Black feminist scholar discusses racial inequalities

Dr. Brittney Cooper, a professor of women's and gender studies and African studies, encouraged students to fight injustices and ask questions in an event for Black History Month.

A scholar of black women’s intellectual history and thought explained the struggles blacks and women are currently facing and ways to fight injustice in a speech for Black History Month Thursday night.

Dr. Brittney Cooper, an assistant professor of women’s and gender studies and African studies at Rutgers University, urged students not to accept the status quo and to fight for the big questions. “If you see a good fight, get in it,” she said.

Hosted by the Delta Sigma Theta Fraternity and the Office of Multicultural Affairs, the speech was one of many events on the Black History Month calendar, which is celebrated in February both nationally and at Syracuse University.

Cooper addressed cases that sparked dialogue on racial inequality, specifically focusing what happened to Trayvon Martin. Some people believe George Zimmerman targeted Martin because of his race, resulting in anger and protests across the nation. Cooper encouraged those who were enraged to channel their anger effectively. Because many blacks are punished for speaking out when angry, they are conditioned to remain quiet. Cooper challenged this by asking students to “never stop asking questions,” emphasizing how important it is to participate in “the good fights” and be relentless with questions until satisfied with the answers.

Cooper is the co-founder of the Crunk Feminist Collective, a group that “articulate a crunk feminist consciousness for women and men of color, who came of age in the Hip Hop Generation,” and is active in progressive feminist visions. She also discussed the importance of feminism in her speech.

Soleil Young, who studies women and gender studies at Syracuse University and attended the event, said it was nice to hear people in the field speak about feminism. “As a white feminist, it is important to hear people who aren’t of the same background to make sure you hear their voices and understand the problems they face as well,” she said.

Cooper, who writes frequently for publications, is an advocate for change. She regularly contributes to online sites like,,, NPR, The New York Times, and The Los Angeles Times among others. She spreads her ideas on racial inequality and gender inequality and how to tackle them.

Before leaving the stage in front of a large audience in the Joyce Hergenhan Auditorium in Newhouse III, Cooper encouraged everyone to focus their attention on what they can build and create, not what they can criticize and take down.

“Ask yourself what keeps you up at night,” Cooper said. “Find out what moves you and what conversations you want to have and don’t be afraid to face them.”


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