Love and Rage: A guest editorial from Katey Pants

Bell Hooks

Today I have had this “Less Hate More Love” crap shoved down my throat. Now that I have your attention- let me tell you- I think the world does need a lot of love. Our society causes many of us to be broken, traumatized, fragmented, and isolated. Good politics and good practices should help us heal, bring us closer, and should inspire us to love openly. However; the idea that we should approach all of our interactions and root our analysis only in love is not only simplistic- it is anti-feminist, silencing, and counters much of what we value throughout history.

Most of my feminist upbringing and socialization is directly related to the works of bell hooks. I love bell hooks and her contributions to race, class, and gender politics are invaluable. However; in the past couple of years she has turned her attention away from political struggle to more of an individual and spiritual look of oppression. She has also not pushed herself to engage with queer/gender/sex positive theories and practices. I recall some of her analysis of BDSM and feminism to be downright sex negative. However; for a long while as a youth I took nearly everything she said as gospel and still hold her near and dear in my heart. Even some of the spiritual woo-ness that she espouses has sort of a place in revolutionary political struggle. However; that place is not in the foreground. Her most recent article Building a Community of Love upsets me for many reasons. Her revisions radical history, her conclusions of radical work, and the simplistic nature that she posits valid political struggle get to my point of why it is positing our world in a love vs. hate is damaging and ineffective.

Hooks starts with:

During my first years in college Martin Luther King’s message of love as the path to ending racism and healing the wounds of racial domination had been replaced by a black power movement stressing militant resistance. While King had called for non-violence and compassion, this new movement called on us to harden our hearts, to wage war against our enemies. Loving our enemies, militant leaders told us, made us weak and easy to subjugate, and many turned their backs on King’s message

Hook’s conclusion is that movements that were not engaged in pacifist struggles were rooted in hate. This- could not be further from the truth. Her example of the Black Panthers focus on militant struggles also erases their work of health care, free breakfast programs, education, and child care. I remember reading the autobiography of Assata Shakur as a budding feminist and knowing that although the Panthers had plenty of problems in regard to their feminist politics; however- their work was done out of love. Also, one need only to scratch the surface of Dr. Kings work to see that his movement was also plagued with similar issues. The biography of Ella Baker stands as an amazing testimony of the simultaneously problematic and inspiring stories of the civil rights movement. However, of course it’s not that simple. People that are the most oppressed don’t need to hear that once we learn to love- then the hate in the world will disappear. At best- that is inaccurate and at worst it is silencing. I am disappointed to hear from hooks and my other friends that we need to close ourselves off to being righteously pissed and must learn in an essence- to turn the other cheek. It is the right of oppressed people across the globe to be pissed. Their pissed voices need to be heard. Their pissed actions need to be validated and supported. Their pissed-offness also has the seeds to a better loving freer world.

Unfortunately, this simplistic assessment of communities and of love lends itself to a very dangerous form of (non)activism where those who are righteously angry with constant injustice, violence, degradation are seen as having ‘too much hate’. This is a form of silencing political progress and the voices whose stories are essential to social change. It pathologizes those who are already hyper-visible/invisible. It creates a nonsense view that our world- which is NOT filled with love will be solved if only those that are oppressed can love. In a sense- it places the blame of lack of social progress on those that are the most affected by oppression instead of on those that oppress.

Think there is too much hate in this world? I agree. But victim-blaming social activists and those that break the silence as being too hateful is not the place to start.

Want a world with compassion? Work for justice. The police, prisons, workplaces, schools, families are all rife with wounds and socialization that is racist, homophobic, not compassionate, and violent.

Want a world where abusive is not the main characteristic that defines most relationships? Work to critically question heteronormativity and heterocentrisim.

Want a world where love is the underlying axiom which we all operate? Build relationships, criticize your assumptions, educate yourself, LISTEN, and engage in struggle.

2 comments to Love and Rage: A guest editorial from Katey Pants

  • Sunshine

    I don’t think hooks is saying that the Black Panthers or “movements not engaged in pacifist struggles are rooted in hate”. After her MLK paragraph you quote she writes about the feminism movement and then says:

    “These two movements for social justice that had captured the hearts and imagination of our nation—movements that began with a love ethic—were changed by leaders who were much more interested in questions of power. By the late seventies it was no longer necessary to silence discussions of love; the topic was no longer on any progressive agenda.”

    I think she is saying that the way she saw anger and oppression channeled into situations that replicated the mainstream ones in that some behaviors were acceptable and others were not. People were told what to do, how to act and think, a very real danger in any movement, replacing one paradigm with another “better” one.

  • Shana

    I agree with Sunshine, I also want to state that just because you read some books in your feminist studies class, doesn’t mean you have any clue what it means to be a person of color, especially a woman of color. I think your “critique” of race and queerness is obnoxious. I do not need some white privileged feminist speaking for me. Please re-think your topics, who might be reading what your writing, and come from a place of respect. I hardly think Assata Shakur would be impressed by your article. The world does need more love and less hate, and pacifism does not make you any less of a feminist or radical. Too many young lesbians these days think this. You can be a peaceful feminist. Not all strong women need to yell. I for one have heard enough yelling, I would prefer to see more action, and more community unity.