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.