Black Feminism and Black Feminist Epistemology is a source of subjugated knowledge that emanated from the distinctive themes of African-American women’s experiences. For long these experiences had been excluded from what counts as knowledge due to the lingering influence of elite White men who control the structures of knowledge. However, an in-depth analysis into these themes has proven their superiority to traditional organizational theories for leadership theory. African Feminist theory emphasizes the need to assess and determine the validity of knowledge claims. Black Feminist Epistemologies have a positive influence on organizational structures when appropriately applied.
Application of Black Feminist Epistemologies in Organizational Structures.
To begin with, African Feminist Epistemologies forward 4 essential tenets that can be used to ascertain the validity of knowledge claims. These are the use of concrete experience as a criterion of meaning, the ethics of caring, the use of dialogue in assessing knowledge claims, and the ethics of personal accountability (Collins 253). The above tenets focus our attention to interlocking oppressions of class, race, gender, and other identities. These four tenets are equally important within organizational structures.
To start with, concrete experiences make better experts of knowledge than thought and readings. As such, individuals who have lived through experiences suffice as more credible and believable knowledge experts than their counterparts who have merely read or thought about the knowledge. The wisdom garnered from life experiences is essential in enabling an individual to survive in all environments including repressive environments. This wisdom is essential to the survival of subordinates whereas knowledge on its own is only beneficial to the powerful. Organizational structures can borrow from this epistemology by giving an opportunity to everyone with relevant experiential knowledge regardless of race, class, gender, and sex. The wisdom garnered through their life experiences helps in building the valuable skill of problem solving in these persons.
Secondly, Black Feminism advocates for the use of dialogue in assessing knowledge claims. Dialogue fosters connectedness rather than separation. As such, knowledge claims can be fostered during dialogue with others. African Feminists effectively used dialogue to validate knowledge claims (Sprague & Diane 29). They applied the following two-pronged approach to make their dialogues credible and dependable. First, everyone present must participate in the dialogue and no one was left out for any reason. Secondly, everyone was expected and permitted to speak out what they believed in the dialogue. This process ensured that all points of view were taken into account and the mutual concluding remarks were well tested and proven from multiple life experiences. This is applicable to current organizational structures that leave the decision making role to a selected few personnel. They should embrace dialogue through connectedness and put in place structures that will allow anyone to freely speak out what they believe in without fear of reproach.
Thirdly, Black Feminism encourages the ethic of caring as a result of people being individually unique, having emotions, and empathy. African-American women believed in the tradition of African humanism; every individual was a distinct representation of a common energy, spirit, or power presence in all life. As such, emotion depicted that an individual deeply believed in the validity and reliability of an argument. This tradition also encouraged empathy for individuals who were struggling as a result of their past struggles of life. This epistemology encourages organizational structures to design frameworks that can accommodate workers with struggles and difficulties emanating from their past struggles. As such, it is essential that organizational structures have counselling measures as previous struggles in life may re-emerge in the form of stress and depression and hinder individual performance.
Lastly, Black Feminism acknowledged the relationship between knowledge claims and personal identity. This fostered the tenet of ethic of personal accountability (Clemons 4). Black Feminism acknowledged the fact that every idea had a knower and the knower’s identity was equally important. As such an individual’s knowledge claims were connected to the individual’s character, ethics, and values. African-American women believed that every individual must take a personal position on issues and should assume full responsibility for the validity of their agreements. As such, this formed individuals who were confident on their arguments and took a firm stance on their personal beliefs. Organizational structures can borrow from this epistemology by ensuring that they perform background checks and have character development programs. Building a strong, positive character among employees will also build their knowledge claims proportionally.
Black Feminist Epistemologies also encourage the adoption of equity and change leadership as opposed to traditional leadership. Change leaders are expected to lead at multiple levels of change including the community, organizational, and grassroots. All their leadership efforts are focused towards achieving equity ends. Equity and change leaders view leadership as activism, practice every day acts of resistance, and are bridge leaders (Patterson et al. 69). Undertaking leadership as activism entails taking the lead role when applying any organizational changes. Most organizational leaders often lead the application part to the junior level employees and only come up with the change policies. Change leaders, as influenced by Black Feminism, should lead from the front as agents of change toward equitable ends. They are expected to imbibe any federal or state policies and translate and leverage them into achieving equitable ends in their organizations.
Equity leaders focus their actions towards achieving a wider scope of transformation; societal and communal. They strive towards achieving this end through small steps such as everyday acts of resistance within jurisdictions with established status quos. Black Feminism postulates that it is these small everyday acts of resistance that lead to entire equity changes within the institution, community, and society. As such, these efforts should not be overlooked. An example of such small efforts adding towards a bigger impact is the use of language appropriately. Language is an effective tool in eliminating inequalities related to gender, race, disability, and sex. Language connotations such as calling employees from less developed backgrounds low-income earners instead of poor people goes a long way into destabilizing discrimination based on economic status.
Black Feminism advocates for change leaders bridging the gap between lower level workers and the management, especially for workers in discriminating and oppressive contexts. There’s an urgent need for equity leadership in such organizational structures. According the lower level employees a voice and an avenue where they can voice their dissatisfactions will foster oneness and organizational harmony,
Black Feminism Epistemologies, in additional to the aforementioned influences, also informs organizational structures’ ideals concerning morality and social responsibility. They view equity leadership as a moral obligation emanating from within the leader rather than a requirement to be rewarded by a salary or wage. As such, leaders lead by example by advocating for marginalized groups and setting up structures to break the status quo of discrimination. Their contractual obligations fall secondary to this moral responsibility.
Black Feminism and Black Feminism Epistemologies can contribute a lot to the existing body of knowledge governing conventional organizational structures. These epistemologies include the use of concrete experiences to form knowledge claims, dialogue to assess these claims, the use of ethics and personal accountability. Black Feminism also encourages the adoption of change leadership with ideals such as bridge leadership, activism in leadership, and everyday acts of resistance. These epistemologies are aimed towards achieving social justice in leadership on top of the organizational goals. Equity is the pivotal concern coupled with eradicating discrimination of all kinds.
Clemons, Kristal Moore. “Black Feminist Thought and Qualitative Research in Education.” Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Education. 2019.
Collins, Patricia Hill. Black feminist thought: Knowledge, consciousness, and the politics of empowerment. Routledge, 2002.
Patterson, Ashley, et al. “Black feminist thought as methodology: Examining intergenerational lived experiences of Black women.” Departures in Critical Qualitative Research 5.3 (2016): 55-76.
Sprague, Joey, and Diane Kobrynowicz. “A feminist epistemology.” Handbook of the sociology of gender. Springer, Boston, MA, 2006. 25-43.