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Lions Roar : July 2006
SHAMBHALA SUN JULY 2006 99 backgrounds . . . , many of them doing the work of single parenting, working a job, and attending school.” She also found stu- dents who were increasingly being “edu- cated” by media images, which fired her enthusiasm for teaching her students to think critically about the world those im- ages conveniently invented for them. hooks’ prodigious output continued during her time at City. She produced the autobiographical works about growing up quoted above, but she also began to turn her thoughts to the plight of black people in general and black men in particular. What she found teaching in Harlem was an endemic lack of self-esteem and a propen- sity for self-sabotage: fear of failure was a self-fulfilling prophesy. Her prescription, laid out in books like Killing Rage: Ending Racism and Salvation: Black People and Love, was to find within the rage that has arisen from repeated injustices a path to healing. From hooks’ point of view, this requires people to discover what it means to love—not just greeting card love or the love expressed in gestures, but self-love, and a love of others strengthened by jus- tice. It is the deep “metaphysics of love,” where you learn to “bring to everyday life a sense, not just of doing things, but of be- ing and meaning.” What hooks means by this, she tells me, is that love is not possible when we are defined by images given to us by oth- ers, by the people and processes of domi- nator culture. Instead, we must be able to “self-invent,” to develop who we are from within. The same kind of thinking runs through her work on black men and masculinity, We Real Cool. “One of the big failures for black men,” she tells me, “has been a failure to imagine themselves beyond the terms of the existing culture. Feminism gave to black women and all women the ability to imagine themselves beyond patriarchal images. But black men have just continued to feel ‘I should be earning a certain amount of money.’ “I don’t necessarily feel the need for my partner to have a job,” she continues, “so long as he occupies his day with some- thing that absorbs his imagination. But women will say to me, ‘Girlfriend, I would