Why Black Studies, Black Women Studies, and Black Queer Studies Should Be Separate Disciplines?
Several main disciplines study different social groups, the types of discrimination, the current situation for this social group, and the perspectives of the further development in the field of human rights protection. Traditionally, Black Studies go separately from Women Studies and Queer Studies, while there are some cross-studies. However, with the development of Black Studies, the demand for sub-disciplines within Black Studies has increased. The reason is that the segmentation of the audience can help in the development of counter discriminative politics and measures. For example, Women Studies is not only a political and academic construct, it is also a cultural construct. There are some obvious cultural differences between the Black American community and other communities. The same logic can be used for Black Queer Studies. It is important to distinguish sexism and heterosexism not only in the global context but also within the framework of Black Studies. Therefore, three disciplines are necessary because Black Studies, in general, is a too wide discipline, and the narrower disciplines would make the studies more effective.
Usually, the problems of Black women are the subject of Black Studies or Women Studies; however, none of these disciplines can respond to those in an effective manner. The same can be implemented for Black Queers. Since the 1960s, Black Sciences faces the necessity to distinguish several directions within this discipline to respond to the modern challenges (Story 45). Black Studies as a relatively new discipline could not respond to the issues of race, identity, gender discrimination, white supremacy, modern colonialism, and the existence of the Black community in the Western hemisphere. Moreover, most of the researchers, professors, writers, and social scientists, were of European descent, so they could hardly explore the problems of the Black community from within. As a result, the Black Studies discipline was unified and specific problems by Black Women and Black Queer remained invisible for a long time. So, on the one hand, till now Black Women and Black Queers do not have the specific disciplines that can answer their specific challenges. That is why the article There is no place like Home by Story is called in such a way, it means that some specific problems have no place to be addressed. On the other hand, now it is clear that everything is ready to separate these disciplines from Black Studies and traditional Women Studies. As Story claimed, many women in Black Studies disillusioned and isolated, inevitably creating the ideological space for the seedlings of Black Women’s Studies as a separate discipline to be planted (45). Reviewing Black Studies and Women Studies, Story notices that no existing disciplines focus on the problems of Black women; traditional Women Studies investigates the lives of white women, at the same time Black Studies are too male-dominated to respond to Black women’s challenges (50). Black Women Studies as the discipline should be placed between Women Studies and African American studies; it should develop its context and terminology. The rise of Black Queer Studies started no earlier than in the 1990s, so it is also a new academic field. It is related to the rise of traditional Queer studies; however, at that time, the blackening of the queer community is noticed. Nowadays, the presence of Black Queer and Black women theorists in the traditional disciplines support the readiness for the new disciplines that can cover the challenges of Black Women and Black Queers.
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According to Watkins (229), traditional Women Studies cannot reflect the actual needs and problems of the African American (or Black) female community. At the beginning of Women’s Studies development as a discipline, the representation of the Black Female Community in the social sciences was insufficient. As the result, traditional Women Studies are Eurocentric. When it goes about the universal issues, like general female discrimination in the country, traditional Women Studies can deal with the problem. However, the violation of the rights can combine racial and gender discrimination. In fact, women of European Origin still have more privileges in the social group than women of African origin, which face double discrimination. Watkins (227) claims the intersection of the traditional (or Eurocentric) Women Studies with the Black Women Studies is impossible for several reasons. The main reason is the existing bias against Black Women in the female community. They are considered weak-minded and not so smart as women of European origin. Second, the racial bias exists within the traditional Women Studies: it states that race is more important for Black Women than their gender, so they are ready to protect the interests of Black males even if it violates their gender rights. On the other hand, racial discrimination against Black Women exists within the female community, and protection of their rights means the protection of Black Women, not all African Americans. Thus, the traditional Women Studies can be called White Women Studies (Watkins, 227), not only because they focus on the interests of white women, but also because the white women are the dominating majority in the programs, departments, and writings. As is mentioned above, there are not enough Black female writers, philosophers, administrators, and activists in the entire Women Studies community. Thus, traditional Women Studies cannot respond to the requests of this group. Watkins also mentions the critical role of feminism in traditional Women Studies (231). It is almost impossible to work on women’s rights protection outside the feminist discourse. However, not all women are feminists, and many of them consider it distracting and scary. Watkins writes about these non-aligned women who often suffer from the violation of their rights but they cannot fight for protection because they reject feminism (234). In the Black community, many women recognize feminism as the white tradition and reject it. Thus, the traditional Women Studies and Black Studies should add Black Women Studies to consider the problems of the specific social group.
Speaking of Black Queer Studies, it is necessary to say that the Black community is not homogeneous and mention the discrimination inside the racial community, or marginalization by the marginalized (Harris 430). Harris mentions that with the election of President Barack Obama the racial communities in the United States have got a new inspiration, the second breath in their struggle for equal rights and against discrimination. However, the problems with sexual discrimination exist in the Black community as in the global community. There are typical forms of discrimination between the African American middle class and lower class. Harris also mentions other types of discrimination, such as misogyny, homophobia, and heterosexism (443). Some correlation exists between these types of discrimination, and further research should test the direct correlation between the educational level and the discrimination in the Black community. This correlation exists in the global (mainly white) community; however, no discipline could discover the same correlation in African Americans. Harris also cites the previous research, including the work by Gregory M. Herek, which examines the concepts of heterosexism and homophobia at great length. Herek provides a useful definition of sexual prejudice as:
negative attitudes toward an individual because of her or his sexual orientation; the term is used to characterize heterosexuals’ negative attitudes toward homosexual behavior, people with a homosexual or bisexual orientation, and communities of gay, lesbian, and bisexual people. (qtd. in Harris, 432)
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The author also claims that heterosexism is a term that can be equaled by racism and sexism. Despite this claim being arguable, the author claims the heterosexism is more influential than homophobia because homophobia focuses on homosexuals, while heterosexism oppresses all non-heterosexual people. The demonstrations of heterosexism can be noticed in African American community. It can be concluded that the problem of homophobia and the negative attitude to the LGBT community is widely spread within the African American community. The traditional Queer Studies has not enough data to develop the methodology of protection and the struggle for their rights within the African American community because of the cultural differences. The reasons are almost the same with the traditional Women Studies: the Eurocentric approach and the dominance of the white activists make the traditional Queer Studies incompatible with the Black Community. Thus, it is necessary to develop a special separate discipline that would study the problems of a Black Queer community only. In this case, it is possible to work on the protection of their rights effectively.
The scientific development in the field of human rights continues. The appearance of specific disciplines like Women Studies and Black Studies was a very important stage in its development. However, these disciplines continue to develop, they collect data and analyze the information. As a result, it becomes clear that the female community is not homogeneous, and traditional Women Studies cannot cover the problems of Black Women. The same situation is with the African American Community; it is not homogenous also, and there are different forms of discrimination within the discriminated social group. That is why Black Women Studies and Black Queer Studies should exist as independent disciplines. Limiting their studies with the special social groups, they would be able to develop the most effective protective measures against discrimination.