kara Keeling contends that cinema and cinematic processes had a profound significance for twentieth-century anticapitalist Black Liberation movements based in the United States. Drawing on Gilles Deleuze’s notion of “the cinematic”—not just as a phenomenon confined to moving-image media such as film and television but as a set of processes involved in the production and reproduction of social reality itself —Keeling describes how the cinematic structures racism, homophobia, and misogyny, and, in the process, denies viewers access to certain images and ways of knowing.
She theorizes the black femme as a figure who, even when not explicitly represented within hegemonic cinematic formulations of raced and gendered subjectivities, nonetheless haunts those representations, threatening to disrupt them by making alternative social arrangements visible. Keeling draws on the thought of Frantz Fanon, Angela Davis, Karl Marx, Antonio Gramsci, and others in addition to Deleuze. She pursues the elusive figure of the black femme through Haile Gerima’s film Sankofa, images of women in the Black Panther Party, Pam Grier’s roles in the blaxploitation films of the early 1970s, F. Gary Gray’s film Set It Off, and Kasi Lemmons’s Eve’s Bayou.
African American literary contribution to the national conception of nature, in all of its symbolic ambiguity and historical twists and turns, is a subject that has been little studied. In fact, African American writers have contributed profoundly to our popular understanding of nature and to our ecological concern. …
If many African Americans have felt estranged from mainstream environmentalism, Ruffin argues, it is because people themselves—“the most precious of natural resources”—seem to have been excluded from the discourse. The author cites Wangari Maathai’s Green Belt Movement as a model for a new way of thinking about environmentalism, a “human-sensitive” activism that advocates simultaneously for people and the land. She argues that people of African descent have had both the burden and the blessing of being themselves seen as natural; whereas too often people of European descent have viewed themselves as radically separate from nature, a realm to be tamed and controlled or, later, to be visited for leisure.
Another critical point that she makes is that pre-twentieth-century Americans knew nature through work. The connection to the land was forged through labor, with both the body and the landscape part of the same “bioregion.” Similarly, nature has been inextricably involved in human efforts to achieve social justice and to escape from enslavement. She demonstrates that environmental degradation has disproportionately harmed the disenfranchised, but a detailed knowledge of the environment was instrumental, for example, in helping enslaved people establish routes to freedom. African American writing also reveals the extent to which the natural world provided sources of healing—the “wild-growing medicines” that are so much a part of cultural tradition and folklore.
ok wild is an invalid concept, but this seems like a necessary book amongst the white eco-fad zeitgiest.
ALICE WALKER: .. she’s explaining to Celie that, you know, the beauty of nature is what reminds us of what is divine, I mean, that we’re already in heaven, really. It’s just that we haven’t noticed it, and we’ve been diverted by people who want us to believe whatever it is they are basically selling us. But if you pass by the color purple in a field and you don’t even notice it, why should you even be here on the planet? I mean, you should notice what is here, because it is wonderful and amazing and loves you back by its beauty and by its fragrance or however it can love you back.
AMY GOODMAN: And how did that title come to you, The Color Purple?
ALICE WALKER: Because when I was writing the novel, I lived way in the country in Boonville, California, and I went walking through the redwoods and swimming in the river and noticed that in nature purple is everywhere. And it’s interesting because we tend to think that in nature you would see more red, yellow, white, you know, all of those colors. But actually, purple is right there. And in that sense, it’s like the people in the novel. You think that they are unusual, that what’s happening to them is unusual, but actually it’s happening somewhere on your block almost every minute. All the trouble, all of the trials and tribulations of Celie are happening to people all over the planet right now.
My deafness hadn’t bothered me in the past but now I thought of so many things — the way I was politely passed over when someone in the church wanted something done, the quick snicker when I misunderstood something said to me, and other little things. If it was like that among people who knew me, what would it be like without Mam or someone here at school to make me feel like I was a person, too?
HEY! Tumblr ate the bio i had here for years. Will come back to that.
Basic FYI = in Australia, been organizing for decades across sexual, union, land rights and landcare politics, but this is not a political Tumblr. My usual byline is something about beauty, as a state of mind and usurping the gaze. Which confuses people but whatever
Following is only recommended if you embrace the food sovereignty, art, LGBTI, history, fashion and politics pastiche.