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Breaking the Silence

Toward a Black Male Feminist Criticism

David Ikard

Publication Year: 2007

Can black males offer useful insights on black women and patriarchy? Many black feminists are doubtful. Their skepticism derives in part from a history of explosive encounters with black men who blamed feminism for stigmatizing black men and undermining racial solidarity and in part from a perception that black male feminists are opportunists capitalizing on the current popularity of black women's writing and criticism. In Breaking the Silence, David Ikard goes boldly to the crux of this debate through a series of provocative readings of key African American texts that demonstrate the possibility and value of a viable black male feminist perspective. Seeking to advance the primary objectives of black feminism, Ikard provides literary models from Chester Himes's If He Hollers Let Him Go, James Baldwin's Go Tell It on the Mountain, Toni Morrison's Paradise, Toni Cade Bambara's The Salt Eaters, and Walter Mosley's Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned and Walkin' the Dog that consciously wrestle with the concept of victim status for black men and women. He looks at how complicity across gender lines, far from rooting out patriarchy in the black community, has allowed it to thrive. This complicity, Ikard explains, is a process by which victimized groups invest in victim status to the point that they unintentionally concede power to their victimizers and engage in patterns of behavior that are perceived as revolutionary but actually reinforce the status quo. While black feminism has fostered important and necessary discussions regarding the problems of patriarchy within the black community, little attention has been paid to the intersecting dynamics of complicity. By laying bare the nexus between victim status and complicity in oppression, Breaking the Silence charts a new direction for conceptualizing black women's complex humanity and provides the foundations for more expansive feminist approaches to resolving intraracial gender conflicts.

Published by: Louisiana State University Press

Cover, Title Page, Copyright

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pp. ix

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pp. xi-xiv

I could not have completed this book without the guidance, support, and love of my family, friends, and mentors. Thanks go to my wacky, fun-loving, and fiercely loyal siblings Randy, Crystal, Regina, Terry, Tiffany...

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pp. 1-27

ONE OF THE MOST provocative scenes in Richard Wright's Native Son (1940) occurs when Buckley, the state's prosecuting attorney for Bigger Thomas's murder trial, presents Bessie Mears's mangled black corpse to the jury to reinforce...

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1. Love Jones: A Black Male Feminist Critique of Chester Himes's If He Hollers Let Him Go

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pp. 29-47

IN WRITING HIS ESSAY "A Black Man's Place(s) in Feminist Criticism" Michael Awkward's chief aim was to legitimize black male perspectives on black women's literature. As discussed earlier, this was a daunting task, considering...

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2. Black Patriarchy and the Dilemma of Black Women's Complicity in James Baldwin's Go Tell It on the Mountain

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pp. 49-79

JAMES BALDWIN HAS TAKEN fire on his gender politics from two directions. In Soul on Ice (1968) Eldridge Cleaver asserts that Baldwin's homosexuality renders him unfit to address the concerns of black men. In...

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3. "Killing the White Girl First": Understanding the Politics of Black Manhood in Toni Morrison's Paradise

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pp. 81-104

THE POLITICAL ISSUES CONCERNING black masculinity that Toni Morrison engages in Paradise (1998) are certainly not new in her work. Both Song of Solomon (1977) and Beloved (1987) illuminate the pernicious effects...

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4. "So Much of What We Know Ain't So": The Other Gender in Toni Cade Bambara's The Salt Eaters

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pp. 105-133

IN THE SALT EATERS (1980), her first and most highly regarded novel, Toni Cade Bambara provides critical insights into the cultural variables that frustrate gender relations in the black community. In particular, she dramatizes...

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5. "Like a Butterfly in a Hurricane": Reconceptualizing Black Gendered Resistance in Walter Mosley's Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned and Walkin' the Dog

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pp. 135-171

IN A CRUCIAL SCENE in Walter Mosley's Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned Socrates Fortlow, an ex-con who has been to prison for over thirty years for double homicide and rape, leads a small group of men in deciding...

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pp. 173-175

IN W. E. B. DU BOIS'S lesser-known essay "My Evolving Program for Negro Freedom," he reveals the ways that discrimination and white exploitation altered his perspective on racial uplift and whites. Convinced...

Works Cited

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pp. 177-181


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pp. 183-191

E-ISBN-13: 9780807135693
Print-ISBN-13: 9780807132135

Page Count: 208
Publication Year: 2007