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Yearning: Race, Gender, and Cultural Politics

In her book, Yearning, bell hooks dives right into her subtopics of race and gender as she wrestles with the concept of “whiteness.” Detailing it as the primary root of society’s negative forces such as colonization and domination, hooks see whiteness as both her target for her language wrath as well as the obstacle that her view of society needs to get past for equality. And that in turn can open people to the possibility of racial freedom. Later, this concept gets retitled as “racial class conflict,” but it’s the same issue: hooks focuses on white infrastructure as the reason past life is bad and the paradigm shift that is needed is color-based. Part of the struggle that hooks is working in Yearning, however, is that everyone wants their sense of opportunity and equality. But from an African American perspective, there’s plenty to argue the black person hasn’t gotten a fair shake and still is not. Ergo, hooks argument premise.

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American society for years has been built on a hierarchy, and this structure has been around for decades. For bell hooks “whiteness” sits at the top of this structure in Yearning and is both in charge as well as responsible for the maladies and misfortune of those at lower levels in the same hierarchy. Thus, to make a change for the better, it is essential for the same hierarchy to be redesigned or replaced. Trying to maintain it simply perpetuates the root of the problem for hooks.

bell hooks takes the approach of shock and confrontation. Her most attention-getting tools tend to be shocking language, but going deeper hooks’ writing is confrontational as well. She tries to challenge America to stop hoping that things will just get alright over time and to be proactive in pushing for a racial hierarchy realignment. Without it, people cannot fully achieve racial freedom and equality in hooks’ view.

Yearning is a literary struggle in motion. It is an embodiment of anger and frustration as seeing others better off through no apparent difference aside from race and demanding a better explanation than “that’s just the way it is.” We still have a long road to walk as a society; bell hooks is pushing is to keep moving forward instead of just sitting and becoming complacent.

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