In a Classroom of their Own: The Intersection of Race and Feminist Politics in All-Black Male Schools (pre-order now), details the theoretical, political, and policy implications of how I approach intersectionality. The book’s point of departure is all-black male schools (ABMSs) which have been praised by an assortment of strange bedfellows, including the Nation of Islam’s Louis Farrakhan and Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg.
Supporters of ABMSs argue that these schools are needed to counter black boys’ racist emasculation in white, “overly” feminine classrooms. This claim is neither surprising nor contradictory. Instead, it is evidence that intersectionality is a heuristic that illuminates mutually constructing systems of oppression but that does not dictate which systems, who is consequently oppressed, or the best way to alleviate their oppression. As a result, proponents of ABMSs feel free to champion anti-racist education for black boys while obscuring black girls’ own school-based oppression.
The fact that these proponents foreground black boys’ underachievement in the nation’s unequal schools also sheds important light on the merits of experience- based politics. Plainly put, this kind of politics often reflects a dialectical reality in which appeals to “experience” arise from patriarchal assumptions and foster anti-racist demands.
My analysis not only exposes the limitations of intersectionality and experience-based politics. It also uses the discourse in favor of ABMSs to discern how educationally disadvantaged black people can build coalitions that challenge patriarchy and racism. Such coalitions are possible when blacks critically assess each other’s experiential claims. They are also possible when black people assume that good public schools foster black self-determination and prepare black children, of all genders, to evaluate what life in a democratic polity looks like.