July 29, 2016

Today is the perfect day to listen to bell hooks


Hey, America! Good morning.

It’s been an intense couple of weeks, and today may just be the perfect time to spend a half hour with the brilliant bell hooks, scholar, activist, and author of books including Ain’t I a Woman?, Bone Black, We Real Cool, and more than thirty others. Here she is 2002, talking with Ken Paulson on Speaking Freely, the coolly low-fi TV show of the Newseum Institute, which champions free speech rights.

Here’s how hooks begins:

We’ve always thought of our heroes as having to do with death and war. And when we think of Joseph Campbell and the whole idea of the heroic journey, it’s rarely a journey that’s about love. It’s about deeds that have to do with conquering, domination, what have you. And so part of what I wanted to say to people is that living as we do in a culture of domination, to truly choose to love is heroic. To work at love. To really let yourself understand the art of loving.

Whatever’s in your brain today, it’ll be better with this interview mixed in:


Later, she speaks of “radical openness”:

How do we hold those differing senses of who we are? That’s one of the reasons I like writing about love—because when people love people, they never think they’re going to just think the same. People will say to me, “When we try to get our group together to talk about race, there’s going to be conflict.” And I say, well, have you ever had a love relationship with someone where there’s no conflict? Why do we expect that we’re going to get together and talk about race and racism and not have, perhaps, anger, conflict, when we don’t expect in the deepest areas of our lives, our intimate lives? We recognize conflict will be a part of trying to have a relationship with somebody who is not you. And we don’t recognize that when it comes to difficult issues. And often that’s where we start censoring and shutting down.

hooks is razor-sharp and dizzyingly prescient throughout the interview, touching on subjects that include the risk-averseness of the publishing industry, the positive and negative uses of political correctness, and her own life.

America finally has two presidential candidates, puh-lenty to talk about, and, this week, a meteorological situation that would make more sense on Venus. It’s hard to imagine a better strategy for dealing with it all than setting aside a half hour to listen to bell hooks, and then thinking through what she has to say.