The title of hooks’s essay — “Living By A Love Ethic” — made me nervous about what I would find inside. Often, I feel I’m surrounded by a sea of well-meaning white people who claim to love others and therefore to care about injustice but who are unwilling to do the active work of combatting that injustice, rendered complacent by their belief that a loving heart is all that is required of them. Sometimes, I have been one of those white people. Even more frustrating are people who, when confronted by an argument between the just and the unjust, proclaim that we should “all just get along and love each other,” claiming that both parties as equally wrong because they are both arguing.
My fears turned out to be unfounded. In her essay, hooks emphasizes what I would call “active love.” To live by a love ethic, in hook’s view, one cannot simply claim they “love their neighbor” and be done with it. They must truly live, in the active sense, by that ethic. The love ethic must be allowed to “guide behavior, especially if doing so would mean supporting radical change” (91). hooks uses the example of domestic violence. While the vast majority of Americans think domestic violence is wrong, most are unwilling to solve the problem of domestic violence if that means the radical destruction of the patriarchy. These are the “passive lovers” that frustrate me so much in their complacent insistence on their “love” and “values.” They are, as hooks says, paralyzed by fear. It is this paralysis that discourages radical action in the modern world. The “passive lovers” of the world must learn to abandon fear and to embrace powerful, visceral, “active love.”