After the acquittal of George Zimmerman, who fatally shot an unarmed African-American teenager, the following words of the feminist, intellectual, activist, teacher bell hooks spread like wild fire across social media.
The growing number of gated communities in our nation is but one example of the obsession with safety…. The person who is really the threat here is the home owner who has been so well socialized by the thinking of white supremacy, of capitalism, of patriarchy that he can no longer respond rationally.
White supremacy has taught him that all people of color are threats irrespective of their behavior. Capitalism has taught him that, at all costs, his property can and must be protected. Patriarchy has taught him that his masculinity has to be proved by the willingness to conquer fear through aggression; that it would be unmanly to ask questions before taking action. Mass media then brings us the news of this in a newspeak manner that sounds almost jocular and celebratory, as though no tragedy has happened, as though the sacrifice of a young life was necessary to uphold property values and white patriarchal honor…. This is what the worship of death looks like.
The words were so applicable to the murder of Trayvon Martin, that many people assumed it was written or spoken in response to the case. Actually, the quote is both timeless and prophetic, and comes from hooks’ book All About Love.
But hooks did respond directly to the tragedy of Trayvon Martin and the travesty of George Zimmerman’s acquittal in an interview with Quassan Castro for Jet Magazine on Wednesday. Here are some excerpts that really stand out:
White supremacy has not only not changed its direction, it’s intensified as black people and other people of color have gained rights and have proved ourselves to be equal. In many ways the Zimmerman case is really a modern day lynching, it’s about racist white people reinforcing racialized power.
We can’t combat white supremacy unless we can teach people to love justice. You have to love justice more than your allegiance to your race, sexuality and gender. It is about justice. That’s why Dr. King was so vital because he used the transformative power of love as a force for justice.
Asked what she would say to Zimmerman, hooks said,
That’s a difficult question because I believe that he’s such a hater that it’s impossible to speak to him through the wall of hate. Just think, if Zimmerman had never gotten out the car, Trayvon would be alive today. Trayvon was no threat to Zimmerman. A lot of hate had to be inside of Zimmerman, to get him out of the car, stalk Trayvon and execute him. It’s impossible to answer that. Really we can only be similar to the Amish and ask for forgiveness of his sins.
You can read the whole interview here.