I remember learning why Frederick Douglass had two s’s in his last name when I was in the fifth grade. He added the extra s in order to distinguish himself from his legal owner. Black slaves carried the last names of their owner. The legacy has continued. Black Americans carry the last name of their families former legal owner. I recall admiring the subtle act of rebellion. I respect Frederick;s strong sense of self during the times of legal slavery.
I remember wanting to change my last name. However, I didn’t want to change my name to X like Malcom Little did. I wanted to change the spelling of my name. There is no way to change the spelling of my and have it make phonetic sense so that idea was fleeting. But I have taken strong interest in Black American studies since then. Learning about Black people’s history in America has given me perspective, admiration for Black Americans and a strong sense of self, pride and belonging.
The story of Black people in America is very dramatic. It makes me sad, angry, confused and dismayed. But some of the stories of Black people in America are historic and awe inspiring. Black Americans are ironically very patriotic and have stood up for the American way more than anyone else. Other disenfranchised groups have modeled their campaigns for equality and rights on the African American struggle in this country. African American history is fascinating.
The governor of Florida wants to block advance studies of African American studies in Florida. He wants to limit the history of what is taught about Black people in American schools with the Stop WOKE Act. Rob DeSantis doesn’t want any subject matter about race taught in schools. I’m unsure how you teach American history without talking about ethnic background when you consider the vast majority of this country has ancestors that originated outside of North America.
The current political attitudes in the US are very disappointing and insulting. Republicans are firmly committed to dishonesty and controlling Americans. They are also devoted to presenting White people as morally righteous and admirable. The agenda of White Americans is thought of as destined to be and all their actions are thought to be justifiable. That’s not history. That’s not education. That’s propaganda.
I’ve been listening to the work of Black, feminist writer *bell hooks on audio books. I listened to “Sisters of the Yam”, “Feminism is for Everybody” and “Ain’t I a Woman, Black Women and Feminism”. I don’t remember the interaction but someone on social media recommended that I read Black feminist theory after I stated that I am not a feminist. I took the advice and my stance hasn’t changed. I appreciate some of bell hooks’ work and ideas but I reject significant parts of her theories. Ultimately I don’t think her beliefs are beneficial to Black Americans if someone follows Ms. hooks’ teachings religiously. And many follow bell hooks religiously. Ms. hooks states in one of her books that she had admirers that say her books are their Bible. That’s very unfortunate.
bell hooks is the godmother of social media. Her thoughts, ideas and wording have been repeated on social media for over a decade. bell hooks is often copied without being credited and cited. I’m unsure if this is intentional. She used the phrase Black women are seen as mules. She uses the word bodies often, as in “Black bodies”. She talks about Black women being unprotected. All of these expressions are common among social media users that like to discuss liberal women’s issues. At this point social media pundits are likely repeating other social media accounts. There isn’t much originality on social media. People simply post what they think will go viral or get pushed through the algorithm.
I certainly think it’s a worthwhile academic pursuit to study Black women in America. I appreciate Ms. hooks’ scholarship on Black women and our place and image in society. bell hooks notes in her work that the Black Civil Rights movements focused on freedom for Black men. I think that is debatable but hooks uses the fact that Black men were offered suffrage before women of any race. hooks also states that White women are the focus of the feminist movement. I agree with that and that’s one reason I don’t subscribe to the belief system. Studies about Black women in America can be enlightening and beneficial.
hooks made note that Black women have always worked in America. Professional opportunities that feminism created were given to White women. hooks also states that the professional opportunities that were offered to White women kept Black men out of high paying professional opportunities. The Feminist movement conveniently came about on the heels of the Black Civil Rights movement that broke the boundaries that were set in place by segregation. Black Americans made a step forward due to the Civil Rights movement but the feminist movement was a step back, road block or detour. To me that sounds like Feminism is meaningless to Black Americans at best and destructive at worst. So why should any Black women call themselves a feminist?
bell hooks thinks the answer to advancement for Black Americans is communities that aren’t necessarily centered around nuclear families and non Christian spiritual paths. hooks encouraged Black women to explore new aged and Eastern religions because Christianity is a patriarchal religion that encourages traditional gender roles. As a believer in Christ I think both suggestions are detrimental. I think the institutions of Black families and Black Christian churches are the two entities that helped Black people advance in this country. The abolition movement, Underground Railroad and Civil Rights movements were all Christian faith based movements.
hooks thought of Christian teachings as anti female because it encourages male leadership and gender roles. She used the word patriarchal often. Ms. hooks sees patriarchy as a system in which women are dominated. She doesn’t see male leadership and provision as potentially beneficial for women. Bell didn’t seem to think relationships between men and women can be respectful, loving and enjoyable. bell hooks acknowledged that Black women suffered because they were/are unprotected but she sees male leadership and provision (patriarchy) as domination. It doesn’t make any sense.
bell hooks acknowledged in “Ain’t I a Woman, Black Women and Feminism” that it was a shock to the post Antebellum economy when Black families decided that Black women would devote more time to their families as opposed to labor outside of the home. I don’t know why she didn’t see the act of investing in Black children and families as rebellion, revolutionary and creating a foundation for economic advancement.
bell hooks describes herself as queer. bell hooks never married and did not have children. She revealed in an interview that she was celibate for seventeen years and she would love a partner. It’s hard to say if that influenced her opinions of nuclear families.
bell hooks didn’t seem to have much admiration or respect for Black Americans period. She doesn’t say anything about Black American contributions, perseverance and accomplishments despite what we’ve faced in the United States. Her view of Black American history is all a matter of being a victim despite new opportunities that become available with each generation. She has a similar view of being a woman within Black communities as if we have no agency and more opportunities than ever.
bell hooks died in December 2021 at age sixty nine due to kidney failure. bell hooks spoke a lot about history but not the present. I enjoy learning about Black American history. I think history paves the way for the current events but we have to acknowledge that we are further down the path of time.
bell hooks and her admirers act as if we have experienced the same circumstances as our grandmothers and those that came before them. I don’t feel like her work offers many realistic solutions to challenges that affect Black women in 2023. bell hooks and I don’t even agree with what the problems are.
bell hooks speaks of Black women and Black people through a lens of comparison and how we are viewed by White people and Black men. I also don’t see the purpose in making comparisons between Black women/people and others because we have a unique history in the US. The comparisons can’t be discussed without discussing the factors that made the circumstances so different. We know that we were/are viewed with a distorted, self serving lens and have lived under a different set of circumstances. I don’t think a personal ideology should take the opinions and actions of those that we agree are racist and have self serving biases. Centering the actions and opinions of your oppressors is the opposite of liberation.
I also take issue with bell hooks’ scholarship. She frequently makes statements like “Many Black women feel…”. Who are the women? How many? She doesn’t talk about her research and how she obtained her information or came to her conclusions. I don’t know if she surveyed Black women or if her information is anecdotal. bell hooks had a BA from Stanford and a PhD from the UC system. She knew better.
bell hooks’ had some interesting and valid things to say. She points out some injustices against Black women that tend to be over looked but her solutions to social problems undermine Black American history and culture. I don’t think that liberation is found in her ideology. hooks’ work is more of a hindrance and hasn’t yielded any positive results that I see. I think her work isolates Black men and women from each other and fans the flames of disrespect. Even if individuals forego participation in a nuclear family or regardless of who they may choose who to create a family with society can not function without respect between men and women.
There’s nothing wrong with Black individuals exploring ideology, spirituality, careers and relationships that aren’t traditionally Black. That’s a natural consequence of fewer societal boundaries and growing affluence. But there is no reason to disregard and or disrespect those that came before us. We’re standing on the foundation that our ancestors laid for us and it should be recognized; and we should continue to fortify the foundation through family values and Christian beliefs. I’m in favor of empower and opportunities for women but feminists never get it quite right.
*bell hooks chose not to capitalize her pen name because she wanted readers to focus on her work. Her given name is Gloria Jean Watkins. She was just being weird.
Organized retail theft is a regular news story if you follow current events especially local news. The videos of bold and brazen thieves stealing arm loads of merchandise off of store shelves and from behind counter tops are shocking, frustrating and bewildering. The media reports on organized retail thefts and public outrage follows. Social media comments from the law and order crowd demand more aggressive actions from police and civilians up to shooting a shoplifter to prevent theft. However, the retailers never make a public statement about organized retail theft.
I worked in retail for different companies between 1998 and 2015. All but one was a national retail chain. Their attitude towards shoplifting is to not resist the shoplifter. Retail employees are not supposed to verbally say anything to a person stealing, refuse service such as not accepting a return that was shoplifted and employees are certainly not supposed to physically apprehend a shoplifter, not that I think an employee should do that.
When I worked retail shoplifters would come in and return stolen merchandise for a store credit which they later sell. Shoplifters would bring in stacks of perfectly folded sweaters in a variety of sizes with no receipt and not in a shopping bag from the store. We were directed to politely process the return and give the “customer” their gift card. This was around 2008.
Since I last worked for a retail chain websites such as Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist and Amazon have gained popularity. I’m sure that those sites are what drive organized retail theft. I’m sure retail executives didn’t see that coming even though they should have. But they shouldn’t have been so lax about shoplifting even when items were being stolen to be returned for gift cards to sell or to be sold at flea markets. Retail executives didn’t care and concerns about shoplifting weren’t worth their time. I don’t think their position on the matter has really changed.
Large retailers have made statements about how much is stolen from their stores. However, shrink which means unaccounted for merchandise and money is a part of store metrics by which managers are evaluated. There is a percentage that is acceptable and it’s exceptional and close to impossible to have zero shrink.
Retailers are threatening to close locations due to excessive shoplifting. I can understand closing a low performing store however, I find it a bit suspicious that stores in urban, low income locations are the stores that are under threat of closing. Are those stores honestly the only ones with a problem with shrink and shoplifting? I doubt it. They are also threatening to raise prices in order to cover shrink but they haven’t said what they plan to do to prevent loss.
Retailers and shopping centers had a problem with shoplifting years ago and chose to do nothing about it. It wasn’t worth their time and investment to try and decrease theft. They it made better business sense to absorb the loss. Thieves were emboldened by the indifference from retailers. Now internet web sites facilitate organized retail crime and it has gotten out of control. It’s the retailers fault! I’m not even sure that they care about the theft now. I think all the videos of retail theft are going to be used as excuses for raising prices.
I recently watched the film “The Last Black Man in San Francisco”. I recommend the film for a certain type of movie watcher. “The Last Black Man in San Francisco” would be enjoyed by a person that likes artistic films and films with a thought provoking message. This film touches on matters such as gentrification, environmental pollution, urban blight, the dissolution of the family unit, racism, the future of Black communities and mental illness. This film is heavy.
My rule is that any movie or book that makes me tear up gets a positive review. This movie stayed on my mind after it ended and it felt like a gut punch. I was rooting for the main character, Jimmie but he did not prevail. He couldn’t. The ending is very sad. I think it’s particularly sad if you’ve visited San Francisco and you’ve experienced the beauty of the city and seen the choppy waters of The Bay. However, the film is slow moving and a bit dull in spots.
The Last Black Man in San Francisco is about a young Black man named Jimmie from San Francisco. Jimmie has a goal of living in a house that was built by his grandfather in the 1940s. Jimmie seems to be essentially homeless. He lives with his friend Mont who lives with his grandfather who is played by Danny Glover.
Jimmie seems to be around thirty so he’s young but not an adolescent. I can’t tell what he does for a living if anything. He’s not married. His family is fractured. Jimmie’s father rents a room. His mother is a mystery and I’m guessing she’s homeless. His most stable family connection is his aunt that lives far outside of the city with her significant other who is a nice guy but gives the appearance of an Asian gang banger. The aunt is played by Tichina Arnold.
He didn’t have much direction aside from the goal of moving into his grandfather’s house. His grandfather did not design or ever own the home. It was a fantasy or a blatant lie. Either way the story about the house being built by his grandfather was a coping mechanism in order for him to cope with his bleak reality.
Jimmie commits suicide at the end of this film. He may have been clinically depressed but he wasn’t different from the other younger men in the film. His friend Mont is the only man in the film who is employed. Mont works as a home health care aid.
If you enjoy watching films critically I recommend “The Last Black Man in San Francisco”. If you only enjoy feel good films with happy endings this movie isn’t for you. But I think the film is valuable and it could lead to discussions on the various topics that it touches.