Do Not Follow In bell hooks' Footsteps. Seek What She Sought
Battles Worth Waging: "Feminist Thinking: In the Classroom Right Now"

Breaking Bread with bell hooks: Holding My Sister's Hand

Holding My Sister's Hand is a relatable chapter. In it, hooks discusses how black and white women share a complicated relationship. The relationship between servant and mistress of the house. The relationship began with jealousy, rivalry, and sexual competition (black women, white men). It's effects continue to this day. Fear informs this friction. Black women fear betrayal if they acknowledge otherwise friendly overtures by white women. White women fear exposure if they make such overtures. The solution? hooks proposes two. Both involve the breaking of bread. Feminist psychoanalysis can examine these feelings of fear. A a safe space fosters a discussion of white female racism and black female response. This productive space allows women to engage in critical dialogue, critical dissent. A space where they can let go of the hurt. A listening space to encourage meaningful bonding.
I like how hooks works through the issue as she writes. This gives us insight into how she identifies problems, how she proposes solutions. The identifications are universal. The solutions are provisional, as they should be. Often she prefaces them with perhaps and maybe. She does this so we apply what we learn in Teaching to Transgress to our individual cases.
She understands the enormity of the task: to get everyone on the same page. She understands the historical dimension of the issues and their contemporary relevance. She understands that it will take a lot of work. She understands that it can't begin without the airing out of grievances. Only then can healing begin. I agree.
This chapter gave me insight into her use of several words. Disrupt, challenge, transgress, and critical dissent. In my second excursion through the book, I've tried to come to terms with these words. I wondered if they suited our particular purposes. Now I see they do. They refer to nothing more than a frank and sincere exchange of ideas. It suggests that the best way to change society is to begin with a meaningful connection. In a contentious society, engagement in a meaningful connection is a radical act.


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