One of the reasons why I like reading the work of bell hooks is that she draws on examples from her own life as a black woman in America to expose the ways that racism and sexism still operate in the United States. In her chapter titled “Liberation Scenes” she takes aim at the media, arguing that far too many people have become complacent with the images they see and the words they hear on television and in the movies, and reminds us that these performances are much more than forms of entertainment, they are cultural constructs which shape and propagate ideas about the social world. Drawing on her own background, she describes how for black people living in the American south in the 1950s and 1960s, watching television and going to the movies was not a means of escape but rather “a place of confrontation and encounter” (hooks, 1984: 4). Theirs was not a passive consumption of images. Depictions of black servants living in harmony with their benevolent white masters were refuted and rebuked, not romanticized and idealized. Moreover, she discusses how these challenges took place among friends and family — in the home — away from public scrutiny. Resisting these images was a daily struggle, but this was black liberation in the mid-twentieth century. To bell hooks, modern day viewers, especially people who have to battle stereotypes and discrimination, need to nurture this critical edge.
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