By Carla Newsome McManus
In Black Feminist Voices in Politics,
Dr. Evelyn Simien, assistant professor of Political Science at the University of Connecticut, gives a compelling account of the amazing strides that Black women have made in politics despite the burden of racism, sexism, and classism.
Substantiated with extensive research and statistical data, Dr. Simien exposes the significant contributions that Black women have had on race and politics since the 1800's. Black Feminists Voices in Politics is sure to become required reading for any student who aspires to become a scholar in African American studies. We also recommend that anyone who has political aspirations read Black Feminist Voices in Politics to increase their sensitivity to issues affecting Black women and garner an understanding of the power, and influence of these women that society can no longer afford to ignore. This compelling read will keep you turning the pages. So find your favorite chair and prepare to be inspired and educated by the contributions and influence of our powerful Black women!
Why did you decide write about power and leadership of Black women in politics?
Dr. Simien: I saw a need to expose the major contributions that Black women have made in politics since there is a lack of information about on the subject.
In addition, I was told that I would be committing 'professional suicide' to write about Black women. This fueled my desire to write about and expose the contributions that we've made.
You introduce the concept of intersectionality and the idea that Black women do not have the luxury of choosing to fight only one battle because we contend with multiple burdens (race, gender, and class).
Will you please elaborate on this issue?
Dr. Evelyn Simien:
While Black women face gender and class discrimination they are expected to be more vigilant in the fight against racial discrimination. But realistically, Black women don't get to fight against racism without joining the struggle against sexism. For example, most pioneers in the fight for racial equality that society recognizes today are men. But significant contributions in defense of black civil rights from women such as Ida B. Wells, who also fought in defense of women's rights, were often ignored since the fight for black liberation was considered a masculine endeavor.
Carla McManus: Speaking of sexism, do you believe that black women and white women experience sexism differently?
Dr. Evelyn Simien: Most definitely. Black women face sexist stereotypes that white women do not. We are expected to be strong and are not allowed to ask for help. We are also perceived as less feminine than white women.
Carla McManus: Bill Cosby recently stated at a graduation that Black women must carry the race. What is your opinion?
Dr. Evelyn Simien: There is a disproportiante number of Black women who are the heads of households. As a result, Black women must obtain the education, jobs, and money required to manage their households. If the trend continues,
then Black women will have to carry the race.
Carla McManus: Have you done any research on whether black women subtlely discriminate against each other and the effects of this form of discrimination?
Dr. Evelyn Simien: I have not delved into that topic, but it is worth looking into. I do believe that differences exist between younger and older women in terms of their domestic values, which might cause younger women to believe that older women uphold sexist views. I hope to have more time to research this topic, but since I'm in the process of planning a wedding, arranging speaking engagements, and going up for tenure at the university, I've had to table new research initiatives.
Carla McManus: Speaking of opportunities to research the power of Black women in different ways, have you ever considered studying how Black men who are spouses of influential Black women are treated by society?
Dr. Evelyn Simien: That's a good question and I'm sure that it would be well worth looking into.
It would be interesting to study how men such as Sidney Williams, former U.S. Ambassador to the Commonwealth of the Bahamas, and husband of Congresswoman Maxine Waters, are treated by society.
Carla McManus: Who are some of your favorite authors?
Dr. Evelyn Simien: I really enjoy bell hooks. I've also enjoyed reading Black Sexual Politics by Patricia Hill Collins and Is Cosby Right by Michael Eric Dyson. I'm currently reading The Color of Water by James McBride.
About Black Feminists Voices in Politics
Studies black feminist approaches to political science and African American women as political actors.
--This text refers to the
Hardcover edition. For the softcover edition visit http://www.sunypress.edu/details.asp?id=61281
From the Back Cover
In Black Feminist Voices in Politics, Evelyn M. Simien charts a course for black womens studies in political science. Examining the simultaneous effects of race and gender on political behavior, Simien uses a national telephone survey sample of the adult African American population to discover the extent to which black women and men support black feminist tenets. At the heart of this book are answers to such questions as: How does the absence of black feminist voices impair our understanding of group consciousness? What factors make individuals more or less likely to adopt black feminist views? Are men just as likely as women to support black feminist tenets? Simien analyzes the survey data, responds to limitations of existing research, and addresses critical questions that many black academics, intellectuals, and activists have devoted significant energy to debating without much empirical evidence.
"With this work, Evelyn Simien strengthens the foundation for a deeper understanding of the complexity of U.S. political culture, and the often marginalized participants who expand democratic power." Joy James, editor of The New Abolitionists: (Neo)Slave Narratives and Contemporary Prison Writings