In studying the consciousness of the oppressed groups, black women challenge two approaches:
- This approach claims that “subordinate groups identify with the powerful and have no valid independent interpretation of their own oppression.” (Collins, 338)
- This approach assumes that “the oppressed are less human than their rulers and, therefore are less capable of articulating their own standpoint.” (Collins, 339)
What does this mean? The oppressed have an inaccurate consciousness of their own inferiority. They understand the worthiness of the powerful but are not mentally capable or equipped to understand their own oppression. They cannot proclaim their position. They are unable to fully articulate their oppression but they understand how they are defined by society and they accept it for what it is.
According to Patricia Hill Collins, this approach however, is not applicable to the African American woman even though she is amongst an oppressed group. Collins provides us with assimilating views as to how women have a “self-defined standpoint on their own oppression.” Number one, African American women are provided with a distinctive set of experiences allowing them a different view of reality that is otherwise not offered to other groups. Second, these experiences that she talks about stimulate a distinctive black feminist consciousness concerning the material reality.
Black feminist thought corroborates the notion that black women can think independently and provide a different view of their standpoint than the one that is established and defined to us by society. If this consciousness is constantly articulated, then black women will begin to think in an innovative way allowing themselves to be more powerful than ever before and live up to their full potential, while before, the mindset of oppression that was so deeply rooted in their minds before was a deterrent.