What white kids disrespect for bell hooks revealed

When I saw bell hooks a few weeks ago, I was disappointed in a few of my peers who, for some reason, couldn’t keep quiet during her lecture.

A few young men in the audience — not to mention white young men — spoke loudly to one another right over the top of her words for almost the entirety of the event.

You know who you are.

You think you have stuff to say that is worth more than the words of bell hooks?

Was that act not the most blatant illustration of white male power over black femininity?

While I’m not advocating a Puritanistic reverence be enforced at meetings like these — hooks openly welcomed the audience to participate verbally — I am advocating respect. Respect for a woman who has accomplished a lot against the American grain (probably more than any of us ever will), made extremely important contributions to academic conversation, helped people extract and work through their prejudices and dispelled loneliness in those who suffer under dominant ideologies.

What books have you written, dudes? How have you contributed to society besides getting your political tattoos and making yourselves appear radical?

One of the questions hooks said she has grappled with over the course of her career is, “How do people change?” I think the most elementary answer, for idiots like us, is being able to shut up when someone who knows more than you is talking.

A politics of accountability is what we need, said hooks, and an understanding of the roots of dominator thinking in order to develop a critical consciousness, a societal awareness.

But if we can’t even be accountable for our own actions, i.e., we can’t even hold our mouths shut for an hour while an important figure of anti-racism, anti-sexism and peace speaks, well, this is all I have to say: Good luck with your lives of artifice, your minds of impenetrability.

The roots of dominator thinking were, for me, exposed right there on Monday, March 29, in the audacity of that occurrence — white, undergraduate males thinking their words take precedence over hooks’.
We must learn to see that still embedded in us deeply is a system hooks calls the “white-supremacist-capitalist-patriarchy.” No matter how alternative or left-wing we appear, no matter how far we think we’ve stepped outside, it surrounds and pervades us. When will we figure out, Generation Y, that we can’t just simply wear the symbols of ideology?

Where do our commodities end and our hearts begin?

I want to publically extend my admiration to Matthew Jonassaint who, at this event, asked a complicated and thoughtful question, and delivered it with eloquence at that. Matthew, you are a bright hope.

13 Responses to "What white kids disrespect for bell hooks revealed"

  1. Dr. Perry Cox   April 12, 2010 at 9:33 pm

    “Was that act not the most blatant illustration of white male power over black femininity?”

    Answer: No, it wasn’t.

    Look, Whitney, a few dumb kids who just happen to be jerks is not, in fact, an example of “a system hooks calls the “white-supremacist-capitalist-patriarchy.” In fact, as someone who attended and noticed no such widespread disturbance, I’m pretty sure that bell hooks would be embarrassed to be associated with this article.

  2. Benjamin   April 12, 2010 at 9:39 pm

    Really? I was there, and it was quite as a mouse where I was sitting. If this really happened, and I am not sure it did, then the real problem is professors offering extra credit to students who attend events that they clearly have no interest in.

  3. A Black female who attended   April 15, 2010 at 2:15 pm

    Dr. Perry Cox,

    As I read the article there was no mention of a “widespread” disturbance, but simply of a local disturbance that affected the individuals within this space. Though you’ve so neatly portrayed yourself as the voice of reason amongst this supposed sensationalism the reality of your exaggeration suggests the opposite. Your validation or non-validation of someone elses’ experience is irrelevant – because you didn’t hear it or see it didn’t happen? (Also directed to Benjamin). You are a shining example of the problem. “Let me correct your reality…I’ve appointed myself as master and overseer…” – The White Male

    Furthermore, your condescending speech: “Look, Whitney…”, subtext: “look little girl, nice attempt to be intellectual but let me correct what you’re saying” is offensive and also quite telling of who you are and what position you hold in our…

  4. A Black female who attended   April 15, 2010 at 2:18 pm

    society. You wreak of white patriarchal privilege. If you disagree – then disagree – but do so in a fashion of mutual respect and not belittlement. Since you are not female and are not a female of color, your assumption of what bell hooks would or would not feel is beyond ludicrous. Realize you are in no way, shape, or form qualified to assert what you’re “pretty sure” bell hooks would feel embarrassed about. You sir, are the embarrassment and entirely out of line. Check yourself.

  5. Xavier Gutierrez   April 20, 2010 at 2:43 am

    I was at the belle hooks forum as well. I did not hear a sound and I was sitting towards the back. It was very quiet during her presentation. I have to agree with Dr. Perry Cox and Benjamin. As for “A black female who attended” well, you must have skipped over the second paragraph. It states, “A few young men in the audience — not to mention white young men — spoke loudly to one another right over the top of her words for almost the entirety of the event.” The author wrote “in the audience” which is to have the reader imply that it was a widespread disturbance. As for your diatribe which makes up your second paragraph, there was nothing condescending or belittling about him saying, “Look, Whitney.” He is simply addressing her by her name. Many people both male and female address each other like that when debating or trying to prove a point. You look like the one who has…

  6. Xavier Gutierrez   April 20, 2010 at 2:43 am

    failed at your attempt to be intellectual.

  7. Jamie   April 20, 2010 at 7:49 pm

    Xavier, “in the audience” in no way implies a “widespread disturbance” – it simply states the proper location of the “few young men” mentioned and reads with no meaning beyond that. Also, you seemed to have missed the point expressed entirely as you did exactly what is being calling out. You didn’t hear it so therefore it didn’t happen? You were “in the back” of the auditorium and this means you were somehow capable of seeing and hearing everywhere at once? Oh ye omniscient god of the auditorium! Yes, you, Cox, and Benjamin can get together and attempt to invalidate what you are already admitting you know nothing about, as you mentioned, you didn’t hear it. As for the “attempt to be intellectual” – you misspelled bell hooks’ name…check your references and topic (ie. at least spell it correctly) before you give pointers about debate rhetoric champ. Its the details that…

  8. Jamie   April 20, 2010 at 7:51 pm

    give credence. Sloppy argument all around.

  9. Dr. Perry Cox   April 24, 2010 at 5:34 pm

    I’m sorry, A Black female who attended, but are you honestly implying that because I don’t share a gender or color with hooks then I can never understand what she’s saying or feeling? Well that was time wasted listening to her then if I’ll never be able to learn anything from that experience! The reason I wrote that hooks would be embarrassed to be associated with this article is because she seems like an intelligent, well-rounded, reasonable person that would shun any kind of sensationalist grandstanding on her behalf, something that this article smacks of. But since I’m a white male my opinion is automatically disqualified, right? Funny. Seems like hooks would be against that kind of discrimination.

  10. Xavier Gutierrez   April 28, 2010 at 1:14 am

    Wow Jaime, getting personal are you? You should know that the Regan Theater is not very big and with a quiet audience, anyone would be able to hear people having a conversation that was drowning out bell hooks. Also you are jumping to conclusions and I did not do what was being called out. You also assume that because I was in the back that I was “able to see and hear everything.” Were you at the bell hooks forum, Jamie? If you were, then you would know that it was deathly quiet while she was speaking.

  11. provo sucks   April 30, 2010 at 11:45 am

    i attended and was not distracted by anyone, but i’m not surprised your experience was ruined by localized chatter. i think the kids at uvu are extremely disrespectful. i was in a biology class this semester and there are a few kids (all happen to be white males, but who isn’t here besides me?) who will have full on conversations and laugh loudly during lectures in a classroom of only 30 kids. I can’t wrap my mind around it.

    I really can’t stand living in this state anymore, but as I get older I’ve come to realize that Americans in general just have bad manners. it could be a deep seated white male dominance thing, I have no idea, but i wish people could just learn that they in fact are not entitled to ruin everyone else’s important moments.

    i would choose puritanistic-level respect over what we have now (at least in terms of being quiet when everyone else is trying to…

  12. Employed Taxpayer   May 24, 2010 at 3:45 pm

    I realize I’m arriving a month late to this conversation, but it’s so ridiculous I couldn’t help but comment. I was actually looking on the UVU web site trying to get in to the Recruiters section to post a job listing. However after this enlightening exchange I think I’ll pass and just advertise the position at the other University in town.

    Not even the Dr. understands or took the time to capitalize a proper noun. Congratulations to everyone on pulling out your thesaurus though, at least you’ve got that going for you.

    I agree Utah is frustrating and I’m counting the days until I move back to Philadelphia. By the way, there actually are black people in Philadelphia, and it’s a refreshing change of pace from Utah where everyone is either an active Mormon or a Mormon who’s trying really hard not to be a Mormon.

  13. Ted Logan   March 10, 2014 at 9:31 pm

    Maybe these are kids who for their entire lives have been told how bad they are, how they to always insider their “privilege”, and how much harder everyone else has it and are sick of it. Bell hooks and all women/minorities have had it great for the last 30 years and maybe white men are sick of it!


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