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Black Female Voices: A public dialogue between bell hooks and Melissa Harris-Perry | The New School

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    [ APPLAUSE, CHEERING... ]
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    [ GAIL DRAKES ] Right? Right? Yeah.
    Let me just say, I agree completely.
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    I so approve that message.
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    [ LAUGHTER ]
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    So good afternoon.
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    I'd like to welcome you all
    to this afternoon's event,
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    "Black Female Voices, Who is Listening?",
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    a public dialogue between bell hooks
    and Melissa Harris-Perry,
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    the last public event in bell hooks'
    week-long residency at The New School.
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    My name is Gail Drakes,
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    and I am the director of
    the Office of Social Justice Initiatives,
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    housed within the Office of the Provost,
    here in The New School.
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    The office seeks to both support and amplify
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    the efforts of those who are working throughout
    the university to more fully realize
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    the New Schools progressive vision
    as reflected in all aspects of our institution.
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    Having just arrived in The New School in August,
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    I can say that the bell hooks residency
    has been a highlight in my time here.
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    And that is not only thanks to insights
    shared at various events this week,
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    but because of the excitement it's generated
    within the New School community.
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    In the week leading up to the residency,
    it seemed that at any given moment,
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    just walking down the street, or entering an elevator,
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    you could very likely overhear conversations and
    reflections amongst students, faculty, and staff,
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    on bell hooks and her work.
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    So it is my hope that while
    this week-long residency is ending,
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    that those conversations and reflections
    on the significance of bell hooks' work
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    can continue and expand here at The New School.
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    Of course, I would like to thank-
    I would like us all to thank
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    those who made this event possible,
    and the entire residency possible.
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    So please join me in a round of applause for
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    Stephanie Browner, Dean of Eugene Lang College,
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    Judy Pryor-Ramirez and Catherine Smith of Lang
    Office of Civic Engagement and Social Justice,
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    Heather O'Brien, assistant to the Dean,
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    and everyone at both Berea and the New School
    who helped coordinate these events.
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    [ APPLAUSE ]
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    I do have to announce a small change
    in our schedule.
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    Unfortunately, our guests do have
    to leave immediately after the conversation,
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    and regret that they will not be able
    to sign books as planned,
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    but I am very grateful that we're going
    to still be able to enjoy the conversation.
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    So I have the honor of introducing these women,
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    who I know for so many of us in the room,
    truly need no introduction.
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    But then I am still very pleased to offer this reminder
    of the accomplishment of our guest today.
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    bell hooks is among the leading public intellectuals
    of her generation.
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    Born in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, in 1952, she grew
    up in a working-class family with six siblings.
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    hooks received her B.A.
    from Stanford University in 1973,
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    her M.A. in 1976 from the University of Wisconsin,
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    and her Ph.D. in 1983 from the
    University of California Santa Cruz,
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    with her dissertation on author Toni Morrison.
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    Her use of a pseudonym is intended to honor both
    her grandmother, whose name she took,
    & her mother.
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    While her name's unconventional lower-casing
    signifies what is most important in her works--
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    "the substance of books, not who I am".
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    hooks' writing cover a broad range of topics
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    including teaching, gender, class, and race--
    the idea of a white supremacist capitalist patriarchy.
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    She strongly believes that these topics
    cannot be dealt with separately,
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    but must be understood as interconnected and linked
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    in the production and perpetuation of
    systems of oppression and class domination.
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    A prevalent topic in her most recent writing
    is community and communion--
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    the ability of loving communities to overcome
    race, class, and gender inequalities.
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    hooks has written over 30 books,
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    including personal memoirs, poetry collections,
    and children's books,
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    as well as numerous scholarly
    and mainstream articles.
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    She has taught in several colleges and universities,
    lectured widely in public forums,
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    and appeared in several documentary films.
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    Mmm. [ LAUGHTER ] It's a bell hooks bio, a lot
    going on there! I gotta hydrate! [LAUGHTER ]
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    Melissa Harris-Perry is the host of MSNBC's
    Melissa Harris-Perry. [ CHEERING ]
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    The show airs on Saturdays and Sundays,
    which some of you seem to know, probably,
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    from 10 AM to noon, Eastern time.
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    Harris-Perry is a professor of political science
    at Tulane University,
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    where she's the founding director of
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    the Anna Julia Cooper Project on Gender,
    Race, & Politics In The South.
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    Harris-Perry is author of the well-received new book
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    "Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black
    Women in America", published by Yale 2011,
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    and the award-winning text
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    "Barbershops, Bibles, and BET: Everyday Talk and
    Black Political Thought",
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    published by Princeton University Press in 2004.
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    Professor Harris-Perry is a columnist for
    The Nation Magazine,
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    where she writes a monthly column,
    also titled "Sister Citizen".
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    She lives in New Orleans with her husband,
    James Perry,
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    and is a mother of a terrific daughter, Parker.
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    While these bios offer considerable insight
    into all they've done,
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    they can't fully represent the effect
    they've had on so many.
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    Melissa Harris-Perry, Empress of Nerdland,
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    check out her #nerdland hashtag on Twitter
    if you don't know what I mean,
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    has used her show on MSNBC
    to expand the notion
    of what is political,
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    and to amplify the voices of those we rarely, if ever,
    see represented on cable news.
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    She brings the full force of her passion, personality,
    and intellect to her show,
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    and changed what we thought was possible
    on a cable news show.
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    And bell hooks. [ LAUGHING ]
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    There are many ways to determine the reach and
    power of someone's work as a writer and academic.
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    Often we think about number of reviews, the number
    of times one is cited by other scholars, etc.
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    But to understand the significance
    of bell hooks' work,
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    you must think in terms of the number of
    lives touched and world-views transformed.
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    While I navigate a society that offers
    such a painfully narrow representation
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    of who can be a public intellectual,
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    I take heart and remember that
    it has been bell hooks' books
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    that I've so often seen in the hands of Black Women,
    as they would ride the bus home from work.
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    And it was the insight from her books,
    dog-eared, re-read, and well-loved,
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    that helped inform the work of a generation of
    cultural workers, activists, and feminist scholars,
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    who are now impressive in their own right.
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    So I just want to say, both personally
    and on behalf of all of us assembled here,
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    a sincere thank you to both of these women
    for all the ways in which they've served to help us
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    re-imagine what is possible at the intersection of
    education, public life, and the struggle for freedom.
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    And thank you for giving us all the opportunity
    to listen in to this conversation today.
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    Everyone, please help me welcome
    bell hooks & Melissa Harris-Perry.
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    [ APPLAUSE & CHEERING... ]
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    [ bell hooks ] I'm not used to being
    with a celebrity. [ AUDIENCE LAUGHTER ]
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    [ Melissa Harris-Perry ] Oh! [ LAUGHTER ] Yeah,
    I'm pretty sure in this crowd, you're the celebrity.
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    [ BOTH LAUGHING ]
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    So we were trying to figure out how to get started
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    and I wanted to start by just picking up on
    that last insight about the fact that
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    none of us come to Black Feminism
    except through you.
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    And it--I was just recently on the campus of
    Bennett College, in Greensboro North Carolina,
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    and it was a kind of a wonderful moment like this,
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    where I rarely get a chance--where I was standing
    and looking out over the chapel and...
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    and it was all African-American women and girls
    and all of the faculty, in their academic regalia,
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    was kind of a great moment.
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    But one of the freshman came up to me afterward
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    and put her hand on my arm
    and fairly breathlessly said,
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    [whispering] "Have you read bell hooks?"
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    [ AUDIENCE LAUGHTER ] Um--
    and I thought, "Uh-huh. Yep." [ LAUGHING ]
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    [ b.h. ] I am 20 years older than this baby up here,
    and one of the things that I thought about is,
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    my early work focused so much
    on the question of finding our voice.
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    And I was thinking about how
    Melissa represents a generational shift,
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    because she has this whole national voice,
    and so part of what we want to talk about is,
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    has there been a meaningful concrete change in how
    we hear, think & feel about the Black Woman's voice.
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    Because many of you may have seen the show,
    where Melissa is talking--was she an economist?
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    [ MHP ] Uh-huh.
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    [ b.h. ] And-- [ AUDIENCE LAUGHTER ]
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    [ MHP ] --Yes, I think that is the official title
    of what Ms. [Angela] Mehta is.
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    [ b.h. ] --and I was so impressed myself. It was
    it was like a love moment for me,
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    when Melissa just, you know, really boldly
    put out there, what we know to be real and true.
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    And then I was so stunned when I kept hearing
    from people, "Oh, you know, she really lost it."
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    And I thought, kept thinking,
    "oh if this was Charlie Rose,
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    if this was any number of white men
    who would just boldly speak their truths?"
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    She didn't raise her voice in any way.
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    There was for me no sense of aggression, so then
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    but once again she was turned into
    the "Angry Black Woman"
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    not the Insightful Brilliant Black Woman
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    who just threw down in such a way
    that it created a sense of awe.
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    And so that then gave me pause in thinking about
    on one hand, has there been a shift,
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    or are we still pushing against a certain
    characterization of the Black female voice?
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    [ MHP ] Am I meant to answer?
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    [ b.h. ] You're meant to discuss.
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    [ MHP ] I suppose yes. So I, you know,
    I'm not sure how I ended up with a television show.
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    And I don't mean that to be joking.
    I really am not quite sure how that happened.
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    Clearly it's about a set of very odd occurrences
    that were part of this moment historically
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    where you end up with an African-American man
    as president,
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    and you end up with the most popular commentator
    on this African-American president
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    being a queer woman who is out and butch
    when they don't overly make her up.
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    And you know, and so there's sort of a - there's sort
    of a shift that occurs around representation,
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    and that shift that occurs around representation
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    occurs at the same time that there's a
    profit motivation to get an audience, right?
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    So I just don't want to miss that
    there's no moment in cable news
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    where people are making any kind of decision
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    that isn't based on a belief that there is audience
    and income and something else out there.
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    So I assume--you know, you talk about
    being twenty years younger
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    so I come of age in exactly the right moment.
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    In fact, I pretty regularly say
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    the smartest thing you could've ever done
    was to have been born in the 70's.
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    If you were going to be born a Black girl,
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    to be born in the 70's meant being born
    right at the end of that Civil Rights struggle,
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    but before the backlash got really ugly,
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    in the one moment when there were
    integrated public schools in the South.
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    Just for that one second before white flight took all...
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    took all the resources out of the public schools
    in the South
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    right at that moment so that when I graduate from
    college, we're in an economic upswing & there are jobs.
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    When I finished the Ph.D., people are getting
    multiple academic jobs.
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    Not like, searching for an adjunct position,
    like there's just structurally a set of realities.
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    But I don't think any of those structural realities
    that let a little moment like me come through
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    represents an American shift
    in who we want to hear from.
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    [ b.h. ] All right. [ AUDIENCE LAUGHTER ]
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    Whereas I feel, you know, enormously blessed.
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    I always get annoyed with my sister when she says
    she's blessed and highly-favored,
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    but you know, I do want to say that I think of myself
    as just of--you know,
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    Melissa has a mainstream image voice
    that I came up really out of nowhere.
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    You know, little bell hooks writing "Ain't I a
    Woman: Black Women in Feminism"
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    and that sometimes I do feel like, wow.
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    You know, there is this audience
    that reads bell hooks,
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    and tells me how my work has affected their life.
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    And I think as a Black Woman writer,
    that is so amazing.
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    I mean when I think about Audre Lorde,
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    when I think about Pat Parker,
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    when I think about Zora Neale Hurston,
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    I think about all the Black women writers.
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    I mean, my students already don't know
    who Audre Lorde is.
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    They never knew who Pat was.
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    You know, and I think that to be a Black woman
    writer of non-fiction, and to be read,
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    is to be blessed and highly-favored.
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    And so I think that just as there is space now
    for your voice because it's a product.
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    It sells, it creates people like us running
    to hear her and watch her.
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    There's also that other climate of people searching
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    for truly dissonant ways of thinking and being and
    trying to carve out different ways to live our lives.
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    And I think that's especially a tension
    for Black women,
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    because we haven't, as a group,
    really carved out different ways to live our lives.
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    [ MHP ] I wanted to ask you about that a little bit
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    because there are things about the bizarro life
    that I find myself living now,
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    that I sometimes feel as though I'm judging against
    a set of Black Feminist Standards,
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    that I ultimately learned and decided
    to believe in from your texts.
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    So if--if the lowercase letters of bell hooks
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    are in part about a recognition that
    the ego is less important than the content,
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    it was in fact very painful for me when MSNBC
    named the show "Melissa Harris-Perry".
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    And I fought it and we--I had 4,000 other
    really funny names [ LAUGHTER ],
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    but--and they were also--all sounded
    like some other networks' shows
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    but in part because I thought, no
    what we're supposed to be doing is not saying,
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    "Watch me! Me! It's all about me!" but instead spend
    time in the content. So I don't--I guess part of what I-
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    [ b.h. ] --By the way, that failed. I mean,
    people became as obsessed with bell hooks--
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    [ MHP ] Yeah.
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    [ b.h. ] --and the lowercase did not
    [ AUDIENCE LAUGHING ] do--
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    [ MHP ] --right, yes! This is what--
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    [ b.h. ] --you know, it didn't do the work
    that I felt as a spiritual
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    because for me it was not just a political--it was
    a spiritual decision at the time, you know?
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    About who am I and where do I place myself?
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    And I didn't want to place myself, my personality,
    my ego, but other people placed it.
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    So they just reified and fetishized
    the small bell hooks.
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    So I realized, you know, how much power we don't
    have over how our representations are perceived.
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    And that kind of goes back to my saying that
    when people think we're angry, or strident, or difficult,
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    when we may not have
    that perception of ourselves at all.
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    When I first y'know published, Aint I A Woman,
    the white women at South End Press said,
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    you know, it was such an angry book.
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    And I didn't know what they were talking about.
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    Because again, I felt it was a clear book.
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    It was a book saying things
    that hadn't been said before, but anger?
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    You know, I'm one of these Black women
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    if I'm angry, you will know that I'm angry
    and I'm gonna--I'm gonna own my anger.
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    And so I knew that that wasn't the case, and that
    has been something that I feel is a constant battle.
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    I've been referring a lot to
    "Sweet Honey in the Rock":
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    "when we work for freedom, we cannot rest",
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    because people are constantly using
    "anger" and "difficult".
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    I mean I have to admit I get "difficult" now
    more than "anger".
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    You know, "bell is difficult."
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    [ MHP ] Yeah.
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    [ b.h. ] You know, when people drop you,
    or when--from publishing, or something,
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    and they say "well, bell is difficult."
    And it's because you raise certain kinds of images.
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    And once again, I think it's about, Melissa,
    that interface between our radical political integrity
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    and the fact that we are in imperialist,
    white-supremacist, capitalist patriarchy. So--
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    [ MHP ] And you might be, I mean,
    so I was angry at Ms. Mehta,
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    her inability to see that it was patently-
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    [ b.h. ] Uh-oh, mess up all my theories.
    [ AUDIENCE LAUGHTER ]
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    [ MHP ] --Right--no, no, but [ AUDIENCE
    LAUGHING
    ] but not just her.
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    I was angry with the idea that we continue
    to propagate this notion,
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    that to be poor is somehow relaxing.
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    That people are chillin on public service,
    like I mean, [ AUDIENCE APPLAUDING ]
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    and that, you know, that--that riskiness
    is associated with wealth, right?
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    So I--the only thing I push back against
    is the notion that I'm irrational.
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    I mean, I'm mad,
    but I'm mad about something, I'm not...
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    I'm not mad as an inherent aspect of my Blackness,
    or my womanhood, right? But mad about something.
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    And you know, I get difficult, but I am difficult.
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    Like, but, but so do--I mean, like, [ WHISPERING ]
    so are all the white guys. [ AUDIENCE LAUGHING ]
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    Right? And I mean, I'm legitimately not trying
    to be funny, in the sense that I know...
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    so I know that I come to work
    after my producers come to work,
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    and I'm a little bit, y'know, demanding
    and a lot of times, so I--"difficult".
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    But all the white boys were difficult too in
    everything from the academy to general life to
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    you know, right?
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    And but it's as though that difficulty is presumed
    to be legitimate whereas ours is illegitimate.
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    [ b.h. ] Of course, you know, it's funny.
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    I don't think that I'm difficult.
    I think that I'm exacting.
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    [ AUDIENCE LAUGHING ]
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    And precise.
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    And I mean, I think that words we use are very
    important because I think that for me
  • 19:28 - 19:30
    I mean, let's face it, folks.
  • 19:30 - 19:33
    You don't be a Black woman from a working-class
    background in America
  • 19:33 - 19:37
    and write more than thirty books
    'cause you sitting around being difficult. You know?
  • 19:37 - 19:39
    [ AUDIENCE LAUGHING, SOME APPLAUSE ]
  • 19:39 - 19:45
    That work comes out of
    the amazing discipline of my life,
  • 19:45 - 19:48
    which I don't necessarily attribute to my ego or me,
  • 19:48 - 19:53
    but to the recognition of what it takes
    to get a particular job done,
  • 19:53 - 19:57
    and that will, as many of you have experienced
    in this room,
  • 19:57 - 20:05
    to write, to put other things aside to write,
    to sit at my computer
  • 20:05 - 20:10
    and key in the "Beasts of The Southern Wild" piece
  • 20:10 - 20:12
    while I am sitting there crying
  • 20:12 - 20:17
    because I just can't take in another image
    of an abused Black child
  • 20:17 - 20:21
    being represented as entertaining.
  • 20:21 - 20:25
    And I am sitting there, and I am writing, but I'm
    also hurting. [ VOICE STRAINED WITH EMOTION ]
  • 20:25 - 20:32
    I'm hurting because we can't get past the construct-
    ion of Black children as little mini-adults
  • 20:32 - 20:37
    whose innocence we don't have to protect.
  • 20:37 - 20:43
    You know, who we can consider "cute" if they're
    being slapped around by an alcoholic father.
  • 20:43 - 20:46
    You know, not to mention all the other things
    we could name.
  • 20:46 - 20:52
    [ MHP ] Well, and then the abuse not only of
    the character, but actually of Quvenzhané Wallis,
  • 20:52 - 20:57
    by Black and white communities,
    in the immediate aftermath of that film,
  • 20:57 - 21:01
    which I really, really disliked that film.
  • 21:01 - 21:05
    And watched it in New Orleans, sat in a theater
    in New Orleans and watched it,
  • 21:05 - 21:08
    and came home and read your piece.
  • 21:08 - 21:12
    And in fact, like the moment of Bennett students
    saying "Have you read bell hooks?",
  • 21:12 - 21:15
    coming back and reading your piece and saying,
    "Oh bell, bell's back."
  • 21:15 - 21:22
    And in part, that the pain, the anger, but also that
  • 21:22 - 21:25
    this was one of those movies
    that we were supposed to like,
  • 21:25 - 21:29
    and we were supposed to say good and nice things
    about, and was supposed to be "artsy" and "funny"
  • 21:29 - 21:31
    and you're supposed to be "deep" and "get it",
  • 21:31 - 21:37
    and you're willingness to say, "Nope, the abuse
    of a Young Black girl's body as--is not deep.
  • 21:37 - 21:39
    It's appalling."
  • 21:39 - 21:47
    [ b.h. ] And also, why can't we teach other people
    to recognize that this is traumatic, and not "funny",
  • 21:47 - 21:50
    and not "cute", and that's--that's that again,
  • 21:50 - 21:54
    "when we work for freedom, we cannot rest"
    because it's a constant struggle.
  • 21:54 - 21:58
    I mean, it's interesting because,
    I can tell you right now.
  • 21:58 - 22:04
    Ms. Melissa liked "Twelve Years of Slavery",
    and I really hated it.
  • 22:04 - 22:11
    I thought that, or I won't even say I hated it.
    Nah, sentimental clap-trap. [ A FEW LAUGHS ]
  • 22:11 - 22:13
    But one of the things I felt about it,
  • 22:13 - 22:20
    and--'cause we don't want to just sit here and act
    like we schmooze and agree on everything
  • 22:20 - 22:25
    I felt that it actually negated
    the Black female voice.
  • 22:25 - 22:34
    That she was given voice only in so much as she
    gave expression to Black male emotional feeling.
  • 22:34 - 22:40
    That the Black male does not have to take
    responsibility for his own emotional universe,
  • 22:40 - 22:43
    that Patsy takes that cross.
  • 22:43 - 22:46
    So it's like, okay not only are you suffering,
  • 22:46 - 22:55
    but you have to take on you the added burden
    of articulating this Black man's pain to him, so--
  • 22:55 - 22:57
    [ MHP ] So, so how much that though
  • 22:57 - 23:03
    and this is part of why I've approached this film
    so differently than the other slave films
  • 23:03 - 23:10
    how much of that is because it is the reading of
    his autobiography, his slave narrative,
  • 23:10 - 23:12
    and so that is what he does to her?
  • 23:12 - 23:16
    Like he does in fact create Patsy in that way,
    in that text,
  • 23:16 - 23:18
    so the film reproduces the thing
  • 23:18 - 23:24
    that he as Black patriarch -even in the context of enslavement- does to her?
  • 23:24 - 23:26
    [ b.h. ] Yeah, honey, [ A FEW LAUGHS ]
  • 23:26 - 23:32
    but if the film-maker can create for us
    that scene with Mrs. Shaw that is not in the book,
  • 23:32 - 23:37
    then why can't he--I mean, one of the things that
    I stand on all the time
  • 23:37 - 23:43
    film does not exist for the purpose of
    giving us reality.
  • 23:43 - 23:48
    And I always say, like, if my life is shit, I don't want
    to go pay $10 or $12 [ AUDIENCE LAUGHING ]
  • 23:48 - 23:54
    to see it displayed so that we have to ask ourselves.
  • 23:54 - 23:59
    I guess what I want for us all the time, Melissa,
    which some of us feel happens on your show,
  • 23:59 - 24:05
    is a pushing of the imagination--a broadening of
    how we think about things,
  • 24:05 - 24:09
    and not this sort of narrowing-down of
    how we think about things.
  • 24:09 - 24:15
    And I feel like, you know, I'm tired of the
    naked, raped, beaten Black woman body.
  • 24:15 - 24:22
    I want to see an image of Black femaleness
    that alters our universe in some way.
  • 24:22 - 24:27
    I mean, Melissa--which was a question I was dying
    to ask her, so I can ask her tonight
  • 24:27 - 24:33
    in "Sister Citizen", she really writes critically
    about Michelle Obama, for example,
  • 24:33 - 24:36
    as representing that kind of shift.
  • 24:36 - 24:40
    That we have this transformative image
  • 24:40 - 24:47
    and I feel like, yes, we started out with this
    incredible powerful Black female voice,
  • 24:47 - 24:51
    Michelle Obama, and it got smallerand smaller,
  • 24:51 - 24:59
    and I wonder if you think that. Or if you think that
    it kept the momentum that it began with?
  • 24:59 - 25:05
    [ MHP ] So, for me, First Lady Obama
    is navigating multiple spaces,
  • 25:05 - 25:11
    and in some ways, it has retained its bigness and
    its value, and in other ways it has diminished.
  • 25:11 - 25:14
    Most importantly, for me, I think there was
    an active, purposeful,
  • 25:14 - 25:18
    and I think she she has said it to us,
  • 25:18 - 25:28
    desire to remove from public space that idea of
    the Black woman who emasculates her husband.
  • 25:28 - 25:36
    That she very actively and purposefully moved back
    from the partnership model that we saw initially.
  • 25:36 - 25:39
    Not only partnership, but actually,
    an active critique of her husband.
  • 25:39 - 25:42
    So when Senator Obama is running in 2007-8,
  • 25:42 - 25:46
    she has a variety of punch-lines,
    one of which includes:
  • 25:46 - 25:51
    "Oh yeah, you know, Barack is stinky
    in the morning, and he leaves his socks around.
    "
  • 25:51 - 25:56
    She had another line that was about feeling like
    a single-parent for much of their early marriage
  • 25:56 - 25:59
    because he was working down-state.
  • 25:59 - 26:00
    And so she was taking on all the parenting.
  • 26:00 - 26:05
    She was the primary bread-winner
    and she was taking on all the parenting.
  • 26:05 - 26:08
    And then there was also a narrative about
    her relationship with Mama Robinson,
  • 26:08 - 26:13
    and the importance that Mama Robinson had
    in stepping in as the second parent
  • 26:13 - 26:16
    when state Senator Barack Obama was down-state.
  • 26:16 - 26:20
    And that narrative went away after the primaries.
  • 26:20 - 26:24
    So as soon as, basically they got through,
    about South Carolina,
  • 26:24 - 26:30
    and it became clear that it was very possible that
    Barack Obama could win the Democratic Primary,
  • 26:30 - 26:36
    Michelle Obama "the wife" became the
    much more traditional political wife,
  • 26:36 - 26:39
    who supports in sort of a doe-eyed way,
    her husband.
  • 26:39 - 26:41
    But that wasn't the totality.
  • 26:41 - 26:44
    So on that hand, yes, I would agree,
    I think she shrinks.
  • 26:44 - 26:47
    But the other thing I offer though,
    is this possibility
  • 26:47 - 26:54
    that she's performing two other things that I do find
    to be a sustaining pushing of the imagination.
  • 26:54 - 26:56
    One is about her body,
  • 26:56 - 27:04
    and this initial desire to dissect First Lady Obama
    in all the ways that we have dissected women,
  • 27:04 - 27:06
    Black women in particular,
    since the Venus Hottentot.
  • 27:06 - 27:11
    And so rather than talking about Michelle Obama
    as an embodied person,
  • 27:11 - 27:12
    we would talk about her arms.
  • 27:12 - 27:16
    "I want Michelle Obama's arms."
    "I want Michelle Obama's behind." "I want"--right?
  • 27:16 - 27:21
    And so it was a rhetorical and public dissection
    of her into parts,
  • 27:21 - 27:24
    so that we weren't talking about her,
    but talking about the parts of her body.
  • 27:24 - 27:30
    Now for me, the immediate rational reasonable
    response to that is to stop performing your body,
  • 27:30 - 27:33
    to--when people are talking about your body
    to cover.
  • 27:33 - 27:34
    I mean that's what our grandmothers taught us, right?
  • 27:34 - 27:37
    "Girl, hold it--hold it in. Keep it tight," right?
  • 27:37 - 27:41
    Because people--but instead, the First Lady did
    this sort of extraordinary thing where she was like,
  • 27:41 - 27:44
    "Oh, so you want to scrutinize? Here I am."
  • 27:44 - 27:46
    She went even more sleeveless.
  • 27:46 - 27:48
    She had this amazing--I encourage you to go home
  • 27:48 - 27:52
    and Google the--just put in "hula hoops"
    and "First Lady Obama" -
  • 27:52 - 27:56
    there's this incredible series of her in the first spring
    that they're in the White House of Spring 2009
  • 27:56 - 28:02
    and she is running - she's this 6-foot-tall Black
    woman, barefoot, hula-hooping,
  • 28:02 - 28:05
    and running across the White House lawn,
    and it is...
  • 28:05 - 28:10
    Like when I say that, right, that sounds like
    some kind of weird racist KKK movie, right?
  • 28:10 - 28:11
    [ AUDIENCE LAUGHING ]
  • 28:11 - 28:14
    But instead, it's like, it is completely beautiful
  • 28:14 - 28:20
    and not beautiful in some like "Jackie O."
    "oh she's like Jackie O."--no.
  • 28:20 - 28:23
    She's embodied in this very different way,
  • 28:23 - 28:28
    and the very fact that she goes into obesity politics
    that in part invites scrutiny of her body,
  • 28:28 - 28:33
    and then undoubtedly of her daughter's,
    is sort of an unwillingness to shrink.
  • 28:33 - 28:35
    So she shrinks in the wife role.
  • 28:35 - 28:41
    I feel her stand up in the, in the sort of
    "inviting the scrutiny of the body".
  • 28:41 - 28:44
    And the last thing I'll say is,
    when there was this attempt to do
  • 28:44 - 28:47
    --and it's the one thing I loved about
    "Twelve Years a Slave"--
  • 28:47 - 28:51
    to me, "Twelve Years a Slave" was the first time
  • 28:51 - 28:56
    that there wasn't a cinematic redemption
    of the white woman slaveholder.
  • 28:56 - 29:05
    And instead, they are made absolutely complicit
    and evil and attached
  • 29:05 - 29:12
    and there's no sense that there is some gender
    equity that will--nope. [ SOME LAUGHS ]
  • 29:12 - 29:30
    [ b.h. ] And you didn't see that in "Django"?
    [ PROLONGED LAUGHTER ] No I mean--
  • 29:30 - 29:33
    [ MHP ] I can't--I can't talk about "Django", bell.
  • 29:33 - 29:36
    [ b.h. ] Oh, okay, but I have to say
    that one of my favorite scenes
  • 29:36 - 29:41
    is when the two very obedient Black female slaves
    are on that stairway
  • 29:41 - 29:50
    and Django tells them to say "goodbye to Ms. Ann",
    and they've been so obedient and subservient,
  • 29:50 - 29:52
    but it's like that open door of freedom,
  • 29:52 - 29:56
    that when they have the opportunity to walk through
    that open door of freedom,
  • 29:56 - 30:01
    that hold to me at that moment--the mammy image-
    is totally deconstructed.
  • 30:01 - 30:05
    And they're like "goodbye" and he blows her away.
  • 30:05 - 30:09
    I see that as also that reminder of complicity,
  • 30:09 - 30:15
    that white women have been complicit in this
    imperialist white-supremacist capitalist patriarchy.
  • 30:15 - 30:17
    [ A FEW CLAPS ]
  • 30:17 - 30:21
    And not just these sort of passive observers
    or victims.
  • 30:21 - 30:23
    [ MHP ] I feel you, I feel you. I feel you--
  • 30:23 - 30:24
    [ b.h. ] -But let's not be--
  • 30:24 - 30:26
    [ MHP ] But I can't--but "Django", but 'cause see...
  • 30:26 - 30:28
    [ AUDIENCE LAUGHTER ]
  • 30:28 - 30:31
    'cause for me what happened in those first moments
    in the movie theater, in "Twelve Years a Slave",
  • 30:31 - 30:33
    when they're taken onto the ship
  • 30:33 - 30:35
    and then the people who have been watching way
    too much "Django" are like,
  • 30:35 - 30:40
    "I can't even believe you're just gonna--why ain't
    you gonna fight back?!
    " [ FOOT STOMP ]
  • 30:40 - 30:42
    Because this is not a fantasy.
  • 30:42 - 30:44
    Because this is a slave narrative--because there is
  • 30:44 - 30:50
    because the scene then when he is lynched for days
    is what happens when you fight.
  • 30:50 - 30:53
    Because they kill Omar with a shank
    in like two minutes.
  • 30:53 - 30:55
    And he had been--because for me,
    I guess the reason
  • 30:55 - 31:00
    the reason that that "Django" does not perform
    that for me is because it's the fantasy.
  • 31:00 - 31:03
    [ b.h. ] But see, I think it's all fantasy.
    [ SOME "YEAH'S" FROM AUDIENCE ]
  • 31:03 - 31:05
    [ MHP ] Okay.
  • 31:05 - 31:07
    [ b.h. ] I think it's all fantasy.
    It's all fiction. It's all-
  • 31:07 - 31:11
    -I mean I have to say the only slavery movie
    that I can really say really touched me
  • 31:11 - 31:16
    was "Slavery by Another Name",
    the fictive documentary.
  • 31:16 - 31:19
    Because it had those real Black people.
  • 31:19 - 31:26
    I mean I had the good fortune to see it at Sundance
    with Eric Holder and his wife,
  • 31:26 - 31:30
    whose family is part of the film,
    and part of that experience.
  • 31:30 - 31:37
    I, myself, okay I'ma say that
    what I'm tired of in general is sentimentality.
  • 31:37 - 31:39
    I mean, James Baldwin said that
  • 31:39 - 31:45
    "sentimentality is the ostentatious parading of
    excessive and spurious emotion
    .
  • 31:45 - 31:49
    It is the mark of dishonesty, the inability to feel."
  • 31:49 - 31:53
    So I'm actually
    we can go away from particular movies.
  • 31:53 - 31:56
    I'm concerned about why is it that
  • 31:56 - 32:04
    there's a kind of collective response to the
    plantation culture we as Black people are living in
  • 32:04 - 32:08
    that has primarily to do with sentimentality.
  • 32:08 - 32:10
    With people, whether we're talking about
    "The Butler",
  • 32:10 - 32:14
    whether we're talking about
    some of Tyler Perry's stuff [ LAUGHING ],
  • 32:14 - 32:16
    it's like, you know?
  • 32:16 - 32:21
    I mean, let's stand and weep
    and let's weep and weep.
  • 32:21 - 32:29
    You know, and while we're weeping, the violence
    against us globally, the global slavery, continues.
  • 32:29 - 32:33
    And I'm trying to analyze it,
    and maybe you have some thoughts about it,
  • 32:33 - 32:40
    but why is there this obsession at this historical
    moment with sentimentality and melodrama?
  • 32:40 - 32:43
    'Cause you know my favorite melodrama
    is imitation of life. [ APPLAUSE ]
  • 32:45 - 32:51
    I'm old enough to have left [ MELODRAMATICALLY ]
    "Maaaaama! I diiiiid love you!"
  • 32:51 - 32:52
    [ AUDIENCE LAUGHING ]
  • 32:52 - 32:54
    "I diiiid love you!"
  • 32:54 - 33:00
    But again, mama don't get to hear that
    'cause she dead.
  • 33:00 - 33:03
    [ LAUGHTER ] And so, what are your thoughts
    about that?
  • 33:03 - 33:10
    This sort of upsurge, I feel,
    in sentimental portraits of Blackness.
  • 33:10 - 33:14
    Not--and we don't have to just talk about slavery,
    'cause "The Butler" certainly, you know.
  • 33:14 - 33:19
    [ MHP ] Yes. [ A FEW LAUGHS ] Okay so,
    so I mean, all right.
  • 33:19 - 33:26
    So, okay, so there's "Django" on the one hand, then
    there's "The Butler" and God help me, "The Help".
  • 33:26 - 33:35
    [ AUDIENCE BOOING AND THEN BREAKING INTO LAUGHTER ] I guess--
  • 33:35 - 33:37
    [ b.h. ] All of which are sentimental.
  • 33:37 - 33:38
    [ MHP ] Yes, right, right.
  • 33:38 - 33:42
    And so I'm just kind of running in my head what
    you're saying & trying to think through this a little bit.
  • 33:42 - 33:53
    It certainly felt to me like the "The Help" and
    "The Butler" are popular culture
  • 33:53 - 33:55
    responding to the angst of the possibility,
  • 33:55 - 34:00
    not only of Black empowerment
    in the personhood of President Obama,
  • 34:00 - 34:06
    but also, the desire for the magical negro
    to reappear to make things better.
  • 34:06 - 34:10
    So that the economic downturn itself, right?
  • 34:10 - 34:18
    And the sense of white America experiencing,
    for the first time in 50 years,
  • 34:18 - 34:23
    the unemployment rates that Black folks
    have been living with for 60 years, right?
  • 34:23 - 34:28
    So that the Tea Party can actively,
    just weeks after President Obama's inauguration,
  • 34:28 - 34:34
    can sort of take to the mall in anger about a
    10% unemployment rate, and [ LAUGHING ]
  • 34:34 - 34:39
    we know like 10% unemployment rate for Black
    people would be cause for like, Juneteenth.
  • 34:39 - 34:41
    [ AUDIENCE LAUGHING ]
  • 34:41 - 34:42
    Right? We'd be happy.
  • 34:42 - 34:46
    And I--so I presume that part of what happens then,
  • 34:46 - 34:50
    why we need "The Butler", why we need
    "The Help", and so maybe-
  • 34:50 - 34:54
    and I'm gonna pause and think about maybe
    this is also why we need to bring back slavery.
  • 34:54 - 34:56
    But I'm not sure--I'll think about it.
  • 34:56 - 35:06
    But maybe the reason we need to go engage
    with them in our fictional emotional lives is
  • 35:06 - 35:11
    because those negroes gave-
    they solved the problems of America
  • 35:11 - 35:17
    through their willingness to sacrifice
    for the American project.
  • 35:17 - 35:21
    And so, I mean the fact that,
    I will say at the end of "Twelve Years a Slave",
  • 35:21 - 35:25
    what happens--he goes to the American court
    system, right? There is no "Django" fantasy,
  • 35:25 - 35:28
    like the "fantasy" is that. Right?
  • 35:28 - 35:32
    What the actual enslaved man does is he goes
    and takes these men to court.
  • 35:32 - 35:39
    There is a presumption, even in that moment,
    that somehow there will be justice available.
  • 35:39 - 35:43
    The thing that we actually did
    in the years following emancipation
  • 35:43 - 35:48
    was to run for office, and buy land, and I mean it's
  • 35:48 - 35:53
    so maybe there's a desire to reconstruct
    that version of Black folks
  • 35:53 - 35:56
    so that we could fix what is currently wrong.
  • 35:56 - 36:00
    Because that's always been our magical capacity.
  • 36:00 - 36:02
    [ b.h. ] Or so that we can simply grieve.
  • 36:02 - 36:06
    We can have a vehicle for the expression
    of the depth of our grief.
  • 36:06 - 36:09
    Because I do believe that for some time now,
  • 36:09 - 36:13
    Black people collectively have been caught
    in a profound grief.
  • 36:13 - 36:20
    I've been working on writing about justice & using
    Martin Luther King's "Where Do We Go From Here?"
  • 36:20 - 36:24
    And I'm just amazed that Dr. King
    was talking about fascism.
  • 36:24 - 36:31
    He was talking about the--he was so prescient that
    there will be things like the Tea Party.
  • 36:31 - 36:34
    And the thing that he says that's so amazing is that
  • 36:34 - 36:39
    there will be this growth--"a native form"-
    these are his words--"of fascism",
  • 36:39 - 36:43
    as Black people press forward for equality.
  • 36:43 - 36:45
    And then he says that awesome insight
  • 36:45 - 36:54
    that white people would rather destroy democracy
    than have racial equality.
  • 36:54 - 36:56
    [ AUDIBLE AGREEMENT FROM THE AUDIENCE ]
  • 36:56 - 36:59
    And I think we know that that's not true
    of all white people,
  • 36:59 - 37:06
    but we really see that in those of us who live in very
    depressed white areas, like Appalachia.
  • 37:06 - 37:14
    I mean, we see it so clearly that people would rather
    have white supremacy and hierarchy
  • 37:14 - 37:16
    than any kind of justice.
  • 37:16 - 37:20
    That people really think "Justice? You know,
    those negroes have had enough.
    "
  • 37:20 - 37:23
    "We've given them enough!"
  • 37:23 - 37:29
    And so I think that that's what troubles me, Melissa,
    about the sentimentality.
  • 37:29 - 37:35
    Because I feel it shifts us away
    from the forms of analysis.
  • 37:35 - 37:38
    Like, I mean, I am myself-
    I've been a reader of King,
  • 37:38 - 37:41
    but I've been away from
    "Where Do We Go From Here?"
  • 37:41 - 37:49
    and so when I read it again, and I thought, boy, King
    was talking about fascism, about what we had to do,
  • 37:49 - 37:52
    and so much of what he puts out we haven't done.
  • 37:52 - 37:54
    The critical consciousness.
  • 37:54 - 38:01
    It just, kind of, in a way, saddened me so deeply
    because I think that we do live in this space-
  • 38:01 - 38:04
    Black people--Brown people-
    of cognitive dissonance.
  • 38:04 - 38:07
    That we know white supremacy is real.
  • 38:07 - 38:11
    But at the same time, we would like
    to walk through our daily lives
  • 38:11 - 38:16
    as though justice is real, democracy is real,
    equality is real.
  • 38:16 - 38:22
    I mean, if anything that I could say about
    "Twelve Years of Slavery", is that it depicted that.
  • 38:22 - 38:27
    That we see them walking through their lives,
    thinking they've made it.
  • 38:27 - 38:35
    That they can live as--as assimilated Black people
    in this bourgeois white world.
  • 38:35 - 38:40
    And there is something so, almost unbelievable,
  • 38:40 - 38:46
    about his level of innocence about the horrific nature
    of white supremacy,
  • 38:46 - 38:52
    because he really believes that there is a whiteness
    that will protect him.
  • 38:52 - 38:56
    Like you know? And that to me is like, wow.
  • 38:56 - 39:02
    If someone can come from that time period
    and believe that whiteness will protect them.
  • 39:02 - 39:10
    Then I think about our son, our brother Trayvon
    Martin, what did he think would protect him?
  • 39:10 - 39:15
    Did he think that he was in danger of losing his life?
  • 39:15 - 39:21
    Or did he have that innocence again,
    about whiteness?
  • 39:21 - 39:25
    That many of us carry?
    And many of our young people carry it, especially.
  • 39:25 - 39:29
    I mean, both here at The New School,
    everywhere I go,
  • 39:29 - 39:35
    it is young people especially who will argue
    that race has ended, that we're in the post-racial-
  • 39:35 - 39:37
    go ahead, jump in.
  • 39:37 - 39:41
    [ MHP ] Yeah, yeah, so I would push back
    against that just a little bit.
  • 39:41 - 39:47
    That young people primarily--so I do think that
    millennials may think about race in ways
  • 39:47 - 39:52
    that are different and more complicated, but they
    ought to, I mean, 'cause the world is different.
  • 39:52 - 39:56
    But that Cathy Cohen's research
    out of the Black Youth Project,
  • 39:56 - 39:59
    and the writings of The Black Youth Project,
    100 and all of them,
  • 39:59 - 40:04
    do suggest actually that because of their very close
    contact with the police state and with incarceration,
  • 40:04 - 40:06
    and with the ways in which this-
  • 40:06 - 40:11
    so again, the racial naiveté of the kids of the 70's-
    all right I'ma give that to you-
  • 40:11 - 40:14
    because we were sort of in this moment, right?
  • 40:14 - 40:20
    And then, even as Reagan was happening, y'know,
    Bill Cosby was the, y'know, #1 rated show on TV.
  • 40:20 - 40:24
    So there were--there were ways in which-
    I'ma take that critique for the X generation.
  • 40:24 - 40:35
    But I'm not quite willing to say that of young people
    of color in their 20's, the generation one under me,
  • 40:35 - 40:42
    only because the material realities of their
    vulnerability are so present for them.
  • 40:42 - 40:47
    Now it may be true that that population
    is even more stratified--
  • 40:47 - 40:49
    [ b.h. ] Yes, yes.
  • 40:49 - 40:51
    [ MHP ] --so for the wealthy children,
    there is a different reality.
  • 40:51 - 40:54
    But I don't want to give it to the whole generation-
    I don't want to say young people don't know.
  • 40:54 - 40:57
    And my bet is that Trayvon may not.
    And so, in fact...
  • 41:02 - 41:10
    So in fact so I want to come back in a minute
    to using King as a source.
  • 41:10 - 41:12
    Especially around an understanding of justice
  • 41:12 - 41:16
    and whether or not there's also a sentimentality
    that occurs around--
  • 41:16 - 41:17
    [ b.h. ] Uh-oh.
  • 41:17 - 41:20
    [ MHP ] --King [ AUDIENCE LAUGHTER ],
  • 41:20 - 41:25
    and particularly when we're unwilling to interrogate
    and push King on his homophobia and sexism.
  • 41:25 - 41:30
    [ APPLAUSE ] And you know, it's been-
  • 41:30 - 41:35
    as much as there has been this kind of sentimentality
    around race produced by mass popular culture,
  • 41:35 - 41:38
    and "The Help", and "The Butler",
  • 41:38 - 41:41
    there's also been a sentimentality about King
    from the critics of President Obama,
  • 41:41 - 41:46
    who want to say "President Obama is no King"-
    true. [ A FEW LAUGHS ]
  • 41:46 - 41:48
    But then they want to say,
  • 41:48 - 41:54
    "President Obama is no King because he
    makes alliances
    " and "because he does"-
  • 41:54 - 41:58
    you know, "makes compromises", and I'm like,
    do y'all have any idea who King is?
  • 41:58 - 42:01
    And the kinds of compromises and alliances and
  • 42:01 - 42:07
    ask Fannie Lou Hamer if in fact King doesn't look
    just like the critiques that we have of President Obama.
  • 42:07 - 42:10
    So it's not--let me be clear--I'm not saying
    we shouldn't critique President Obama,
  • 42:10 - 42:12
    what I am suggesting is that when we do so,
  • 42:12 - 42:16
    by holding up a vision of King that is this version
    that they created on the Mall
  • 42:16 - 42:22
    where he steps out of stone, that we can reproduce
    that sentimentality, particularly when we don't--
  • 42:22 - 42:24
    [ b.h. ] But that's one King. That's one King.
  • 42:24 - 42:25
    [ MHP ] Yes.
  • 42:25 - 42:30
    [ b.h. ] I mean, I'm sorry, but most Americans
    don't even know The King ever said anything about fascism.
  • 42:30 - 42:32
    They don't know that he ever said anything
  • 42:32 - 42:35
    about a mounting white supremacy
    that would endanger our lives,
  • 42:35 - 42:39
    so I mean, I'm forgetting his name--I think it's Gary
    Young-- [ IN BACKGROUND: "THE GUARDIAN" ]
  • 42:39 - 42:44
    who has done the "I Dream" speech book,
  • 42:44 - 42:49
    but he talks about how there's this period where
    there is the sentimental King who's loved,
  • 42:49 - 42:54
    but then as King begins to talk about imperialism,
    and to talk about other things,
  • 42:54 - 42:58
    that then he's talked about as a traitor,
    he's talked about-
  • 42:58 - 43:05
    I mean, so I think part of what we're all being called
    to is a more complex understanding of King.
  • 43:05 - 43:07
    Because I totally agree with you.
  • 43:07 - 43:11
    I mean I was--hate to say it but in my budding
    militant feminism, I had no use for King.
  • 43:11 - 43:13
    [ SOME LAUGHTER ]
  • 43:13 - 43:15
    And I barely had use for Malcolm X,
  • 43:15 - 43:20
    because of what I felt to be their refusal to see
  • 43:20 - 43:26
    the way patriarchy was hurting and wounding
    to Black males and females,
  • 43:26 - 43:35
    and keeping us from the love that we deserve
    to be able to give one another. And so, you know--
  • 43:35 - 43:38
    [ MHP ] But I don't mean to throw King out at all.
    In fact, actually, he was-
  • 43:38 - 43:40
    [ b.h. ] I didn't think you were...
  • 43:40 - 43:45
    [ MHP ] But I just worry about the ways--so this is
    your same concern about sentimentality,
  • 43:45 - 43:47
    just to echo it back,
  • 43:47 - 43:51
    that even as we engage the great ideas
    and the thinkers
  • 43:51 - 43:55
    and the nuggets of understanding
    of justice and philosophy,
  • 43:55 - 44:06
    that because we're so absent, Black women are
    so absent from the story, we're willing to give a pass.
  • 44:06 - 44:11
    [ b.h. ] I don't think that anybody would ever say
    that about bell hooks.
  • 44:11 - 44:12
    [ MHP ] No, not you. Not you.
    I'm talking about us.
  • 44:12 - 44:14
    [ b.h. ] Yes.
  • 44:14 - 44:18
    [ MHP ] I'm talking about an American vision
    of who counts as a hero. That's what I mean.
  • 44:18 - 44:20
    [ b.h. ] That's right.
  • 44:20 - 44:26
    But I think that, you know, we are still in
    the construction of a world
  • 44:26 - 44:31
    where people don't want to accept
    that it is patriarchy that is killing Black men.
  • 44:31 - 44:33
    [ AUDIBLE AGREEMENT FROM AUDIENCE ]
  • 44:33 - 44:41
    That it is an imperialistic patriarchy that threatens
    the life of Black men of all ages--Black males.
  • 44:41 - 44:46
    I mean, all this week I've been talking about
    my little 7-year-old Black male friend, you know,
  • 44:46 - 44:51
    who is having tremendous problems
    in predominantly white world,
  • 44:51 - 44:57
    and I try to talk to his biracial mother and say, "You
    know, I think his problems have to do with race
    "
  • 44:57 - 45:01
    That he looks out in the world and not only does he
    see nothing that mirrors him
    ,
  • 45:01 - 45:05
    these other little white kids are telling him
    he's a monster.
  • 45:05 - 45:07
    You know, he's "ugly",
  • 45:07 - 45:11
    and so he finally gets--she says, "Oh I think you're
    just totally misguided.
    " You know?
  • 45:11 - 45:20
    And then he finally gets into a fight at school and
    he says, "You know, white people are just mean."
  • 45:20 - 45:26
    And so, there's this articulation of
    a racialized narrative, from a 7-year-old
  • 45:26 - 45:30
    that knows he's already on the "outs",
    that there's no "in" for him.
  • 45:30 - 45:34
    And I wonder about the trajectory of his life,
  • 45:34 - 45:40
    that he can feel already the depths of that angst
    and despair, that there's no "in" for him.
  • 45:40 - 45:44
    And I thought about that when you
    were talking about Trayvon Martin,
  • 45:44 - 45:49
    and talking about birthing a girl, a Black girl,
    as opposed to a Black male child.
  • 45:49 - 45:58
    Because I do think that Melissa and I both represent
    that very oppositional reality that I write about.
  • 45:58 - 46:04
    That we both have, against various odds in our life,
    invented ourselves.
  • 46:04 - 46:12
    And I don't think that that radical self-invention
    is as present for Black males in their life.
  • 46:12 - 46:15
    Because for us, there is no seduction of power.
  • 46:15 - 46:20
    There is no idea of, "oh well, if I just do
    the right thing with my dick
    , [ AUDIENCE LAUGHS ]
  • 46:20 - 46:24
    I will be able to enter into the power of patriarchy."
  • 46:24 - 46:32
    And so I think that that--those things are just
    so intimate and deep in our lives right now,
  • 46:32 - 46:37
    this sense of also the distance that's growing
    between Black females and Black males,
  • 46:37 - 46:40
    around, I think, these very issues.
  • 46:44 - 46:46
    [ MHP ] So, this one's hard.
  • 46:46 - 46:50
    [ b.h. ] I know, we just need hours together.
  • 46:50 - 46:54
    [ MHP ] I know. I mean, it's so hard because
    I simultaneously--you know,
  • 46:54 - 47:00
    I felt it so much on the night of the Zimmerman
    verdict, and throughout that week,
  • 47:00 - 47:04
    and throughout the month that have passed.
  • 47:04 - 47:08
    But when I hear you say the extent to which we've-
  • 47:08 - 47:11
    that you and I have had a set of challenges over which we've-
  • 47:11 - 47:15
    but I'm sitting here thinking, okay now if I'm
    real honest about that,
  • 47:15 - 47:23
    some of the most difficult, very personal barriers,
    were placed there by Black men.
  • 47:23 - 47:28
    Purposefully, actively, maliciously,
    cruelly, continuously,
  • 47:28 - 47:33
    whether it was my sexual assault as a teenager
    by a Black man, who's an adult,
  • 47:33 - 47:38
    whether it was my [ DISTRACTION IS INAUDIBLE ]-
    we're live streaming--there are--
  • 47:38 - 47:42
    [ b.h. ] She's gonna have to talk about [INAUDIBLE ]
  • 47:42 - 47:45
    [ MHP ] Right, no. No, I, psh. Yes.
  • 47:45 - 47:51
    And that, by the time that one came along,
    there had been so many that had-
  • 47:51 - 47:56
    and, so for me--it's interesting for you to say this-
  • 47:56 - 48:00
    because I'm light-skinned,
  • 48:00 - 48:11
    and cis, and straight, and have a white parent,
    and have access to all kinds of privileges from birth,
  • 48:11 - 48:13
    my bet is that I have been seduced by power.
  • 48:13 - 48:17
    Now I don't think that mine comes
    at the end of my penis,
  • 48:17 - 48:19
    but my bet is that my proximity to whiteness
  • 48:19 - 48:25
    has in fact allowed me over and over again
    a level of racial naiveté,
  • 48:25 - 48:30
    and a willingness to believe that if I could just get
    the right white folks to give me cover,
  • 48:30 - 48:36
    that it will be okay. [ AUDIENCE CHEERING ]
  • 48:36 - 48:41
    And I think that has everything to do
    with being embodied in this body, and not in-
  • 48:41 - 48:44
    so, that even as we talk about
    "The Black Woman's Experience",
  • 48:44 - 48:47
    that like, the different kinds of Black women's
    bodies in which we end up--
  • 48:47 - 48:51
    [ b.h. ] But then let's talk about the point at which
    you realized that angle happened.
  • 48:51 - 48:53
    And then you have--
  • 48:53 - 48:55
    [ MHP ] Oh, and I don't know that that is true.
  • 48:55 - 48:58
    I mean, I show up on TV and say words
  • 48:58 - 49:01
    because at the moment I have the cover
    of a powerful white man.
  • 49:01 - 49:04
    Like at the moment a white man is like,
    "okay you can sit on TV and say words"
  • 49:04 - 49:09
    and the moment that that powerful white man
    no longer wants me to sit on TV and say words,
  • 49:09 - 49:11
    I will not be allowed to sit on TV
    and say words anymore.
  • 49:11 - 49:14
    [ b.h. ] But every time you speak,
    you have a choice.
  • 49:14 - 49:19
    And I think that part of this huge following that's
    here tonight for you, and that's out there in the world,
  • 49:19 - 49:23
    is because you have exercised that choice,
    in a way puts you at risk,
  • 49:23 - 49:27
    in a way that makes it seem that yes,
  • 49:27 - 49:31
    that power force larger than you
    could shut you down at any moment,
  • 49:31 - 49:33
    but you don't allow that to happen.
  • 49:33 - 49:37
    And that's the strength that I'm talking about,
    that's a different kind of-
  • 49:37 - 49:40
    it's what it means to be in resistance.
  • 49:40 - 49:43
    I mean, all week I've been quoting
    my beloved Paulo Freire:
  • 49:43 - 49:49
    "We cannot enter the struggle as objects
    in order to later become subjects.
    "
  • 49:49 - 49:59
    So you exercise the power of a redemptive
    subjectivity, an oppositional subjectivity right there,
  • 49:59 - 50:05
    in the belly of the beast, knowing all the time
    that you could be stopped at any moment,
  • 50:05 - 50:07
    but you don't not do it.
  • 50:07 - 50:13
    You don't express the views of the covering person
    that you described.
  • 50:13 - 50:17
    You're challenging yourself, and we challenge you.
  • 50:17 - 50:24
    [ MHP ] But I still think of the riskier thing,
    of the braver thing, as-
  • 50:24 - 50:30
    because you write,
    because television killed my writing.
  • 50:30 - 50:34
    I haven't written since the show,
    because you write it exists forever.
  • 50:34 - 50:37
    It's not ephemeral in the same way that broadcast is.
  • 50:37 - 50:41
    And it feels to me so much more risky to write it,
  • 50:41 - 50:45
    both because once you've written it,
    I can then quote it back to you.
  • 50:45 - 50:48
    I can challenge you on it.
    I can hold you accountable to it.
  • 50:48 - 50:52
    I can--but also because there will come a point
    when you are gone
  • 50:52 - 50:57
    and the 18-year-old will still pick it up, and
    still read it, and still discover Black Feminism,
  • 50:57 - 51:05
    and then you did something, bell, that is--strikes me
    as extremely dangerous to one's ego,
  • 51:05 - 51:13
    which is you walked away from the brightest glare
    of public life.
  • 51:13 - 51:15
    You returned to community,
  • 51:15 - 51:24
    and the work that you are doing now feels to me like
    it gets rewarded in all of the ways that this system
  • 51:24 - 51:30
    the capitalist--the system that you named so we can
    see the water that we're swimming in-
  • 51:30 - 51:34
    isn't--like, the rewards won't be those rewards.
  • 51:34 - 51:42
    [ b.h. ] But it gives me that ground to stand on from
    which I can sustain my oppositional self.
  • 51:42 - 51:47
    I mean, all throughout this week and last night,
    we had an amazing Sister Circle of women of color,
  • 51:47 - 51:55
    but a lot of those women were articulating
    how hard it is to remain oneself.
  • 51:55 - 51:59
    Working in these systems,
    working here at the New School.
  • 51:59 - 52:04
    And so I think partially, I mean, when I left
    New York City, I will just never forget that day.
  • 52:04 - 52:07
    I'd been thinking suicidal thoughts.
  • 52:07 - 52:12
    I was standing on the corner, with two shoes that
    didn't match, and all this other stuff.
  • 52:12 - 52:15
    I knew that it was time to go.
  • 52:15 - 52:24
    And to return to some type of foundation that could
    allow me to sustain myself.
  • 52:24 - 52:27
    You know, when you've written a book that sells,
    and it's selling really well,
  • 52:27 - 52:30
    but then suddenly you're told, "well we don't want
    to publish you anymore
    ".
  • 52:30 - 52:34
    But no reasons given, no explanations,
  • 52:34 - 52:40
    and all of those things that as Black women testified
    throughout this week--they make you feel crazy.
  • 52:40 - 52:47
    They make you feel like "okay I did the things that
    I was supposed to do, I arrived at the destination.
    "
  • 52:47 - 52:51
    And all of the sudden I come to work one day
    and I'm locked out.
  • 52:51 - 52:53
    [audible compassionate reaction from audience]
  • 52:53 - 53:01
    And so I think that for me, it's this decision to
    constantly think about what nurtures that radical self,
  • 53:01 - 53:03
    what holds me up?
  • 53:03 - 53:06
    You know, Shirley Chisholm holds me up.
    [ A FEW CHEERS ]
  • 53:06 - 53:09
    I mean, when I-
    her "Unbought and Unbossed" taught me,
  • 53:09 - 53:13
    much as Melissa and other people are saying that
    I taught them things-
  • 53:13 - 53:20
    she taught me that I could be whoever I wanted to be
    without having to lie down,
  • 53:20 - 53:26
    without having to be vulnerable and naked
    to the oppressor. [ SOME CLAPS ]
  • 53:26 - 53:31
    But what I also learned from her was that
    the rewards would be lesser,
  • 53:31 - 53:34
    that one would have to give up something.
  • 53:34 - 53:37
    You know when I read, a year or so ago,
  • 53:37 - 53:41
    and bell hooks talks--is talked about in "Ms."
    as "missing in action",
  • 53:41 - 53:45
    and I think, what are they talking about?
    I'm sitting here writing. [ AUDIENCE LAUGHTER ]
  • 53:45 - 53:48
    You know?
  • 53:48 - 53:50
    And there are things again-
    I talked with the students-
  • 53:50 - 53:55
    and Melissa will respond and will begin to close--
    open it up for questions-
  • 53:55 - 54:00
    that when you are committed,
    you often have to do things you don't want to do.
  • 54:00 - 54:07
    I am not interested in "Lean In," okay? You know?
    [ APPLAUSE ]
  • 54:07 - 54:16
    But I wrote a piece about it because I was very
    disturbed by what I felt was its overall impact.
  • 54:16 - 54:21
    And because I wasn't particularly interested,
    writing the piece was torturous.
  • 54:21 - 54:26
    I was so unhappy. And people kept telling me,
    "Well why don't you stop? Why don't you"
  • 54:26 - 54:31
    And all of you who know me know
    that I don't use, myself, much of the Internet,
  • 54:31 - 54:37
    so it's always in collaboration with other feminist
    sisters and brothers,
  • 54:37 - 54:41
    that things bell hooks get on the Internet.
  • 54:41 - 54:43
    And so I had my colleague,
    Stephanie Troutman, saying,
  • 54:43 - 54:49
    "bell, you agonized over this. You did it.
    Let me put it on the Internet for you.
    "
  • 54:49 - 54:57
    But that has been my story in writing from
    the beginning, that I have to say some things,
  • 54:57 - 54:59
    but I am not always somebody
    who wants to say them.
  • 54:59 - 55:05
    I want somebody else to jump up and say them,
    and take the heat. [ AUDIENCE LAUGHING ]
  • 55:05 - 55:07
    [ MHP ] Yeah.
  • 55:08 - 55:15
    [ b.h. ] And so, I mean, she said things.
    She takes the heat.
  • 55:15 - 55:19
    And I just don't want you to downplay that,
    despite our privilege.
  • 55:19 - 55:22
    I mean, I have an enormously privileged life,
    and y'all know.
  • 55:22 - 55:26
    Y'all up in here hear me talk about my cars and
    my houses and different things, my cheerio privilege,
  • 55:26 - 55:35
    leisure, solitude, but that doesn't mean that
    it doesn't require courage, sacrifice.
  • 55:35 - 55:42
    It doesn't mean that there isn't a bell welter of pain,
    because there often is.
  • 55:42 - 55:55
    So that we carry on precisely because of those
    people who we stand looking out at them-
  • 55:55 - 56:03
    Lorraine Hansberry--so many people we could name,
    who remind me what I'm here to do.
  • 56:03 - 56:09
    You know, it was Lorraine Hansberry who first
    taught me to start thinking critically about love.
  • 56:09 - 56:18
    When she asked "Are Black People loving people?"
    Or are we so damaged and so traumatized?
  • 56:18 - 56:25
    So that those issues of who we are and how we
    make our voices heard continue because, you know,
  • 56:25 - 56:33
    it's funny how, Melissa, I feel very strongly
    because I have lost family to death young recently.
  • 56:33 - 56:35
    [ VOICE BREAKING ]
  • 56:35 - 56:43
    I feel very strongly that I can't count on a white racist
    world to keep the bell hooks book going.
  • 56:43 - 56:47
    You know, and I laugh to people when say,
    "Oh bell, why don't you digitalize all these books?"
  • 56:47 - 56:54
    and I say, "Yeah, the moment they're electronic, a
    delete button can take them out of the universe
    ,"
  • 56:54 - 56:56
    [ APPLAUSE ]
  • 56:56 - 57:01
    and so there is this way in which I'm struggling with
    how do we protect our legacies as Black females?
  • 57:01 - 57:05
    How do we protect our voices? [ APPLAUSE ]
  • 57:05 - 57:09
    Because y'know there's a hundred, some hundreds
    of men, Black and white and whatever,
  • 57:09 - 57:12
    who we don't know anything about
    what they ever did,
  • 57:12 - 57:16
    but they have their institute,
    they have their whatever, [ AUDIENCE LAUGHTER ]
  • 57:16 - 57:21
    and so I am asking myself
    at this critical juncture of my life,
  • 57:21 - 57:27
    what am I doing to care for the legacy of my work?
  • 57:27 - 57:34
    I am not assuming that that work, despite all of you
    wonderful people that are here tonight, will live,
  • 57:34 - 57:39
    if I don't do the necessary things to continue its life.
  • 57:39 - 57:43
    I'm going to close. Melissa's going to say stuff
    and we're going to have a few questions.
  • 57:44 - 57:49
    [ MHP ] I think we can go to questions. I think...
  • 57:49 - 57:52
    [ AUDIENCE LAUGHTER THEN MORE APPLAUSE ]
  • 57:52 - 57:56
    I think there's a couple of mics in the audience.
  • 57:56 - 57:58
    [ b.h. ] And you know, ask your question quickly
  • 57:58 - 58:03
    'cause with Buddhist compassion I will tell you
    not to give that speech. Your name? [ LAUGHTER ]
  • 58:11 - 58:14
    [ KALIMA DE JESUS ] So my name
    is Kalima De Jesus,
  • 58:14 - 58:18
    and I have a question regarding the push-back
    around "Twelve Years a Slave".
  • 58:18 - 58:25
    And I would like to have a conversation about-
    bell hooks, you said you talked about feeling like
  • 58:25 - 58:30
    you've seen enough of the Black woman body
    who's been sexually assaulted, and I'm wondering
  • 58:30 - 58:34
    how do we find a balance about telling that history
  • 58:34 - 58:41
    of the sexual assault that Black women have endured
    years & years up until 2013, at this particular hour,
  • 58:41 - 58:47
    while white women have stayed complacent?
    And imagine it beyond that?
  • 58:47 - 58:52
    Holding that balance in a time when
    we are not being taught that at all.
  • 58:52 - 58:56
    [ b.h. ] But we are so much more than that,
    and that's really more the question.
  • 58:56 - 59:00
    The question is not how we can't image that
    or that it's not imaged.
  • 59:00 - 59:06
    It's all of us and who we are that's not imaged.
    And why are we not?
  • 59:06 - 59:13
    Why is there no world that wants to see the life
    someone like me leads as a Black female?
  • 59:13 - 59:19
    Economically self-sufficient, solitary,
    disciplined, writing?
  • 59:19 - 59:22
    Why is that not interesting,
  • 59:22 - 59:30
    not as interesting as images of if I were
    being beaten, raped, if the scars were on my body?
  • 59:30 - 59:36
    That's what concerns me more than even
    the sentimental slavery or whatever-
  • 59:36 - 59:40
    is, why are we not--where's our decolonized image?
  • 59:40 - 59:45
    [ MHP ] So, you know, it's interesting because
    part of what I liked about it
  • 59:45 - 59:49
    was that we got to see Patsy making the dolls,
    and we got to see her even in the context of--
  • 59:49 - 59:51
    [ b.h. ] I even hated the little dolls.
  • 59:51 - 59:56
    [ MHP ] Well, [ AUDIENCE LAUGHING ]
    so for me what the dolls meant,
  • 59:56 - 60:02
    and even her ability in the context of the horror
    was those late-night performative dances,
  • 60:02 - 60:07
    that in both of those contexts, she nonetheless finds-
    she's still human in them, right?
  • 60:07 - 60:11
    And that her humanity isn't entirely oppositional.
  • 60:11 - 60:15
    So we see her humanity
    in her oppositional moment about the soap,
  • 60:15 - 60:20
    but there's also that she can just be playful, or that-
  • 60:20 - 60:26
    that social death is in fact a falsehood
    in understanding what slavery was,
  • 60:26 - 60:28
    that there was still humanity in it.
  • 60:28 - 60:30
    I mean, so we have a reading of the film differently.
  • 60:30 - 60:36
    That said, this notion of the
    abused Black woman's body as becoming-
  • 60:36 - 60:43
    so I started fairly early on in the show talking
    about being a sexual assault survivor.
  • 60:43 - 60:47
    And, you know, I've been doing campus work
    around sexual assault forever.
  • 60:47 - 60:48
    I mean, it's not like it's a new thing.
  • 60:48 - 60:52
    No one in my family, you know,
    it wasn't a new discovery.
  • 60:52 - 60:58
    But I'm not sure that the people at the organization
    where I work knew it one way or another,
  • 60:58 - 61:01
    but they sort of like it.
  • 61:01 - 61:07
    Not that they like that I was abused, but they like me
    when I'm the sentimental person.
  • 61:07 - 61:12
    So they like when I write the letter to Trayvon
    Martin's mother, to Sybrina Fulton,
  • 61:12 - 61:21
    which is legitimately how I felt, Black mother
    to Black mother, but is, as bell was saying earlier,
  • 61:21 - 61:25
    but what it takes both to write it,
    and to deliver it on air,
  • 61:25 - 61:30
    and then to live with the consequences of having it
    delivered on air, is a lot.
  • 61:30 - 61:33
    It's very costly. It's very expensive.
  • 61:33 - 61:38
    So, it is both something that is meaningful to do,
    and very expensive.
  • 61:38 - 61:41
    And so because it's very expensive,
    I don't want to do it a lot, right?
  • 61:41 - 61:43
    I want to do it, but I don't want to do it every week.
  • 61:43 - 61:45
    It's just because shit hurts.
  • 61:45 - 61:49
    And then like, I remember when I did one of
    the letters around sexual assault
  • 61:49 - 61:54
    and then we had done it at like 10:30,
    so I had an hour-and-a-half of show left.
  • 61:54 - 61:56
    So you know I sat down and I said to myself,
  • 61:56 - 61:59
    okay sexual assault survivor, now it's time
    for dissociation.
  • 61:59 - 62:02
    Now we're going to practice
    our dissociation practice... here we go!
  • 62:02 - 62:06
    All right, half-and-a-half of now talking about Syria
    and something else.
  • 62:06 - 62:08
    So it's costly, so I don't like to do it a lot.
  • 62:08 - 62:10
    [ b.h. ] Yes. And you shouldn't do it a lot.
  • 62:10 - 62:16
    [ MHP ] Right, but that's what--but, back to the
    market--that's the market.
  • 62:16 - 62:24
    People like that Melissa. When Melissa is angry,
    yelling at the economist, right?
  • 62:24 - 62:27
    [ b.h. ] I'll say "clear", and "exact".
  • 62:27 - 62:32
    [ MHP ] Exacting. When Melissa is goofy,
    as I pretty often am,
  • 62:32 - 62:35
    and sometimes kind of goofy over-the-line,
  • 62:35 - 62:44
    sometimes goofy over-the-line wearing
    feminine products in my ears. [ AUDIENCE LAUGHING ]
  • 62:44 - 62:51
    The desire not to see me--I mean people say to me,
    "That's not you. You're not that. Don't do that."
  • 62:51 - 62:55
    Well of course I'm that. Of course I'm silly
    and goofy and crazy and over-the-top,
  • 62:55 - 62:59
    and sometimes I'm kind of, you know,
    sexy and bad and fly and all that.
  • 62:59 - 63:04
    And sometimes I am mad, and sometimes
    I am very sad, and hurt, and in pain.
  • 63:04 - 63:09
    Like, because, well, shit. I'm human.
    [ AUDIENCE LAUGHING AND CLAPPING ]
  • 63:09 - 63:13
    But I do think--and on this one, bell-
    this notion of range-
  • 63:13 - 63:16
    like not only in our consumption in popular culture,
  • 63:16 - 63:20
    but our desire to consume
    "The Strong Black Woman"
  • 63:20 - 63:24
    who overcomes the worst circumstances,
  • 63:24 - 63:26
    is the thing that we like the best.
  • 63:26 - 63:32
    And I say "we" like both the broad American public,
    Black people, "we like strong black women".
  • 63:32 - 63:36
    But we pitiful Black women, funny Black-
    we already know we don't like funny Black Women-
  • 63:36 - 63:40
    but you can't get a job, right?
    [ LAUGHING AND APPLAUSE ]
  • 63:40 - 63:44
    We are live streaming--I keep forgetting
    we are on the air. [ LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE ]
  • 63:44 - 63:48
    Right? [ OVERLAPPING WORDS, APPLAUSE ]
    No job and I get really get bad--
  • 63:48 - 63:52
    [ b.h. ] So what we're really talking about
    is that whole-
  • 63:52 - 63:58
    the whole question of what does it mean
    to have optimal emotional well-being?
  • 63:58 - 64:03
    'Cause when you have optimal emotional well-being,
    you can be whole.
  • 64:03 - 64:08
    You can be the diversities of who yourself is,
    and so you're saying...
  • 64:08 - 64:17
    you know, we have to resist again and again, people
    trying to deny us that space of emotional well-being,
  • 64:17 - 64:23
    by keeping us trapped into the plantation culture
    that says "this is who we are".
  • 64:23 - 64:26
    Your name, your quick question?
  • 64:26 - 64:32
    Ariel Rojas: Oh! [ LAUGHTER ]
    You caught me by surprise.
  • 64:32 - 64:37
    No, I was thinking about your, the finishing optimal...
  • 64:37 - 64:39
    [ b.h. ] Well-being.
  • 64:39 - 64:42
    [ AUDIENCE MEMBER ] Well-being. All right,
    so my name is Ariel
  • 64:42 - 64:46
    and I'm the president and founder of a non-profit
    organization called Transdiaspora Network.
  • 64:46 - 64:50
    And I work with inner-city kids.
  • 64:50 - 65:00
    I always participate in these forums in a very candid
    way because I do believe that dialogue
  • 65:00 - 65:06
    and communication is a good way to create ourness.
  • 65:06 - 65:10
    Yeah, yeah I'm getting there. [ LAUGHTER ]
  • 65:10 - 65:14
    But I'm putting this in context, because for me,
  • 65:14 - 65:17
    as the leader of a non-profit organization
    working with inner-city kids,
  • 65:17 - 65:29
    it's kind of--to see the disconnection between the
    high cultural elite of Black people producing culture,
  • 65:29 - 65:37
    with what's going on in the inner-city Black
    sort-of-plantation neighborhoods.
  • 65:37 - 65:41
    That sometimes you see girls that
    even when they turn 17
  • 65:41 - 65:49
    they haven't even been on the Brooklyn Promenade
    to see that view of Manhattan, that is very popular--
  • 65:49 - 65:51
    [ MHP ] You gotta ask a question though.
  • 65:51 - 65:53
    [ ROJAS ] No, no, I'm going to ask a question.
  • 65:53 - 65:54
    [ MHP ] Okay, okay, yeah.
  • 65:54 - 66:00
    [ ROJAS ] Okay so how we--how we the Black
    Leaders, can create a contrast,
  • 66:00 - 66:05
    not to white men, but how we can create
    a colorful palette,
  • 66:05 - 66:12
    in order to educate the young generations with
    these powerful contents that you create,
  • 66:12 - 66:15
    in order to fight injustice.
  • 66:15 - 66:21
    [ MHP ] I just--I gotta disagree with you
    that culture is made by the Black elite.
  • 66:21 - 66:27
    You know, I live in New Orleans.
    The culture is made actually by the inner-city kids.
  • 66:27 - 66:35
    The most powerful diasporic cultural tradition
    currently operating in the world
  • 66:35 - 66:40
    was made by Black and Puerto Rican kids
    in the inner cities of this city.
  • 66:40 - 66:43
    Now what I will say is, living in New Orleans,
  • 66:43 - 66:47
    in a place where poor people are the people
    who create the culture that is then--
  • 66:47 - 66:48
    [ b.h. ] --marketed.
  • 66:48 - 66:50
    [ MHP ] --that is then sold.
  • 66:50 - 66:57
    It's like so then now the consensus on both the Right
    and the Left is that--what's happening, for example,
  • 66:57 - 67:00
    the New Orleans school systems is good.
    This is improvement in the schools.
  • 67:00 - 67:02
    And of course one of the most important things
  • 67:02 - 67:05
    is that we ripped out all music education
    from the schools.
  • 67:05 - 67:07
    So I actually don't think we need to go
    teach kids culture.
  • 67:07 - 67:11
    I think we just need to give young people--
    wealthy and poor--
  • 67:11 - 67:13
    the tools, and they will create the culture.
  • 67:13 - 67:15
    [ ROJAS ] That's what I'm talking about.
    Creating the tools.
  • 67:15 - 67:19
    [ MHP ] I mean, well yeah. Resources. Resources.
    I mean, for me it's resources. Like I don't--
  • 67:19 - 67:21
    [ b.h. ] I just--
  • 67:21 - 67:22
    [ MHP ] --I don't think we need to go tell them
    what to do--
  • 67:22 - 67:24
    [ ROJAS ] No, no, I'm talking more about tools
    and ways--
  • 67:24 - 67:26
    [ b.h. ] --I--I want to add--add to this--
  • 67:26 - 67:28
    [ ROJAS ] to defend themselves because
    what happens when they ...
  • 67:28 - 67:30
    [ OVERLAPPING / INAUDIBLE...
    AUDIENCE BECOMES UNSETTLED
    ]
  • 67:30 - 67:32
    [ OTHER AUDIENCE MEMBER ] Brother,
    we don't talk while she was talking.
  • 67:32 - 67:35
    We should answer up someone else's questions.
    [ AUDIENCE LAUGHTER AND ANNOYANCE ]
  • 67:35 - 67:41
    [ b.h. ] I want to say that plantation culture
    is not just the culture that the poor lived within.
  • 67:41 - 67:45
    We are all living within plantation culture.
  • 67:45 - 67:50
    Our roles, our resources,
    are maybe radically different,
  • 67:50 - 67:57
    but it's part of some false notion of privilege
    to believe that we are somehow not touched
  • 67:57 - 68:03
    by the plantation culture that the very very people
    on the bottom are living.
  • 68:03 - 68:13
    Harsher lives, riskier lives, but the plantation culture
    is what the U.S. is making in the world,
  • 68:13 - 68:18
    and it is what is sustaining here.
    Your question, my sweet, your name?
  • 68:18 - 68:23
    [ TANYA FIELDS ] My name's Tanya Fields.
    I was actually on Melissa's show last month.
  • 68:23 - 68:25
    [ b.h. ] Yes, I saw you.
  • 68:25 - 68:27
    [ FIELDS ] I'm a low-income mom living in New York,
  • 68:27 - 68:29
    and my daughter's first board book was
    "Happy to be Nappy".
  • 68:29 - 68:31
    [ b.h. ] All right. [laughing]
  • 68:31 - 68:34
    [ FIELDS ] And the words that you guys are
    saying right now are so sustaining.
  • 68:34 - 68:38
    As a low-income Black mother,
    I have been struggling to find my voice,
  • 68:38 - 68:40
    and so I've been using my platforms:
    Twitter, Facebook,
  • 68:40 - 68:43
    and talking about this being a whole person,
  • 68:43 - 68:47
    what it means to be unmarried with three baby
    daddies and four kids. [ AUDIENCE AGREEMENT ]
  • 68:47 - 68:53
    The pushback that I am often feeling
    is not from the white folks in the community,
  • 68:53 - 68:57
    it is from the other sisters who tear me down,
    [ AUDIENCE: "MMHM", APPLAUSE ]
  • 68:57 - 69:01
    tell me that the reason I am low-income is because
    I didn't have the insight to choose good men,
  • 69:01 - 69:06
    that I should have kept my hand out and my mouth
    closed, and my legs closed, and kept my hand out.
  • 69:06 - 69:10
    And so I'm trying to figure out as we talk about
    this plantation culture,
  • 69:10 - 69:12
    as I try to rise above my circumstances
  • 69:12 - 69:16
    and literally create meals that the babies
    in my community can eat,
  • 69:16 - 69:20
    how do we--it stops you from wanting
    to have that voice.
  • 69:20 - 69:22
    I have people who tell me,
  • 69:22 - 69:25
    "When you talk about being low-income, don't talk
    about feeding your kids on food stamps
    .
  • 69:25 - 69:29
    You don't need an audience for that.
    Suffer in shame and in silence.
  • 69:29 - 69:35
    The situation that you are feeling is your own,
    and is a product of your own bad choice.
    "
  • 69:35 - 69:39
    I am pregnant with my fifth child
    and just had this man walk out on me.
  • 69:39 - 69:41
    How do you wake up every morning and-
  • 69:41 - 69:46
    I consider myself a Black Feminist but some days
    it's just so hard to get out of the bed
  • 69:46 - 69:49
    and face other Black people. [ APPLAUSE ]
  • 69:57 - 70:01
    [ b.h. ] Take it, mom. I said "take it."
    I actually said, "take it, mom."
  • 70:01 - 70:13
    [ MHP ] So that is, that is exactly what the whole
    thing is designed to do.
  • 70:13 - 70:19
    The language you used--
    "sit alone in your shame and suffer alone".
  • 70:22 - 70:25
    So, um--[ VOICE BREAKING ]
  • 70:30 - 70:34
    [ APPLAUSE ]
  • 70:34 - 70:47
    [ SPEAKING INAUDIBLY AWAY FROM MIC, COMFORTING TONE]
    [
    SNIFFLING, MORE APPLAUSE* ]
  • 71:11 - 71:14
    [ SPEAKING INTO MIC AGAIN ]
    Um--so it's just to say that-
  • 71:14 - 71:16
    -so, you know, I could turn into my academic self
  • 71:16 - 71:20
    which says that the reason that people who are most
    vulnerable to being in your exact same circumstance
  • 71:20 - 71:24
    are the ones who most want to shame you,
    is because--it's the same reason that-
  • 71:24 - 71:26
    it's the sorority girls on campus who say
  • 71:26 - 71:31
    that you gotta keep yourself from getting raped
    by not drinking.
  • 71:31 - 71:37
    It's because--it's the same reason that the churches
    that are growing among Black folks
  • 71:37 - 71:43
    are the prosperity health-and-wealth ones, instead of
    liberation and theology churches, right?
  • 71:43 - 71:48
    And it is because it is much easier to believe
    that we can solve inequality
  • 71:48 - 71:51
    by pulling up our pants, or keeping our legs closed.
  • 71:51 - 71:59
    Right, so it allows you to wipe away all of the
    structural realities that require collective action,
  • 71:59 - 72:03
    and that require work that goes over
    and past your own life.
  • 72:03 - 72:07
    So if it's just your individual decision-making-
    that I'm safe from it.
  • 72:07 - 72:09
    So as long as I make a different decision,
  • 72:09 - 72:14
    I will never be vulnerable to poverty,
    or to heart-ache, or to pain. [ APPLAUSE ]
  • 72:14 - 72:17
    And I will just say, you know, that your point about
    making all the right choices--right?
  • 72:17 - 72:20
    So I can remember the point at which
    I became a single parent,
  • 72:20 - 72:23
    and I was like, okay but whoa wait a minute.
  • 72:23 - 72:29
    I did everything right, and I got my degree first,
    and then I got married, and-
  • 72:29 - 72:34
    no, actually, I got my degree first, then I got married,
    then I bought a house, then I got pregnant.
  • 72:34 - 72:39
    I'm supposed to be all good, and that motherfucker
    be like "Peace out".
  • 72:39 - 72:41
    And went, and just was-
    and there I stood, with a baby.
  • 72:41 - 72:44
    Now I stood there with a baby and a degree
    and as a home-owner.
  • 72:44 - 72:50
    So the shame? I didn't have to--so because it's not
    really about being a single-parent.
  • 72:50 - 72:55
    It's about being poor. The thing you're supposed
    to be ashamed of is being poor.
  • 72:55 - 73:01
    And so it's as though--I will just say that that
    shaming--it is a defense mechanism
  • 73:01 - 73:05
    to keep people from having to do
    the hard work of organizing,
  • 73:05 - 73:08
    and it is the most dangerous thing
    in marginalized communities.
  • 73:08 - 73:12
    It is the most dangerous thing,
    because then we do not organize,
  • 73:12 - 73:15
    because we can just say that
    "if only you had made different choices",
  • 73:15 - 73:18
    then everything would be fine". [ APPLAUSE ]
  • 73:27 - 73:29
    [ b.h. ] I think we have to remember constantly
  • 73:29 - 73:37
    that shaming is one of the deepest tools of
    imperialist white-supremacist capitalist patriarchy,
  • 73:37 - 73:40
    because shame produces trauma.
  • 73:40 - 73:43
    And trauma often produces paralysis.
    [ AUDIENCE: "YEAH"s ]
  • 73:43 - 73:47
    So when that sister said that there are days
    when she can't get out of bed,
  • 73:47 - 73:52
    lots of us experience that sense of paralysis.
  • 73:52 - 74:00
    So that that healing--I have to go back to--I'm not
    going to belabor it--but to emotional well-being,
  • 74:00 - 74:06
    because we've got to have some mechanisms
    to resist what is out there,
  • 74:06 - 74:08
    to resist the constant shaming.
  • 74:08 - 74:09
    Your name?
  • 74:09 - 74:12
    [ CHARMIN ] Hi I'm Charmin. I go to CUNY
  • 74:12 - 74:15
    and I just want to say that this was one of the most
    beautiful audiences I've ever seen.
  • 74:15 - 74:17
    [ b.h. ] Hello, yay!
  • 74:17 - 74:20
    [ CHARMIN ] And I'd like to extend my invitation
    to more public universities and institutions,
  • 74:20 - 74:24
    where people that look like us
    are wanting your presence,
  • 74:24 - 74:28
    especially because you guys don't come here too
    often, so just want to put that out there.
  • 74:28 - 74:33
    And I also wanted to say that as a political organizer
    that is looking to demilitarize CUNY,
  • 74:33 - 74:37
    kicking Petraeus out of CUNY, [ CROWD CHEERS ]
    kicking militarism out of CUNY,
  • 74:37 - 74:42
    how do we deal with those hyper-masculine
    personalities that have values of anti-imperialism
  • 74:42 - 74:48
    and anti-racism but end up making me feel
    uncomfortable in spaces of radical organizing,
  • 74:48 - 74:52
    where we're talking about
    these really, really important issues
  • 74:52 - 74:56
    but understanding that imperialism is in your blood,
    brotha, and that's exactly what you're showing me
  • 74:56 - 74:58
    when you're shutting me up to cut the mic, right?
  • 74:58 - 75:04
    So I just want a healthy way to deal with that sis,
    'cos I cant do anti-military organizing right now,
  • 75:04 - 75:09
    just 'cos of the hyper-masculinity and the way that
    it's going but I am invested, you know.
  • 75:09 - 75:11
    [ b.h. ] Okay--okay. [ LAUGHTER ]
  • 75:11 - 75:13
    [ CHARMIN ] I'm sorry. I just got interrupted,
    that's all.
  • 75:13 - 75:16
    [ b.h. ] Well, I don't--I'm not going to have a long
    answer to that, but I also want to encourage us,
  • 75:16 - 75:20
    as we talked about in my undergraduate class today,
  • 75:20 - 75:25
    when we talk about hyper-masculinity, if what
    we mean is patriarchy, that is what we need to say.
  • 75:25 - 75:27
    [ CHARMIN ] Okay.
  • 75:27 - 75:32
    [ b.h. ] Because we have to have a space to love,
    to revere, and to honor that which is masculine,
  • 75:32 - 75:35
    but is not patriarchal.
  • 75:35 - 75:38
    And if we are constantly equating the two,
  • 75:38 - 75:44
    then we are part of the assault
    on masculinity on Black males.
  • 75:44 - 75:48
    [ APPLAUSE ] Are you--do you want to speak to that?
  • 75:48 - 75:52
    [ MHP ] So I appreciate you dividing up
    the masculinity and the patriarchy.
  • 75:52 - 75:56
    I think that's a critical one that we don't do
    and part of what I would say is, mhmm.
  • 75:56 - 76:05
    [ AUDIENCE LAUGHING ] Yep. And... true.
  • 76:05 - 76:17
    [ MORE LAUGHTER ] And y'know, in very public ways,
    bell hooks and I have both encountered that-
  • 76:17 - 76:21
    the entire history of Black women's organizing.
  • 76:21 - 76:26
    But then I'll always say that Black women have
    performed that, particularly straight Black women
  • 76:26 - 76:31
    have performed that around queer women of color.
  • 76:31 - 76:38
    Privileged women of color have performed that
    around undocumented and poor women.
  • 76:38 - 76:44
    And even within LGBT movements, cis women,
    even cis gay women,
  • 76:44 - 76:46
    perform that around trans women.
  • 76:46 - 76:48
    [ A FEW CLAPS ]
  • 76:48 - 76:53
    And so that, I think it's part of the importance
    of pulling out hyper-masculinity,
  • 76:53 - 76:58
    because you can be quite femme
    and be performing the same--
  • 76:58 - 76:59
    [ b.h. ] Patriarchal bull.
  • 76:59 - 77:02
    [ MHP ] --patriarchal bull, taking the mic, right?
  • 77:02 - 77:04
    So it's just to say that that "uh-huh"?
  • 77:04 - 77:10
    That's why it's easier to say "pull up your pants
    and close up your legs
    ", because organizing is hard.
  • 77:10 - 77:15
    Because people--I mean, who doesn't love people
    like in theory? But the actual people?
  • 77:15 - 77:19
    [ AUDIENCE LAUGHING AND CLAPPING ]
  • 77:19 - 77:24
    I mean, the actual people are very annoying,
    and hard, and difficult,
  • 77:24 - 77:32
    and you have to give a little and get a little
    and it's aaahhh. [ LAUGHTER ] So, welcome.
  • 77:32 - 77:35
    [ EBONY MURPHY-ROOT ] Hello, my name is Ebony
    Murphy-Root,
  • 77:35 - 77:40
    I'm a middle-school English teacher from Hartford,
    Connecticut, currently working here.
  • 77:40 - 77:42
    [ SOME CLAPPING ]
  • 77:42 - 77:46
    And Dr. hooks, you've talked a lot about Black
    and white female schoolteachers.
  • 77:46 - 77:49
    [ AWAY FROM MIC ] You obviously cover
    a lot of ed reform in your show, Dr. Harris-Perry.
  • 77:49 - 77:55
    Where are the Black female voices? The Black
    female working, schoolteacher voices in ed reform?
  • 77:55 - 77:58
    Because I feel like oftentimes, working as a public-
    school teacher in Hartford Connecticut,
  • 77:58 - 78:03
    working now, that we are being blamed for a culture
    that we did not create,
  • 78:03 - 78:07
    for problems that come in every day at schools
    that we didn't--we didn't create.
  • 78:07 - 78:13
    And yet we are being dehumanized and excluded
    from this conversation. [ APPLAUSE ]
  • 78:13 - 78:17
    [ MHP ] Well, I mean, you asked where you are.
    You are the targets, dear.
  • 78:17 - 78:24
    You are the reason that there is a powerful
    anti-union, anti-teacher
  • 78:24 - 78:29
    "go get the TFA Ivy Leaguers
    to teach the babies instead
    ".
  • 78:29 - 78:38
    I mean, it is not a mistake that the sector that
    is dominated by educated women of color
  • 78:38 - 78:43
    performing a task of reproduction
  • 78:43 - 78:50
    is the one where there is bipartisan consensus
    to destroy it. [ AUDIENCE AGREEMENT ]
  • 78:50 - 78:55
    So that's where you are. You've got the target on
    your back, and it is the very reality
  • 78:55 - 78:59
    that those are the bodies most impacted by
    the dehumanization movement,
  • 78:59 - 79:05
    by the chartering movement, and by the movement
    to bring TFAs into and actually staff-hold.
  • 79:05 - 79:09
    So, TFA is a lovely program at its initiation,
  • 79:09 - 79:13
    which is the idea that wealthy, Ivy-League,
    privileged children,
  • 79:13 - 79:18
    should go and spend a little time in the world
    before they run off to run the world, right?
  • 79:18 - 79:20
    [ AUDIENCE LAUGHING ]
  • 79:20 - 79:25
    It's actually a really--and I mean I know I'm saying
    that sort of sarcastically--but it's a smart idea, right?
  • 79:25 - 79:29
    Before you go off and make policy, before you go
    to Wall Street, before you go and run for office,
  • 79:29 - 79:31
    spend two years in the classroom.
  • 79:31 - 79:36
    Because what that does is it was a program
    whose focus was on the young person, right?
  • 79:36 - 79:38
    Not the student,
    you aren't going in to save the student.
  • 79:38 - 79:45
    You're going in to save yourself, right? And that's
    good. Like, yes! Great idea. We should do that.
  • 79:45 - 79:47
    Because then you would go get a little humility,
  • 79:47 - 79:51
    and you would sit quietly and listen to a teacher
    who would tell you things, and you would learn,
  • 79:51 - 79:52
    and you would observe, and you would walk away.
  • 79:52 - 79:57
    The problem with TFA came when it stopped being
    about the salvation of the privileged,
  • 79:57 - 80:01
    who needed a little saving of their full humanity
    in order to be better policy-makers,
  • 80:01 - 80:08
    and instead, became that somehow they would
    save the children and the classrooms
  • 80:08 - 80:13
    from professional teachers who'd committed their
    lives to working for very little pay,
  • 80:13 - 80:19
    very few resources, in schools. [ APPLAUSE ]
  • 80:19 - 80:23
    So, yeah, that's why you're not at the table.
  • 80:23 - 80:29
    Because you're the thing that we are seeking
    to destroy in education reform.
  • 80:31 - 80:38
    [ b.h. ] Okay we are going to hear these questions
    and try to answer.
  • 80:38 - 80:41
    We'll hear the three of them because
    our time is coming to a close.
  • 80:41 - 80:44
    Your question, sweetheart, your name?
  • 80:44 - 80:47
    [ ZEYNAB ] My name is Zeynab, and
    my question is, was there a moment for both of you?
  • 80:47 - 80:49
    Was there a moment when you realized that this is it-
  • 80:49 - 80:52
    I need to write, I need to say something-
    I need to talk?
  • 80:52 - 80:59
    And how did you push back against the urge?
    I mean, like, if you had the urge to silence yourself?
  • 80:59 - 81:03
    [ b.h. ] Okay, so we'll hold that. Your question?
  • 81:03 - 81:08
    We're going to hear all these four questions
    and--yes, darling?
  • 81:08 - 81:10
    [ NIKISHA LEWIS ] Hi, my name is Nikisha
    Lewis, and you talked about the gap
  • 81:10 - 81:14
    that currently exists between men and women
    in the Black community.
  • 81:14 - 81:18
    And so, as I'm thinking about Renisha McBride today,
    and the outrage that doesn't
  • 81:18 - 81:21
    I feel, doesn't yet exist over her life
  • 81:21 - 81:25
    the loss of her life,
    as it existed over the loss of Trayvon Martin's life.
  • 81:25 - 81:28
    I'm really angry and fighting back tears
    in my work every day.
  • 81:28 - 81:33
    So how do we bridge this gap, this divide, in our
    community, so that we can value all of our lives,
  • 81:33 - 81:38
    Black women's and girls' lives, as much as we value
    the men and boys that we love dearly?
  • 81:38 - 81:40
    [ b.h. ] Okay, and--?
  • 81:40 - 81:43
    [ VIRGINIA ] Hi My name is Virginia, I'm here
    with Public Allies, and my question is,
  • 81:43 - 81:47
    how instrumental is the male and/or white ally
    in the movement against patriarchy?
  • 81:47 - 81:58
    [ MIXED AUDIENCE REACTION
    OF TALKING AND LAUGHING
    ]
  • 81:58 - 82:02
    [ AUDIENCE MEMBER ] Hi, I have a question
    about African-American imperialism,
  • 82:02 - 82:08
    and the mode at which we are privileged
    in our idea of Blackness,
  • 82:08 - 82:13
    and we throw Blackness around
    as if we all understand what that is,
  • 82:13 - 82:18
    and we travel the world--there is a world out there,
    a global world out there that we exist in,
  • 82:18 - 82:21
    that identifies with Blackness as an othering.
  • 82:21 - 82:24
    so how do we leave room for that conversation
  • 82:24 - 82:28
    when we start to inflict capitalist ways of thinking
    on other people? [ APPLAUSE ]
  • 82:30 - 82:36
    [ b.h. ] Well, I'm going to start with that question
    of "Why can't we value Black female lives?"
  • 82:36 - 82:44
    Until we challenge patriarchy, there is going to be
    no valuing of Black women's lives
  • 82:44 - 82:52
    over the small valuing of Black male lives that takes
    place, because the very structure militates against it.
  • 82:52 - 82:59
    So, I mean, one of the things I've always felt so
    strongly, and really express in "We Real Cool",
  • 82:59 - 83:04
    is the depths of Black male woundedness
    by patriarchal terrorism.
  • 83:04 - 83:08
    And until that--those wounds get addressed
    in some way,
  • 83:08 - 83:14
    I don't think we're going to get the respect,
    the recognition, the care,
  • 83:14 - 83:20
    because I was thinking about how even Oscar
    Grant's mother is portrayed at the end of the film,
  • 83:20 - 83:22
    as blaming herself.
  • 83:22 - 83:31
    She should not have, you know, not that we get a
    full-on calling-out of the system that destroys him.
  • 83:33 - 83:39
    [ MHP ] So, yes, and, I think part of what happens is
  • 83:39 - 83:44
    so I assume when you say "we value",
    I assume you mean "Black communities"
  • 83:44 - 83:49
    part of what I would suggest is that what works for us
  • 83:49 - 83:52
    is tropes that are connected to
    something that we understand.
  • 83:52 - 83:57
    And this is something--I'm still thinking about
    your critique of "Twelve Years a Slave".
  • 83:57 - 84:03
    And so, one of the tropes that we understand
    about Black women's suffering
  • 84:03 - 84:07
    is the idea of a Black woman raped by the white
    male slaveowner, right? That one we get.
  • 84:07 - 84:11
    So, if you go back to the case,
    the Duke lacrosse case, right?
  • 84:11 - 84:14
    You had immediate community mobilization.
  • 84:14 - 84:18
    I mean, that day,
    that night called for action [ SWOOSH! ]
  • 84:18 - 84:25
    because that trope--"Black woman sexually assaulted
    by white man, in South, on old plantation
    "-
  • 84:25 - 84:28
    like, we--that one we understood.
    We had a thing to hang it on.
  • 84:28 - 84:31
    We know the story that it is, and we can tell it.
  • 84:31 - 84:34
    Now, so pause for me on that a moment on that,
    and let's go to all...
  • 84:34 - 84:38
    various stories about Black men's victimization,
  • 84:38 - 84:45
    and the ways in which those stories often hang on
    the trope that we know that is the lynching trope.
  • 84:45 - 84:49
    So we like to forget, because it's
    painful to remember,
  • 84:49 - 84:53
    that in the week after Supreme Court Justice
    Clarence Thomas,
  • 84:53 - 84:58
    during his hearing about Anita Hill said,
    "This is a high-tech lynching",
  • 84:58 - 85:02
    that the public opinion polls showed that greater than
    50% of African-Americans
  • 85:02 - 85:06
    supported Clarence Thomas' confirmation
    to the bench.
  • 85:06 - 85:11
    Now I think that's because he used the trope of
    lynching, and that we're like "oh yeah, right!
  • 85:11 - 85:15
    "Black man, white"--you know--"Joe Biden and the
    other white guy saying mean things"
  • 85:15 - 85:18
    "that looks like lynching--I know that trope."
  • 85:18 - 85:21
    And of course, no one's ever been lynched
    for what they've done to a Black woman.
  • 85:21 - 85:25
    White men don't posse up to go get a Black man
    for what he did to a Black woman.
  • 85:25 - 85:33
    But that story is why there was increased radio play
    of R. Kelly after he raped a child in our community.
  • 85:33 - 85:38
    It's why people don't want to believe
    Mike Tyson did it, right?
  • 85:38 - 85:44
    Because we get the "vulnerable Black man
    facing white lynch mob
    "
  • 85:44 - 85:48
    that's the story that the Trayvon Martin story
    fits into for us.
  • 85:48 - 85:52
    Marissa Alexander doesn't fit our story
  • 85:52 - 85:57
    because she is shooting a gun at
    an abusive Black husband coming at her.
  • 85:57 - 86:01
    We don't have--we may know that...
    we may intimately know that story,
  • 86:01 - 86:08
    but we don't have a "story"--a trope, a thing--that is
    the abuse of Black women's bodies by Black men.
  • 86:08 - 86:12
    And in the case of Renisha,
    I don't think we yet have coped with.
  • 86:12 - 86:16
    Because when the Trayvon Martin moment
    happened, and the Zimmerman verdict happened,
  • 86:16 - 86:21
    all of us were saying, "these are the conversations
    that we have with our sons
    ,
  • 86:21 - 86:22
    about our sons' public safety".
  • 86:22 - 86:28
    And I think we have missed how much our girls
    are equally vulnerable in that space. [ APPLAUSE ]
  • 86:28 - 86:31
    So we don't have a good...
    we don't have a good trope.
  • 86:31 - 86:36
    We don't have a thing to call why a white man
    opening the door--right,
  • 86:36 - 86:38
    so allegedly what we think we know at this point,
  • 86:38 - 86:43
    is that he opens the door
    and sees her as a physical threat to him.
  • 86:43 - 86:48
    We don't--like, what is the story? So we know "white
    man creeping down and raping the Black woman
    ",
  • 86:48 - 86:51
    but we don't know "white man
    afraid of Black woman knocking at his door
    ".
  • 86:51 - 86:57
    Like, what is that story, right? So part of it is, I think
    just a general devaluation, but the other part of it is,
  • 86:57 - 87:01
    I think if it doesn't fit a story
    that we have easily available to us?
  • 87:01 - 87:05
    And there aren't very many stories about
    our victimization that are easily available,
  • 87:05 - 87:09
    that we can employ and use, and so we're going to
    have to generate those.
  • 87:09 - 87:13
    I do think that's part of it, at least.
  • 87:13 - 87:18
    [ b.h. ] So there was the question about writing.
    Was there a moment?
  • 87:18 - 87:22
    And for me those moments are just
    ongoing and endless,
  • 87:22 - 87:27
    but they began for me as a girl in
    Virginia Street Baptist Church,
  • 87:27 - 87:32
    when I was encouraged to write for our
    church magazine and stuff like that.
  • 87:32 - 87:34
    [ AUDIENCE LAUGHING ]
  • 87:40 - 87:42
    [ MHP ] Are you--dear, are you a writer?
  • 87:42 - 87:45
    [ ZEYNAB, BARELY AUDIBLE, NO MIC ]
    Yeah. [ LAUGHTER ]
  • 87:47 - 87:49
    [ MHP ] Do you feel that impulse to write?
  • 87:49 - 87:51
    [ ZEYNAB ] Yeah.
  • 87:51 - 87:54
    [ MHP ] And you feel it even when
    there's other stuff to be done?
  • 87:54 - 87:56
    [ ZEYNAB ] Nah, I don't think so.
    [ LAUGHTER ]
  • 87:59 - 88:01
    [ MHP ] So I wonder, 'cause you asked
    about the silencing.
  • 88:01 - 88:04
    Do you self-edit when you're writing,
    like you're pulling back?
  • 88:04 - 88:06
    [ ZEYNAB ] Yeah.
  • 88:07 - 88:09
    [ MHP ] Only when you're writing for yourself,
  • 88:09 - 88:12
    or when you're also writing...
    so if you're writing for yourself, it's all there.
  • 88:12 - 88:18
    But if you're writing for an audience, you're pulling
    it back? Who's the audience typically, teachers?
  • 88:18 - 88:20
    [ ZEYNAB ] Yeah. Or like--
  • 88:22 - 88:23
    [ b.h. ] I'm going to have to speed you on.
  • 88:23 - 88:27
    [ MHP ] Yes, okay I'm sorry. I just--my bet is
    that question wasn't about us, right?
  • 88:27 - 88:32
    Who cares what I think about writing? My bet is that
    question is about you and that you're working on it.
  • 88:32 - 88:38
    But if you ask that question, and the real question is
    "Am I a writer?", the answer is "Yes, of course you are."
  • 88:38 - 88:40
    If you ask that question, of course you're a writer.
  • 88:40 - 88:44
    And if you are, if you're self-editing,
    at least find some friendly audiences,
  • 88:44 - 88:49
    some safe audiences where you can write without...
    it's okay to self-edit to feel fearful of your audience...
  • 88:49 - 88:52
    I think that's okay.
    Particularly when you're a young writer,
  • 88:52 - 88:55
    but also just make sure you have some audiences,
    someone who's reading for you,
  • 88:55 - 88:58
    who is a safe place for you to write.
  • 88:58 - 89:03
    [ b.h. ] Okay, are you answering the
    imperialism question? [ A FEW LAUGHS ]
  • 89:04 - 89:08
    [ MHP ] No, you want to answer that one?
    [ AUDIENCE LAUGHING ]
  • 89:08 - 89:12
    I get in too much trouble behind this, yeah.
    [ LAUGHING AND CLAPPING ]
  • 89:18 - 89:22
    [ b.h. ] I'm going to be honest. Part of my silence
    is I've forgotten parts of the question.
  • 89:22 - 89:24
    I didn't--I didn't forget the imperialist--
  • 89:24 - 89:26
    [ MHP ] No-no, it's the [ INAUDIBLE ]
    of Black versions-
  • 89:26 - 89:29
    American versions of Blackness, right?
    And capitalism, right?
  • 89:29 - 89:32
    [ b.h. ] There was the patriarchal allies,
    which was the woman behind you.
  • 89:32 - 89:34
    [ MHP ] Yeah, yeah, we're coming to that one.
  • 89:34 - 89:36
    [ b.h. ] Yeah.
  • 89:36 - 89:38
    [ AUDIENCE MEMBER ] I think that it happens
    within both men and women,
  • 89:38 - 89:41
    and it does happen to men and women.
  • 89:41 - 89:44
    But but the implications of privilege
    with our ideas of Blackness,
  • 89:44 - 89:49
    being that Blackness has changed over time, like
    you're talking about the President in office right now,
  • 89:49 - 89:53
    and him being an African-American
    imperialist essentially,
  • 89:53 - 89:57
    and subconsciously that affecting all of us
    who do that as well, when we travel.
  • 89:57 - 90:01
    So there's a world out there that
    we don't identify with all the time.
  • 90:01 - 90:05
    [ b.h. ] Well I think you've stated it.
    I mean that's what's real.
  • 90:05 - 90:10
    I mean what's scary is why people
    don't want to face that reality
  • 90:10 - 90:16
    why they want to still pretend that there's
    some solidified Blackness, and not--I mean,
  • 90:16 - 90:19
    that there's tremendous crisis in Blackness
  • 90:19 - 90:25
    because our class differences and separations
    grow more intense daily.
  • 90:25 - 90:33
    And we're asked to believe that there's still some
    kind of R&B Blackness that unites us.
  • 90:33 - 90:39
    [ AUDIENCE LAUGHING ] Will you take the
    patriarchal question? And then we're going to close.
  • 90:41 - 90:43
    [ MHP ] Yeah. Right, well, I think--we remember
    the patriarchy question.
  • 90:43 - 90:46
    So, I guess the one thing I would say is--
  • 90:46 - 90:49
    [ VIRGINIA ] I'll just say it again.
  • 90:49 - 90:55
    So how instrumental is the male and/or white ally
    in our movement against patriarchy?
  • 90:55 - 90:59
    [ b.h. ] I've actually been questioning
    this use of the word "ally" [ SOME LAUGHTER ]
  • 90:59 - 91:03
    because I think that if someone is standing
    on their own beliefs,
  • 91:03 - 91:13
    and their own beliefs are anti-patriarchal, anti-sexist,
    they are not required to be anybody's ally.
  • 91:13 - 91:18
    They are on their front line in the same way
    that I'm on my front line.
  • 91:18 - 91:24
    And I can tell you, women, when you find those men
    in patriarchy--gay, straight, trans*, whatever...
  • 91:24 - 91:29
    that are on the front line, we recognize them.
    The sad truth is that there are so few of them.
  • 91:29 - 91:32
    [ AUDIBLE AGREEMENT FROM AUDIENCE ]
  • 91:32 - 91:39
    Okay. [ AUDIENCE LAUGHING AND
    APPLAUDING
    ] Are you saying something?
  • 91:39 - 91:46
    [ MHP ] Yeah, I mean, I guess I--so one thing
    I would--so this is maybe my--this is my academic
  • 91:46 - 91:48
    this is my professorial self.
  • 91:48 - 91:55
    I worry anytime we expect--so sometimes one of the
    pieces of language used, particularly in the academy-
  • 91:55 - 91:59
    -maybe it's also used in media--I'm not so sure-
    is this idea of role modeling.
  • 91:59 - 92:05
    "We need you to be there in that body to role-model
    to other people who have bodies similar to yours
    ,
  • 92:05 - 92:08
    that these things are possible."
  • 92:08 - 92:12
    And I have very--I have very mixed emotions
    about that role-modeling idea,
  • 92:12 - 92:17
    in part because I think that the imagination
    of Black Americans is...
  • 92:17 - 92:22
    our sort of critical, moral, creative imagination is one
    of our great accomplishments in the U.S. context.
  • 92:22 - 92:26
    Our ability to imagine freedom in the context
    of intergenerational chattel bondage,
  • 92:26 - 92:30
    our ability to believe God loves us when there is no
    empirical evidence that God does love us,
  • 92:30 - 92:35
    our willingness to engage. [ LAUGHTER ]
  • 92:35 - 92:39
    Right, so I actually don't know that we need to cease-
  • 92:39 - 92:44
    -I mean, I think part of our genius is that we don't
    need to see it to nonetheless believe it & pursue it.
  • 92:44 - 92:50
    And in fact, even in as much as that is, I think a
    unique--as Cornel West would say...
  • 92:50 - 92:55
    a unique gift of Black people
    to the American Project, right?
  • 92:55 - 93:00
    I mean that's the language that he uses. It's one of
    our gifts, particularly in the post-9/11 moment.
  • 93:00 - 93:09
    That as much as that is true, it's also been true of
    even the nastiest low-down racist patriarchs of our nation.
  • 93:09 - 93:12
    So my daughter--and I promise I'm going to end-
  • 93:12 - 93:15
    my daughter is in 6th grade and she had to learn
    the Declaration of Independence,
  • 93:15 - 93:18
    the little, you know, "We hold these truths to be self-
    evident, that all men are created equal
    ,
  • 93:18 - 93:20
    and endowed with their Creator
    with certain inalienable rights,
  • 93:20 - 93:22
    that among these are Life, Liberty,
    and the Pursuit of Happiness,
  • 93:22 - 93:28
    and governments are instituted among men
    to protect these rights
    "--right, okay?
  • 93:28 - 93:31
    She was hot. Mad. [ AUDIENCE LAUGHING ]
  • 93:31 - 93:36
    She was like, "This is some old bull. That was
    not true! 1776, we were slaves, we couldn't vote.
    "
  • 93:36 - 93:44
    She was mad, she was walking around the house,
    mad! [ AUDIENCE LAUGHING ] Mad!
  • 93:44 - 93:48
    Now part of this 'cause she's in sixth grade, so
    she's mad that the sun comes up, so she's just mad.
  • 93:48 - 93:55
    But she was mad behind this, and--but, so Thomas
    Jefferson is vile. Like he just is vile, right?
  • 93:55 - 93:58
    He owns his own children at various points.
  • 93:58 - 94:04
    But--and this is the final ally--but he didn't write
    a document that says,
  • 94:04 - 94:10
    "We think that maybe, possibly, old white men
    with money are equal, in a few kind of ways,
  • 94:10 - 94:12
    and maybe they could get a gut"
  • 94:12 - 94:16
    that's what the Constitution says, [ LAUGHTER ]
  • 94:16 - 94:20
    but the Declaration of Independence
    has a moral imagination
  • 94:20 - 94:24
    beyond the empirical reality of
    the 1776 Monticello Mountain.
  • 94:24 - 94:29
    And so I don't know that I need
    patriarchs and white men and...
  • 94:29 - 94:33
    but what I do... what is possible
    on that kind of allied position,
  • 94:33 - 94:38
    is for them to imagine something bigger
    than what is in this moment.
  • 94:38 - 94:42
    And so as much as I've had my little, you know,
    critiques about--like, you know,
  • 94:42 - 94:45
    the people who work at MSNBC, in the leadership,
    those old white guys,
  • 94:45 - 94:47
    who are rich and powerful and sit around a table,
  • 94:47 - 94:52
    and maybe someday... maybe today... will fire me,
    and everyone else [ LAUGHTER ]
  • 94:52 - 94:54
    they nonetheless did... they could say,
  • 94:54 - 94:58
    "oh well, what if put a little gay girl on here
    and what if we put a little Black girl on here.
    "
  • 94:58 - 95:01
    "And maybe--oh and let the Asian girl"...and how...
  • 95:01 - 95:07
    and so those are things that required a little bit of...
    it's not revolution.
  • 95:08 - 95:11
    [ MHP ] It's the opposite of revolution,
    but it is a little imagination.
  • 95:11 - 95:15
    [ b.h. ] ...at heart, also, our movement
    away from binaries.
  • 95:15 - 95:18
    So we would like to leave you with this whole notion
  • 95:18 - 95:24
    that if you work for freedom,
    one of the ways that you can work for freedom,
  • 95:24 - 95:31
    is to change your mind and to move away from the
    space of binaries, of simplistic either-or, both-and,
  • 95:31 - 95:37
    and to be able to look at the picture
    that offers us complexity.
  • 95:37 - 95:43
    I want to thank Stephanie Browner, Heather
    and Jennifer, for all their work,
  • 95:43 - 95:51
    and my sister, my soul sister, [ LAUGHTER ].
    Melissa Harris-Perry, thank you for being here.
  • 95:51 - 95:54
    [ MHP ] Thank you, bell. Thank you, bell.
  • 95:54 - 95:57
    [ PASSIONATE APPLAUSE AND CHEERING... ]
Title:
Black Female Voices: A public dialogue between bell hooks and Melissa Harris-Perry | The New School
Description:

bell hooks' week-long residency at The New School (http://www.newschool.edu) culminates with this momentous event: Black Female Voices: Who is Listening - A public dialogue between bell hooks + Melissa Harris-Perry.

bell hooks and Melissa Harris-Perry, founding director of the Anna Julia Cooper Project on Gender, Race, and Politics in the South, Professor of Political Science at Tulane University, author, and host of MSNBC's "Melissa Harris-Perry," join in a conversation about race, black womanhood, politics, media, and love.

bell hooks (née Gloria Watkins) is among the leading public intellectuals of her generation. Her writings cover a broad range of topics including gender, race, teaching, and contemporary culture. According to Dr. hooks, these topics must be understood as interconnected and linked in the production of systems of oppression and class domination.

bell hooks Scholar-in-Residence at The New School is an opportunity to directly engage Dr. hooks and her commitment to education as a practice of freedom.

Eugene Lang College The New School for Liberal Arts, based in New York City, is one of very few liberal arts schools in the country fostering critical thinking, social justice, and cross-cultural understanding | http://www.newschool.edu/lang

Location: Tishman Auditorium, Alvin Johnson/J.M. Kaplan Hall, Friday, November 8, 2013 at 3:30 pm to 5:00 pm

================
Original transcript kindly created by Nadia, available in the public Facebook group Community Access: Captions, Transcripts, Image Descriptions here:
https://www.facebook.com/groups/1376494605921382/1417568115147364/

Amara captions courtesy of the Radical Access Mapping Project, Un-ceded Coast Salish Territories of the Skwxwú7mesh, Musqueam, and Tsleil-Waututh peoples.
http://radicalaccessiblecommunities.wordpress.com/subtitled-videos/
================

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Video Language:
English
Duration:
01:36:19

English subtitles

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