Ferguson relates the oppression of a variety of social groups: African Americans, homosexuals, the working class, and women through an analysis of Audrey Lorde’s unique ideas about the struggle of the oppressed as a community experiencing it together. She explores a number of movements in the 20th century like feminism and the women of color movement to find common notions of how these movements influenced social change. He also looks at black matriarchy and black nationalism for how these often competing discourses influenced the experience of oppression in Western society. Ferguson utilizes a black nationalist text, The Moynihan Report, and Toni Morrison’s Sula for how these texts manifested some of the results of these various intersecting movements for blacks, females, and lesbians. Ferguson argues, “Black lesbian intellectual and political practices became the trace of hetereogeneous social formations within capital’s new global phase” (112).
Ferguson attempts to periodize women of color’s feminism movement from 1945 to 1970. Again, he connects this movement to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s and the emergence of the Black Panther Party to determine the differing types of discourses that influenced each movement and qualified as social exchange between the various groups. Ferguson again relates national liberation and black nationalism for various impact points. He concludes that the rise of liberalism in general offered new and often overlapping theories on race, gender, and sexuality. He connects lesbianism to a specific version of identity politics, and the novel Sula with both upward and downward movement of minority social structures in U.S. society. Ferguson moves us toward an attempt to globalize but not universalize identity formation through looking at race, sexuality, and gender in a non-oppressive manner so that we can analyze the differentiated histories of women of color and queers of color for what they can teach us about affecting social change through changing conceptions of identity and culture.
Careful with your context when reading quickly, Nick! The Moynihan Report is not a black nationalist text — it is a government report that created the idea of “black matriarchy” and blamed black women for the lack of achievement of working class black men, rather than looking to a structural analysis of racism.
In your first paragraph you talk about “African Americans, homosexuals, the working class, and women” as “a variety of social groups” — but it’s very crucial to Ferguson’s argument that these are not understood as separate categories, but rather positions that must be understood through an analysis of intersecting systems of power and oppression.