The Antithesis of Activism

bellAn excerpt from Killing Rage: Ending Racism (1995) by bell hooks:

Confronting my rage, witnessing the way it moved me to grow and change, I understood intimately that it had the potential not only to destroy but also to construct.  Then and now I understand rage to be a necessary aspect of resistance struggle.  Rage can act as a catalyst inspiring courageous action.  By demanding that black people repress and annihilate our rage to assimilate, to reap the benefits of material privilege in white supremacist capitalist patriarchal culture, white folks urge us to remain complicit with their efforts to colonize, oppress and exploit.  Those of us black people who have the opportunity to further our economic status willingly surrender our rage.  Many of us have no rage.  As individual black people increase their class power, live in comfort, with money mediating the viciousness of racist assault, we can come to see both the society and white people differently.  We experience the world as infinitely less hostile to blackness than it actually is.  This shift happens particularly as we buy into liberal individualism and see our individual fate as black people in no way linked to collective fate.  it is that link that sustains full awareness of the daily impact of racism on black people, particularly its hostile and brutal assaults…

…Forgetfulness and denial enable masses of privileged black people to live the “good life” without ever coming to terms with black rage.  Addictions of all sorts, cutting across class, enable black folks to forget, take the pain and the rage away, replacing it with dangerous apathy and hard-heartedness.  Addictions promote passive acceptance of victimization.  In recent times conservative black thinkers have insisted that many black folks are wedded to a sense of victimization.  That is only a partial truth.  To tell the whole truth they would have to speak about the way mainstream white culture offers the mantle of victimization as a substitute for transformation of society.  White folks promote black victimization, encourage passivity by rewarding those black folks who whine, grovel, beg and obey…The presence of black victimization is welcomed.  It comforts many whites precisely because it is the antithesis of activism.  Internalization of victimization renders black folks powerless, unable to assert agency on our behalf.  When we embrace victimization, we surrender our rage.

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