The feminist icon bell hooks addresses a wide range of issues affecting society through her insightful Black Looks: Race and Representation collection of 12 essays. Among the topics bell hooks has elaborately tackled include black sexuality, the commodification of black culture and black history, masculinity, as well the experiences of people of color in a white supremacist capitalist patriarchy.
As a feminist, bell hooks is alive to the existing race issues and how African American women have been silenced and marginalized by the system. She addresses such critical topics with criticism about racial representation in a society dominated by white patriarchy. Despite being written in the 90s, the book is quite interesting, educative, enlightening, and relevant. “Loving Blackness as Political Resistance” particularly touches on ways blackness is negatively represented and its outcome on black people. Eating the Other and Selling Hot Pussy is another incredibly relevant piece that tackles commodification of black culture, how black sexuality is perceived by white people, appropriation and fetishization, and the way black women see themselves in their own culture.
Additionally, bell hooks highlights the way people have internalized sexism and racism. Her look at black male masculinity and how black men have internalized sexism to mistreat their black sisters is clearly addressed in “Reconstructing Black Masculinity.” The essay on Madonna brings out eye-opening insights into the racist and sexist things that Madonna did since the book was published. She doesn’t stop there but focuses on the need for both white and black men and women to decolonize their minds, ideologies, and thoughts for a cohesive society.
The book also reiterates that white people often find it hard to fathom the psychological trauma and terror that historical oppressions continue to exhibit on people of color, especially when they have to bear the ongoing oppression and racism. This aspect is comprehensively addressed in the final essay on Revolutionary Renegades. Bell hooks demonstrates the active attempts by the society to suppress parts of the history of solidarity and kinship between African Americans and Native Americans. This book is definitely a must read, not just for feminists, but for anyone looking to understand the underlying racism and sexism issues affecting society.