Don’t be a question mark in your kids’ life

bell hooks, feminist

The renowned author, social justice campaigner and feminist expert imparted countless lessons to us that we continue to impart to the youthful generation.

Portrait of bell hooks talking about her new bookPhotograph: Margaret Thomas/The Washington Post/Getty Images

It is seldom that someone is willing to tell the truth, even when it’s unpopular. It is even more uncommon to see someone use their voice to advocate for the liberty of all, regardless of their own identity. bell hooks did just that, regardless of the controversy or criticism of influential public figures like Spike Lee and Beyonce. She was never scared to stand up for what was right.

Gloria Jean Watkins, also known as hooks, spent her life studying feminism and identity. She developed an extensive knowledge of both love and justice and penned 30 books, one of which was All About Love: New Vision, which addressed the plight of African American women without hesitation.

bell hooks was not only concerned about the plight of women, but also empathized with the struggles of black men. She recognized that many black men faced difficulties in being fathers because of systemic racism and oppression. Patriarchy, she argued, knows no gender when it comes to oppression.

hooks believed that the only way to combat this oppression was through intersectional feminism, which acknowledges the interconnectedness of different forms of oppression and seeks to address them all.

Her insights on the experiences of black men have been invaluable in creating a more inclusive and equitable feminist movement and in validating the work of the Africa Fatherhood Initiative and other men’s organisations.

Though not a parent, she showed us how to express our love for our children and ourselves ardently. By honouring kids, giving them the ability to speak up, and teaching them to stand up for themselves, we can help them be true to who they are and be kind to others, just like her. Here are some lessons hooks imparted to us regarding our relationships with children which we wish to pass on to the upcoming generations.

bell hooks emphasizes that when we love children, we demonstrate our respect for their rights and autonomy by how we act toward them; we recognize that they are not objects to be owned.

Admiration for ourselves and others is the source of adoration. Our kids are no different in this regard. Expressing to our children that they are deserving of respect is the most ideal approach to show our affection for them. To impart this lesson to them, we need to start with profound self-love that confirms their self-rule and respectability every step of the way. This is especially pertinent for Black kids and other kids with disregarded characters.

According to bell hooks, in children’s books that are tailored for Black kids, too often the sense of fun and joy is removed. The thinking is that the world is a hard place and children need to be prepared for that. However, if children are taught to value themselves, they will be able to cope with whatever life brings them.

Kids need to witness cheerful depictions of characters that resemble them. This should be reflected in real life as well. While there are dangers to be wary of, there is still much to be hopeful for. It is not simple for Black parents to bring up their children in a society with racism. But, with regular reminders of self-worth and the significance of self-love, it can be made easier.

“The concept of ‘the gaze’ has been deeply embedded in my life since childhood. I remember the fear I felt when I realised that the power of one’s eyes could be threatening. I was taught to avert my eyes in certain situations, but when I was reprimanded, my parents would demand that I look at them. I was frightened to meet their gaze, yet I could not help being drawn to the power of looking.” -bell hooks

It can be intimidating to confront those in power, particularly when they have inflicted pain on us. Yet, this is essential to create a nurturing and caring environment that we all deserve, and to begin the process of restoring the generations. Parents particularly have the chance to offer their kids an arena in which to test out standing up for themselves. It is then our responsibility to listen to them.

bell hooks states that the first step to resist is to recognize and take action against the pain we experience.

It is essential to teach children early on how to delve inward and attend to their healing before attempting to transform the world. They should understand that addressing discomfort is a laborious endeavor, but being in anguish is acceptable. Pain is the guide that reveals what requires mending.

Creating and maintaining communities of solidarity is a crucial part of our survival and power. bell hooks emphasizes the importance of recognizing that we are not alone.

Raising children with a sense of community is essential. It is a parent’s responsibility to instill in their kids the value of forming meaningful relationships. Teaching them to create connections with those who differ from them and finding collective objectives through these connections is even more powerful. No one can achieve justice on their own.

  1. […] exhibition “A Father’s Vision of Fatherhood” included these beautiful pictures of dads and their kids. To learn more about the project and view more photos, check out this link: […]

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Children without involved fathers, or a significant older male father figure, are at great risk of both perpetrating and becoming victims of violence - both as children and adults - and of becoming victims of substance abuse; teen pregnancy; poor academic achievement; mental health problems and delinquency.

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