Neither on the Outside Looking in, nor on the Inside Looking Out:
I Want a Place Like bell hooks Gots
I was at a writing conference (trying to get extra credit); I had only attended one other conference, multicultural @ Humboldt State. I had first heard about bell hooks then. At this conference, I was taking notes, mostly to look busy and to have some scratch to write about in my response, when my peer look over at me and wrote: “bell hooks,” underlying the lowercase “b” and “h” on her paper. She was trying to tell me something; I’m still not entirely sure what. She finally said: “Oh, forget it!” However, on the way home she informed me that bell hooks is a rebel, or something like that. . . I forget. . .and she always writes her name in lowercase. Obviously, my peer was a member of the bell hooks scholar club, like the presenter, and I wasn’t. I felt a little stupid, but not entirely . . .
I love, love, love bell hooks, even though sometimes I don’t get in its entirety everything she’s saying. But the stuff I do understand, her use of vernacular, and more importantly her use of vernacular to draw attention to culture and an American pluralistic identity, I love. Like Gloria Anzaldua suggests straddling multiple borders on “la frontera,” I can see there in her writing where bell hooks challenges the idea of borders, embracing the perspective of a marginal, yet not marginal position in academia. In “Rebel’s Dilemma” hooks discuses her unique position on margins of both academia and her own cultural hood. Though no one is perhaps in a place outside of ideological influence, hook considers her work as “ontological resistance” against “white supremacist capitalist patriarchy.” Her marginal position allows her to straddle multiple borders; she claims: “most folks don’t want to believe that one can be struggling for justice into a nuanced cultural perspectives, aesthetics, and the vernacular at the same do time.” From her unique place where she can use the language of her hood to not only add to the learnin’ in academia, but to resist it. Instead, of seeing boundaries, hooks uses these borders, or “fronteras” as a place of hybridity (like in Bhabha). The perspective, neither on the outside looking in, nor on the inside looking out, hooks’ place, a “trangression of borders,” allows us to learn about the ideological forces that both constrain and liberate us. She describes the dynamic there in the marginal place: “academia is where we worked but we wanted a life on the outside.” Conventions and conformity help us as teachers of writing keep the peace and spread understanding, yet these conventions also restrict our creativity and freedom. As teacher in my community, I hear and see very little diversity or divergent thinking. Diverse thinkers and scholars like Anzaldua and hooks will keep us, the hybrids, pushing the boundaries that bind.