Summary: Here is a clip of Loretta Ross, co-founder and national coordinator of SisterSong-Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, commenting on the origins of the term "women of color". As Ross suggests, people often forget that the term "women of color" is not a biologically-based description but has a political and ideological history. Ross explains that the term stems from meetings in 1977 at the International Women's Year Conference (WYC) in Houston, Texas. In response to the growing awareness that the unique concerns and challenges of Black women were not being addressed in the women's movement more broadly, a group of Black women from Washington DC traveled to the conference to propose a Black women's agenda. At the conference, groups representing other minority women joined the Black Women's Agenda (BWA), and the new alliance adopted the more inclusive term "women of color". Thus Ross notes that the term is "a solidarity definition; a commitment to work in collaboration with other oppressed women of color." Ross recounts a history which emphasizes the need for women of color to come together as a distinct political community. She emphasizes a moment of affiliation for a political cause within the women's movement, but she is also implicitly discussing the importance of recognizing the varied and distinct, intersectional identities of women. After showing the clip, instructors might provocatively ask students to consider how they would respond to the usual attack leveled against identity politics, which would claim that the BWA splintered the women's movement and made it less effective.
Submitted By: Lester Andrist