Should be clear from the beginning as Dr. Brittney Cooper is in her book: this is a book written by a black woman for black women. It’s diametric opposite target is a white guy like me. I knew that going in but you should know that as well.
That being said, most bestselling books, even non-fiction essay collections, are targeted to white men. But white men can’t teach other white men about Black women, Black feminism, etc. I’ve appreciated Dr. Brittney Cooper’s work from afar, both on social media and in the public appearances she’s done. So when I saw this on sale, I figured I’d grab a copy and learn something.
There was a lot I learned, especially about the expressions of Black feminism in the United States, how they drive the feminist movement, why Black women express complex feelings towards other Black women, to Black men, white men and other groups.
But what I think makes this book work is how Dr. Cooper was willing to lean into the messiness and contradictions of believing and living feminism. That’s a tough thing for public intellectuals to do. So few Black people, and even fewer Black women/femme intellectuals get the “public intellectual” title from white audiences. So to see her make quality academic arguments while putting herself out there…I just hope folks who read it realize what a gift it is.
Dr. Cooper’s focus in her arguments is her rage. How her rage at a system that disdains her existence is channeled against its worst actors. While she holds criticism of Black men and Black institutions writ large, her fire is directed at the power brokers of a white supremacist system that churns through Black people, especially Black women. The “Bag Lady” essay was probably my favorite because it’s the most concisely argued and the locus on which the book rests: it’s not Black women’s responsibility to unpack the bags the world has handed them.
I really appreciated her willingness to put herself out there and share her intellectual energy with the world. It’s a better place for it.