Postmodern Blackness by Bell Hooks is a philosophical essay written about postmodernism, what defines a person’s identity, and those who uphold postmodern beliefs. The essay regards what defines personhood by giving attention to the modern African-American society. The essay begins with an intense discussion on postmodernism and whether or not it can be tethered to African-Americans.
This establishes her argument that the postmodern movement is utterly independent and obtuse to the African-American experience and culture. She goes on to discuss the misrepresentation of African-Americans through the writers of the postmodern movement as the majority of them are scholarly, white males. She makes a point to note that not all writers follow the same pattern, yet she stands by her observation that African-Americans are excluded from postmodern writings.
Hook acknowledges, however, that the blame for this exclusion is not solely attributed to these writers, but it is African-Americans themselves that do not take the initiative to address the topic and take action. She considers these attitudes aloof and in need of some change. She believes that the postmodern movement should encompass those who are marginalized, outcast, and oppressed. The postmodern identity links certain stereotypes on African-Americans based solely on their race. Hooks asserts that the identity of the way the black community is thought of needs to be reevaluated and transformed into a more sound and progressive state. She then uses the example of rap as a symbol of the voice of the common people.
Hooks sees rap as a highly expressive forum for African-American culture and opinion.Next Hooks describes two distinct groups of postmodern African-American rights. The first is the essentialist group, who believe that the individuality that varies from one person to the next is vital to any society. This entails and places emphasis on the history of African-American culture and heritage. Consequently this ideology isolates African-Americans from other races in the United States. The second group is the nationalist group that maintains that African-AMericans should acculturate to American society, giving focus to homogeneity. This ideology, in a nutshell, is asking for African-Americans to ignore and forget the history of their culture and their ancestral heritage, as well as assimilate to the broader culture of the bulk of the United States.
Hooks strongly disagreed with both of these ideas saying that African-Americans should not have to think that they must conform, but rather strive to use new and different thought tactics to combat them. Hooks uses the Black Power Movement as an example noting that it altered the perspectives of civil rights because of the strong sense of individuality and power it exuded. However, she notes that this movement, as powerful as it was, it didn’t progress enough because it was profoundly essentialist. Hooks commends the movement and its progress, and suggests that there needs to be another Black Power movement that is powerful enough to shake the fabric of the known postmodern ideals that live outside the African-American culture and bring a better understanding to the African-American perspective.