Bell Hooks' Seeing and Making Culture Bell Essay

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bell hooks' "Seeing and Making Culture"

bell hooks successfully challenges stereotypes specific to poverty by writing to two separate audiences using ethos, pathos and vocabulary common enough for most people, yet elegant enough for academics. In her essay, "Seeing and Making Culture," hooks uses an ethos way of writing when she uses quotes throughout the text. In addition, hooks also uses pathos by appealing to our emotions with the interactions between herself and her grandmother. She successfully writes a narrative that many audiences can response to and appreciate such as the lower class "common folks," and the more educated upper middle class and academics. In this regard, hooks gives voice to an enormous group of people she claims remain voiceless in modern American society, the poor. When she was growing up, hooks states that everyone they knew fell into one of four general categories; destitute, working poor, middle class and affluent. The working poor were able to barely make ends meet and although no one in her family actually talked about it, all of the children of the family just "knew" the family was poor. For instance, hooks states, "We never talked about being poor. As children, we knew we were not supposed to see ourselves as poor but we felt poor" (p. 234). Being poor, though, was not regarded by hooks' family and friends as being lazy or worthless; it just meant that she had less money than others. According to hooks, "Poverty was no disgrace in our household. We were socialized early on, by grandparents and parents, to assume that nobody's value could be measured by material standards. . . . One could be hardworking and still be poor" (p. 234). Moreover, education did not necessarily equate to being smart: "One could have degrees and still not be intelligent or honest" (p. 235). Indeed, it was not until hooks removed herself from this enlightened environment in favor of the halls of academia that she learned anything different about being poor. Rather than being a condition that results from the well-entrenched social strata that divide America into the haves and have-nots, hooks was taught in college that poverty was the fault of the poor. In an impassioned response to these experiences, hooks writes, "I was shocked by representations of the poor learned in classrooms, as well as by the comments of professors and peers that painted an entirely different picture. They almost always portrayed the poor as shiftless, mindless, lazy, dishonest, and unworthy" (p. 235).

II. bell hooks specifically uses ethos by quoting information from different sources.


She brings her own perspective of being a poor black woman growing up.


She considers family growing up to be "working class."


She began to see herself poor when she went away to college. She could not afford to come home during breaks, she spent holidays with the cleaning ladies -- said they understood her and knew where she was coming from.

bell hooks uses pathos in multiple ways, but the most evident is when she talks about the values her grandmother instilled in her.


The intended audience on the surface is "common" folks, or the person on the street. Also if you dig deeper in to this essay you can see that she writes it for the common folk but you can see she knew that scholars and educated people would be reading it to. Clearly, hooks is painting American higher education with a very broad brush, but it is reasonable to suggest that many people do in fact conceptualize the poor in this fashion, due in large part to the insidious and influential media messages that bombard the poor on a daily basis (Diawara, 2007). These repeated messages, hooks argues, cause poor people to formulate hypocritical and self-destructive views about themselves. In this regard, hooks emphasizes that, "Socialized by film and television to identify with the attitudes and values of privileged classes in this society, many people who are poor, or a few paychecks away from poverty, internalize fear and contempt for those who are poor" (p. 236). Because many of hooks' readers are likely "a few paychecks away from poverty" themselves, this assertion should make some eyes open wider since it goes straight to hooks' point that poor people in general and African-American poor people in particular increasingly regard material wealth as the only legitimate way to achieve success in life and this belief…[continue]

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