Epistemological Taxonomy of Women of Color

By Stephanie Gonzalez

Like most people in today’s time, I had bought into the idea that women were no longer oppressed with the exception of unequal pay which is quite significant if you consider the impact that income has on our lives.  After taking several women’s studies courses I have come to the conclusion that we are not only presently oppressed, but have a unique intersectionality component that can further complicate and impact our lives. As a woman of color I had accepted the façade created by Eurocentric masculinist. This unit on representations has further widened my lens and nurtured my understanding of historical and current oppression.  A true understanding must first begin with learning about the epistemological taxonomy of women of color. I must admit, I had to research the definition of this term, which thanks to Google I found as “relating to the theory of knowledge, especially with regard to its methods, validity, and scope, and the distinction between justified belief and opinion” specifically concerning classifications.

Who created our standpoint and social status? History shows that women of color did not participate in the creation of our taxonomy as seen in the sexualization of black women in Hooks Selling Hot Pussy.  History also show that when women of color reject their given or assigned standpoint, they are often punished or out casted as in the case of Annie Adams who questioned why she could not use the very toilets she was forced to clean (Collins, 1989).  Those in power tend to push their beliefs as superior. Any change in that belief must go up against a knowledge-validation process which is also control by those in power (Collins, 1989). To further strengthen their oppressive reach, those in power will lift up women of color into a position of authority if they strictly adhere to the social inferior identities they created (Collins, 1989). These well-conformed women of color that are granted some authority are rewarded for their ability to influence the rest, but quickly ostracized if they challenge the status quo (Collins, 1989).

We see in the case of Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas that we are not so equal as those in power would like us to believe (Lubiano, 1992).  Lubiano points out the “cover story” or cover up story that displays the false pretensive side-by-side photo of Hill and Thomas being sworn in. The man in a position of power is highly backed with an undisputable reputation of “integrity” and the other seen as a foolish black woman (Lubiano, 1992).  Clarence Thomas’s reputation of dignity and integrity is based on his grandfather’s occupation as a sharecropper and not rightly based on his actual behavior or career record (Lubiano, 1992).  His impeccable prestige is no contender to the Welfare queen persona that was used to shield his power. “Woman, character and merit” where used as a narrative to draw support for Clarence Thomas (Lubiano, 1992). Who buys into these narratives? Is it reduced to only white bias males in our society? Surely not, we (women of color) have also bought into the narrative and have supported the very wave of oppression we seek to break free from. This is why honor crimes still exist and women stay in abusive relationships. We justify the actions of the oppressor. We must, like Collins mentions, be willing to create our own narrative through both knowledge and wisdom.  Create and support a narrative that need not stand against the Eurocentric masculinist knowledge-validation process, because it was never theirs to create or justify.



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