The book ‘Eating the Other’ by Hook brings out neo-colonialism. The instruments of neo-colonialism were the bodies of women viewed as exotic and different by the white traditional culture. This is why the white male supremacists wanted the bodies. The book critically interrogates old narratives suggesting alternative ways to look at blackness, black subjectivity, and, of necessity, whiteness. It also explores literature, music, but many of the essays focus on film. The emphasis on film is so central because it, more than any other media experience, determines how blackness and black people are seen and how other groups will respond to black people based on their relation to these constructed and consumed images. According to filmmaker Pratibha Parmar, "Pictures play a critical part in outlining and monitoring the political and social authority to which both people and sidelined groups have access. The profoundly philosophical nature of pictures influences not only how other individuals think about black people but how they think about themselves.” (Bell 6).
Cultural appropriation is a central theme in the book. Cultural appropriation comprises adoption of the culture of one ethnic community by another. Cultural appropriation takes many forms such as dressing, art, music, personal adoration, speech and social behavior. It leads to acculturation of the minor community by the dominant race. According to Brunk and Young, “cultural appropriation is harmful when it seeks to attack or undermine the viability of an ethnic community or its members.” (Young 5). Cultural appropriation may cause profound offense which strikes at a person’s core values and sense of self. Cultural appreciation is understood within a context where desire for contact with those who are different or deemed Other is not considered bad, politically incorrect, or wrong-minded. Cultural appreciation acknowledges that the desire for pleasure, including erotic longing, informs our politics, our understanding of difference; we may know better how desire disrupts, subverts, and makes resistance possible. The author frequently gives anecdotes of how black people feel inferior as a virtue of being black. This is illustrated in many forms such as music, lifestyle, film, speech etc. According to the writer, to love blackness in a white supremacist culture is a serious breach of the fabric of the social order that is at times punishable by death. After reading Nella Larson’s novel “Passing”, it is seen that the predominantly black class is more interested in talking about black self-hatred to hear one another confess in eloquent narratives about the myriad ways they had tried to attain whiteness, if only symbolically. They gave graphic details about the ways they attempted to appear "white" by talking a certain way, wearing certain clothing, and even choosing specific groups of while friends. This is a clear demonstration of the extent to which cultural appropriation has entrenched its ugly roots in the Afro-American society.
Apartheid and segregation was one of the few platforms that allowed Afro-Americans to love and treasure themselves in their black skins. Racial integration in a social context where white supremacist systems are intact undermining marginal spaces of resistance by promoting the assumption that social equality can be attained without changes in the culture's attitudes towards blackness and black people. Black progressives suffered major disillusionment when it became clear that white people may desire to be friends or even sexual partners of black people without letting go of their white supremacist mentalities. The idea of white superiority is so entrenched in the society that anyone who tries to rise above it is promptly silenced. This is illustrated by the fact that, when James Cone, a black insurgent theologian urges blacks, whites, and all other minority groups to rise against white supremacy by deciding to love and value blackness, many of his readers were turned off by his rhetorical stance and emphasis on binary opposition and could not hear the wisdom in his call for a critique of whiteness. (Bell 11).
Pastor Cones stated that “America was created for white people and everything that takes place in the country has arisen from the white viewpoint ... what the country seeks is the annihilation of whiteness, which is the basis of human melancholy all over the world.” (Bell 12). Such strong statements were meant to shock into action both the minority communities and whites who fought for liberalism and democracy. Cones wanted to teach the public how to distinguish between racism which is about overt prejudice and domination and more subtle forms of white supremacy.
The notion that we are all born and raised in a culture that embraces and propagates racism, whether we want to be a part of it or not, is erroneous. This notion is propagated by white people in a bid to deflect attention and accountability for racism from themselves. The notion is used by the white folks as an apology for racism and a means to distance them from accountability of this mammoth problem. The author states that we can choose to be active against racism twenty-four hours per day, and no one is a passive victim of socialization. A dream of ethnic equality that seeks to repel responsiveness away from or even excuse the tyrannical degrading effect of white supremacy on the lives of Afro-American people by signifying that black people are also racist shows that the culture is still oblivious of what racism really is and how it operates. This shows that thousands of people are living in denial. “It is extremely challenging for thousands of white people to comprehend that racism is tyrannical not because white folks have hateful feelings about Afro-Americans but since racism is a system that endorses dominance and subjugation.” (Hooks 43).
Notwithstanding the civil rights tussle, the 1960s' black influence crusade and the influence of mottos like "black is beautiful”, multitudes of Afro-American people continue to be socialized through non-progressive educational systems and mass media to adopt white supremacist values and thoughts. Many black folks have succumbed to the post-l960s belief that material possessions are more essential than individual integrity. This has in effect diminished the struggle for decolonization, loving blackness, and self-determination. The common notion nowadays is that for a black man to gain material success and economic self-sufficiency, he first has to reject his history, culture, and identity as a black man. The irony portrayed by blacks is the success of individuals attained by making sacrifices between the existing connection of black culture and experience. Many materially wealthy black people have along their struggle to achieve wealth adopted mainstream white supremacist ways of thinking about black folks. They end up expressing disdain for the very culture that had been a source of joy and spiritual fulfillment. Afro-Americans cannot value themselves rightly without first breaking through the stockades of abjuration which hide the complexity of inner anguish, black self-hatred, and unreconciled ache. Once black people are able to get over the self-denial, they will be able to work towards spiritual and emotional healing through self-awareness. Vincent Harding put it best in Hope and History when he said that “In a society increasingly populated by peoples of color, by those who have known the disdain and domination of the Euro-American world, it would be fascinating to ponder self-love as a religious calling (Hooks 25)."
A new phenomenon in culture and socialization is unwinding in spite of the raging debates about race and dermatologically explainable differences. Mass culture has come up with a notion that there is pleasure and appreciation to be derived from sexual encounters between partners of different races. The commodification of Otherness has been so prosperous since it was offered as a new delight. It is considered more passionate and nourishing than the usual ways of doing and feeling. Within commodity philosophy, culture becomes spice, flavor that can liven up the dismal dish that is conventional white culture. Cultural taboos concerning sexuality and desire are transgressed and made explicit by mass media. The difference in ethnicity and skin color has become a source of seduction for white individuals. In many ways, this is a contemporary revival of interest in the "primitive," with a distinctly post-modern slant. Studies have shown that the desired objective during inter-racial sex is not only to be with the other person, but to also be transformed in a way by the encounter. White males view the physique of the colored as new terrain, a figurative boundary that will be a lush ground for their renovation of the masculine norm, for proclaiming themselves as transgressive craving subjects. They require the Other to be both spectator and participant in this makeover.
The fact that white males can discuss their desire for black women announces a break from the white supremacist history where such desire would be articulated as shameful. The modern white men who can openly express their desire for colored women see themselves as culturally progressive. They distance themselves from their forefathers, who historically violated the bodies of black women to assert their position as colonizers. The white men who contravene racial borders within the carnal realm not to control the Other, but rather so that they can be acted upon so that they can be changed. The point is to be changed by this convergence of pleasure and Otherness. Inter-racial sex is based on the supposition that the investigation into the world of dissimilarity and into the body of the Other will offer a greater, and more passionate pleasure than any other that subsists in the usual world of one's familiar ethnic community. This longing is rooted in the atavistic belief that the spirit of the "primitive" resides in the bodies of dark Others whose cultures, traditions, and lifestyles may have unfortunately been irrevocably changed by imperialism, colonization, and racist domination. The racist objectification of black women is rife in cities like Paris. Black women are paraded naked in exhibitions ‘to entertain guests with the naked image of Otherness’. The objectification of colored women is further heightened by the hip hop culture. The hip hop culture that swept through America in the nineties created a notion that black women are sexual objects. The music contains rhymes and videos that portray black women as wild, sex symbols. This is explained by Tina Turner’s story and her metamorphosis from a naïve young girl to a head-turning, dream for young white boys. The objectification of black women and their role as erotic beings of pleasure stems from their cultural and traditional practices. Part of their culture still connects with their primitive motherland of Africa. The notion of primitiveness is deeply entrenched in our everyday lives. It affects the psyches and their behavior of everyday people, shapes contemporary racist stereotypes and perpetuates racism.
Black Nationalism, which mostly focuses on black separatism, is resurging as a response to the assumption that white cultural imperialism and white yearning to possess the Other are invading black life, appropriating and violating black culture. As a survival strategy, Black Nationalism comes up most heatedly when white ethnic appropriation of black culture impends to decontextualize, and thus erase understanding of the precise historical and social background of black experience from which cultural constructions and distinctive black style rise. Despite the fact that there is a lot of inter-cultural exchange between white and black people, some white critiques refuse to admit that white cultural imperialist appropriation of black culture maintains white supremacy and is a constant threat to black liberation. There is a general agreement that the focus on otherness, race, and mass media is a challenge to racism. Exploration of racial difference can be pleasurable and represents a challenge to white supremacy and various systems of domination.
The efforts to extinguish racism have witnessed the sprouting of hundreds of anti-racism workshops all over the United States. The main purpose of these workshops is to show white people that they are also wounded by racism and should join anti-racism campaigns. Anti-racist work tries to get these individuals to see themselves as "victimized" by racism in the hopes that this will act as an intervention. However, erection of political harmony that is based on a description of shared oppression not only acts to re-center whites, it risks obscuring the particular ways racist domination impacts the lives of marginalized groups. Therefore, the motivation behind anti-racism workshops is misguided. The whites are individuals who are in positions of great privilege. They can use their political leverage to fight for the rights of the oppressed.
White people may argue that they are not responsible for the historical injustices that led to the present circumstances. It may also be said that it is nobody’s fault that they were born white or in communities that collectively oppress the minorities. All these arguments may be valid, but they have a responsibility to try and undo what their forefathers did. Radicals like James Cone agree that racism harms both white and black. However, the pain felt by the oppressors is not the same as the pain felt by the oppressed. He states that “The basic error made by the whites is assuming that they know the nature of their enslavement. If they did, they would liberate themselves by joining the revolution of the black community” (Hooks 145).