Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Social Consciousness: Race and Gender

BOND: Now an author's written that there's a danger in continually thinking of terms of race and gender. And this fellow argues, as many people do, until we learn to use the language of American freedom as a way that embraces us all, we're going to continue to harm the country. What he's talking about, I think, is this kind of charge of divisiveness. That when you constantly talk about race, when you constantly talk about discrimination, that you're really dividing us, not uniting us. What's your answer to that kind of criticism?

HOOKS: Well, I don't agree with that. I think it's poppycock. You know, frankly, like an old ad I saw about Band-Aid being skin color and the Band-Aid was white, you know. A black man says, "This is skin color?" You know. You can ignore it, but you can't make it go away. If you talk about "Pilgrim's feet whose impassioned stress," you know, you've got to think about American Indians who were here living in their own way before we -- before white people came. You can't talk about America without admitting there was slavery and second-class citizenship. You can't really be fair in America without admitting that we grievously mistreated women. I mean, legally, you know, took away their rights and subjected them to all kinds of inhumane treatment. How in the world are you going to deal with America and deal with it? To me, it's the same as saying that on this piece of land, it's flood land. And then when the river overflows, it's going to flow, it's going to -- don't talk about that. Don't talk about floods all the time.

Justice [Lewis F.] Powell made a statement in one of his famous cases, and I admire him -- he said, "Since race caused the problem, then you've got to deal with race to eliminate the problem." If you decide that you were governor of the state of Georgia, and the river had overflowed its banks, and houses have been destroyed, said, "We're going to help people rebuild homes and we're going to take care of their lost wages, but we're not going to take the flood into account." Well, the flood caused -- how in the name of God are you going to deal with it without admitting that that flood caused this? How can you deal with 9/11, you know -- and they're talking now that some people said, "My son was killed in the attack," and the son was nowhere around. You've got to deal with people who were affected in the World Trade Towers. So race caused many problems in this country. Gender caused many problems in this country. And you cannot solve it by ignoring it. And to say that to deal with it creates divisiveness, to me, is to try and paste over a serious wound with a little Band-Aid.