Ed. note: February is Black History Month, and we’ve asked a few members of the CalArts community to reflect on what it means to them. Today’s guest columnist is recent graduate Sarah B. Burghauser (Critical Studies MFA 09), a member of CalArts’ Diversity Committee, and an adjunct instructor in the School of Critical Studies.
“The love ethic,” bell hooks writes in her book, Salvation: Black People and Love, can be characterized as “a call to stand for justice and freedom with one’s whole heart, body, mind, and spirit.” She calls for a “uniting of the spiritual with the political.” In other words, fighting racism and other forms of oppression cannot happen in only one manner, in only one sphere of society. It has to be a spiritual project, not just a political one: an endeavor that involves all of our human faculties, including our capacity to love.
As a white ally in the fight against racism, I am interested in the ways we go about healing our world and ourselves of white supremacy and other types of social and political injustices. It makes sense to me, both in my heart and in my politics, to fight racism not only by speaking out when I encounter bigotry, by supporting social justice organizations, and by teaching material in my courses from a variety of perspectives, but also by making personal connections with folks of all backgrounds, cultures, and colors.
I want always to act according to the love ethic, which involves my whole self and allows me to reflect on my own assumptions, listen without judging, speak honestly, and act with humility. My activism takes place in the context of personal interactions, a seemingly quiet, unobtrusive approach to serving justice. I hope these tender whisperings amongst friends, lovers, and family that signify our human connection serve as small demands for liberation, as miniscule efforts to make the intimacy of that connection speak volumes.
It is my belief that change can only be brought about through the development of personal stakes. Laws and policies can be re-phrased and altered, but genuine and pervasive transformation must involve personal attachment to the matter of racial justice. It must involve love. bell hooks writes, love “is the deepest revolution.”
This Black History Month, I acknowledge that American history is Black history, and I ask myself what are the myriad ways I can educate myself and help counteract the harmful and degrading effects of racism in the U.S. and worldwide for my self, for my immediate environment, and for the world at large.