Complicating the Triangle of Race, Class, and State: The Insights of Black Feminists

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This article complicates Wacquant's three-sided schema of race, class and state by adding a focus on gender, the experiences of black women, and a black feminist intersectional analysis. Welfare retrenchment in the USA relied on stereotypes of black women, especially the ‘Welfare Queen’, that were at once sexist and racist and implemented policies targeted specifically at them as the vilified beneficiaries of state largess. Attributing social inequality to black women's childbearing furthers race, gender and class oppression in the context of neo-liberalism by legitimizing intensified deprivation and surveillance. A focus on the regulation of black mothers brings to the fore the child welfare system as a critical institution of social supervision, on a par with workfare and prisonfare. A black feminist analysis of the intersection of welfare, prison and foster care in the systemic punishment of black mothers and of strategies for resistance illuminates how racism and neo-liberalism operate together in the USA.

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Ethnic and Racial Studies