February 01, 2013

Black History Month, Hate, & bell hooks

Today is February 1st, which officially marks the beginning of Black History Month. Depending on whom or how you are, this month evokes the myriad of feelings. It will either present a slew of little known but teachable moments in American history that you’ll appreciate; will prompt you to arrogantly refute factual information and espouse the ahistoricism taught to you by your high school history teacher; or it’ll serve as an excuse for you to assuage whatever feelings of white guilt you may (or may not) harbor, emboldening you to employ a series of silencing tactics when Black people share their lived experiences and the historically significant strides of those before them.

Black History Month is one of those commemorative moments that never ceases to heighten whatever feelings of resentment some white people still harbor towards Black people, inducing them to tap into the darkest recesses of ignorance roiling in the pit of their stomach, so they can spew bile across various social media platforms.

If you’re former Saturday Night Live comedienne cum social media jester Victoria Jackson or a prolifically racist Twitter troll, anti-Black sentiment is year-round, and especially vitriolic during BHM. Rage-typing ensues and results in myopic questions such as: “How come there’s no White History Month? It’s not like ‘The Blacks’ had it that bad!“


Since the souls of Black folk are often undaunted by this kind of bigotry and racism and continue
 to follow through with stoking productive discourse on race and relaying our stories, I’d like to kick-off Black History Month by recognizing the stories and works of and by Black women (past and present) who’ve left their indelible mark or carved out a niche for themselves in the myriad of ways, but whose stories go unheralded in the larger fabric of Black achievement and history. And what better voice to cite than that of writer, social critic, and Black feminist theorist bell hooks; whose work I became acquainted with my freshman year of college via her book “Talking Back: Thinking Feminist, Thinking Black”, which I picked up at an on-campus book sale.

“Talking Back” is a volume of essays in which hooks writes about developing a strong a sense of self as a Black woman and feminist, and daring to speak out against racism and misogyny; often a challenge riddled with anxiety for many Black women, who’re silenced by tropes that brand [us] as Angry BlackWomen or combative Sapphires,when we do stand up in the name of our humanity.   

hooks has been instrumental in helping emphasize the concept of intersectionaly-- which recognizes that gender, race, class, and all other forms of oppression-- aren't mutually exclusive, as well as shedding light on the lack of and marginalization of diverse voices in feminist theory and has said: “To be in the margin is to be part of the whole but outside the main body”. 


hooks is also noted for dissecting race in popular culture, film, music, and media, and critiquing racial appropriation -  (In "Black Looks: Race and Representation, hooks takes pop-star, Madonna to task in her essay: “Madonna: PlantationMistress or Soul Sister?”).  

hooks’s is a voice every young woman and man, Black, brown, or white, should familiarize themselves with. Her work is an important and essential part of conversations about feminist theory, mass media, gender and racial politics. Those who bemoan Black History Month and who haven't a clue about the work women like bell hooks offers the world, need it the most, so might want to consider cracking open a book out of their own curiosity. 

3 comments:

OwningTheMic said...

Refreshing blog post. Love me some bell hooks.

Tiff J said...

@OwningTheMic: You and me both! Thanks for reading!

APGifts said...

.
Will someone please be so kind to inform Ms. Jackson
of the fact that ... 'WHITE HISTORY MONTH' IS held
and celebrated EVERY OCTOBER (in the U.S.A.)?
.
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Generation-Mixed/message/4242.
.
Thus -- the 'whining' (on all sides)
can stop at anytime, thank you.
.