bell hooks’ [lowercase letters as used by author] interview by George Yancy contains several thought-provoking nuggets. It was to be a conversation focused on hooks’ ideas about race. In the process, many powerful notions about writing, community and service emerged. I’m highlighting a few for reflection and keepsake. I enjoy reading my old blogposts and evoking memories of emotions and moments that have slipped me by.
George Yancy: What is the role of humor in your work?
Image: Summer Laughter by Ben Mizen from Flickr. Creative Commons License.
Humor, playfulness, wisecracking, … whatever synonyms we may use, it is no laughing matter, and not surprisingly, humor is a subject much studied by psychologists. A serious business it is, if you think about comediennes, who in real life, experience tragedy and difficulty reconciling what they do (to make others happy) with what goes on in their lives (not ones that are a-laugh-a-minute). It takes a lot of effort for scriptwriters to arrive at witty lines (I mean really smart witty lines, not bawdy jokes). As we all know, humor is subjective. In my last summer online course, I deployed sarcasm in response to a student’s question. Only when we “met” at a Google hangout did I realize that my sarcastic reply had made her anxious. Such is the nebulous, ambiguous nature of humor.
Yet hooks is saying that it is what we need to build community and deal with diversity. hooks referred to an episode of silly bantering with Cornel West. Joyful humor where a Black man and a Black woman are talking together, critiquing one another and having fun. These occasions do not occur often, she said. How are we deploying humor in community-building? How do we deploy humor with a serious topic like race? Don’t such conversations tend to be grave, with so much at stake that we forget to laugh?
2016 is here. “What are you doing, Yin, for the creation of the beloved community?” Honestly, do you sometimes feel awkward relating to some people? It’s so much easier to relate to people who are like us, look like us and talk like us; indisputably so. We’re not always in the mood — as some people tell me — to stretch ourselves. It requires a personal disruption, a la Whitney Johnson, who cited Jim Rohn, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” To be successful in unthinkable ways, Whitney Johnson encourages us to have the courage to attempt something astonishing. Disrupt yourself. Gasp? Groan?
Intellectual Identity and Privilege
I AM privileged. Truly, on most days, I’m grateful for the gift of reading and writing literacies; the gift of digital learning, of connectivity, of clean air and water. But privilege can also become a burden. The challenge for us intellectuals is to take action with the privilege(s) we’ve been given.
Perhaps the words of Joss Whedon might help:
“If you have a good idea, get it out there. For every idea I’ve realized, I have ten I sat on for a decade till someone else did it first. Write it. Shoot it. Publish it. Crochet it, sauté it, whatever. MAKE.”
Critical Thinking and Theory as a Place of Healing
Research and theorizing have received some bad rap at times — with fake results, cheating, and bad research designs. But these shouldn’t stop us from being authentic, daring to have dreams, trying and proposing theories to help us all move along.
“I don’t know that I’m being prolific, I’m just responding, I’m being authentic and I’m just listening to my needs in terms of expression,” he said. Xavier Dolan
Writing and Being a Public Intellectual
I salute hooks for her writing output. Energy, discipline, solitude. With these, we will endeavour. By the way, I don’t write new year resolutions.