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A Taste of Power

Anne Dalke's picture

In response to Celeste's good questions about what the trouble is with power feminism--is it about representation? (or is it about achieving power @ the expense of others?)--and in furtherance of EmmaBE's observation that power feminism is about getting power for yourself, rather than trying to redistribute/break down the structures of power, I promised to share w/ y'all a passage we read and pondered in my prison book group: Elaine Brown's A Taste of Power, her very compelling memoir about growing up in North Philly, having her consciousness raised about class and race issues, becoming a Black Panther, becoming the head of the Black Panthers, and then leaving the party:

When I was a little girl, I wanted to be white…I came to believe that if I could be white…I could be elevated from the degradation of being a ‘nigger.’ I trained myself to talk like white people, to act like white people, to walk and dress and eat like white people. I made every effort possible to belong to white people….

By the time I realized there was no place in America for a black girl, I discovered another trick…there were no paths out of the powerlessness. The keys to the kingdom were gripped in the hands of few white men—and only men. I could work for those men, if I ‘behaved,’ but I could never be them, have what they had, be master of my own ship….I saw that my oppression and my freedom were umbilically tied to the oppression and freedom of all my people. So I became a Black Panther….

I also knew that I could never walk over the bodies of black girls like me. For that’s one of the entrance fees….even if I had found…some way to get out of poverty and ease past racism—I could not do to anyone what had been done to me….I want a new arrangement…I want to change the situation—equalize it (pp. 427-428).