In “Homeplace (a site of resistance),” bell hooks writes about the way that black women have worked to preserve the home. “Since sexism delegates to females the task of creating and sustaining a home environment, it has been primarily the responsibility of black women to construct domestic households as spaces of care and nurturance in the face of the brutal harsh reality of racist oppression, of sexist domination” (384). Not only have the women had that responsibility, but they handled it. They were able to create homes, some even female-headed, that created stability for their families even as they spent time working for others in order to earn the money to support their households. “It is more important that they took this conventional role and expanded it to include caring for one another, for children, for black men, in ways that elevated our spirits, that kept us from despair, that taught some of us to be revolutionaries able to struggle for freedom” (385). Even while the outside world might reject them, try to crush them and institutionally incline them to feeling small, those homes were sanctuaries.
“Throughout our history, African-Americans have recognized the subversive value of homeplace, of having access to private space where we do not directly encounter white racist aggression” (388). Even while Jim Crow type laws create an outside environment that creates a false sense of superiority in the white child and a false sense of inferiority in the black child, when the black child has this homeplace, they can learn to overcome those externals. But only as long as the homeplace is preserved as that site of resistance. “That liberatory struggle has been seriously undermined by contemporary efforts to change that subversive homeplace into a site of patriarchal domination of black women by black men, where we abuse one another for not conforming to sexist norms” (388). Black women were quietly resisting by creating environments where their children could flourish. But then the comparisons began. Negativity towards female-headed households began to undermine that stable homeplace. All to be more like what was seen as normal.
hooks wants black women to reform the homeplace into a sanctuary for political as well as personal reasons. “When black women renew our political commitment to homeplace, we can address the needs and concerns of young black women who are groping for structures of meaning that will further their growth, young women who are struggling for self-definition” (389). Young women who, presumably, will go on to perpetuate the fortress, the safety, of the homeplace for the generation that follows.