65 pages 2 hours read

bell hooks

Killing Rage: Ending Racism

Nonfiction | Book | Adult | Published in 1995

A modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, SuperSummary offers high-quality Study Guides with detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, and more.

Summary and Study Guide


Killing Rage: Ending Racism by bell hooks (who intentionally never capitalizes her name) was originally published in 1995. In this collection of nonfiction essays, hooks draws upon her experiences growing up in Appalachian America, specifically Kentucky, during desegregation, as well as her professional experiences in academia. She writes about the ways racism, sexism, and classism intersect. hooks writes for a primarily Black audience, but Killing Rage: Ending Racism is also featured on many general lists of books about understanding racism. The book includes essays and quotes from hooks’s previously published work, as well as new essays. She discusses the history of slavery and Black resistance, as well as current events from the 1980s and 1990s. Themes include Overcoming Systemic White Supremacy, Black Sexism and Misogyny, Class Consciousness in Black Communities, and Solidarity and Betrayal.

This guide cites the Henry Holt paperback edition.

Content Warning: This book contains discussions of racially motivated hate crimes, sexual assault, and other forms of oppression based on race, gender, and class.


The collection’s Introduction, “Race Talk,” identifies a key problem in discussions about race. Men, Black and white, dominate discussions about race, excluding feminism and the perspectives of women. Furthermore, while certain overt racist practices are no longer present, subtler racism persists.

“Killing Rage” opens with an anecdote about dealing with white supremacy in an airport, an event that enraged hooks. Rather than act on this rage, hooks considers how to utilize the power of rage with the theory of a wide range of academics and public figures. In “Beyond Black Rage,” hooks focuses on the portrayal of a shooting in the media. hooks argues against the way the shooter’s rage is portrayed, dividing Black rage into two categories. The first category is rage at being subject to white supremacy. The second category, and the one hooks indicates the shooter operates within, is rage that compliance with white supremacy has not or will not lead to economic success. In either case, white supremacy is what creates rage.

“Representations of Whiteness” looks at the history of white people terrorizing Black communities. Slavery and segregation supported racialized violence by white people. Internalizing white supremacy causes these terrors to be turned back on Black persons, forcing people to conceal their fear of white people and fear other Black bodies instead. In “Refusing to be a Victim,” hooks points to solidarity between oppressed persons as the only way to defeat white supremacy, rather than narratives that cast women or black individuals as victims. Victimhood is disempowering, and mass media outlets insist that victimization is an element of white supremacy.

“Challenging Sexism in Black Life” focuses on how past feminist movements have failed Black women. Antiracist and feminist movements have aided the development of post-racial and Black patriarchal movements that further oppress Black women. hooks describes men as valuing manhood, male approval, and even white approval over justice for Black women. For a movement to liberate Black persons from white supremacy, it must also challenge sexism within the Black community. Following this, in “The Integrity of Black Womanhood,” hooks describes how people who should support Black women actually defame them. Both Black nationalist leaders and white institutions blame Black women for the actions of Black men, as well as poverty in Black communities. While Black mothers often initiate their sons into the patriarchy, Black men must use their social position to fight sexism.

In “Feminism,” hooks provides reasons why Black men may support sexism or sexist institutions, such as to protect their position by oppressing others. hooks examines inequalities in education that are rooted in sexism. Finally, hooks indicates that rap music’s misogyny similarly supports the oppression of Black women and queer people. “Revolutionary Feminism” then analyzes the differences between white feminism and revolutionary feminism. Unlike white feminism, revolutionary feminism seeks to create solidarity between women of different classes to liberate women as a whole from the interlocking oppressions of white supremacy, capitalism, and patriarchy.

“Teaching Resistance” examines how white supremacy and colonialism are presented in the media. In white media contemporary to the essay, Black people are made subordinate or accessory to white people. hooks concludes by indicating how these depictions reinforce popular white supremacy, an institution supported by pseudo-academic works such as The Bell Curve. “Black Beauty and Black Power” then examines colorism. hooks uses this essay to criticize how Black academics are remembered only for messages comfortable to white supremacy. hooks also notes that Black men are not subject to the same colorist standards as Black women.

In “Healing Our Wounds,” hooks describes several phases of Black mental states throughout history. Early liberatory movements believed in a psychology of triumph, which emphasized Black excellence and denied racial trauma. Triumph was replaced by coolness in the 1900s, which continued to deny the existence of racialized trauma. Recently, backed by white supremacist consumption, victimhood has advanced as a dominant mode of thought. “Loving Blackness as Political Resistance” goes into the feelings that are created as issues for liberation and the defeat of white supremacy. hooks argues that the material framework of oppression shapes what is described as Black racism, fear, and distrust of white people. Black persons must free themselves of self-hatred and embrace self-love to combat white supremacy.

“Black on Black Pain” looks at how the ignorance of class in historical civil rights movements has resulted in a system where upper-class Black persons emulate white power structures. This includes enforcing the racist structures of scarcity and precarity inherent to capitalism. hooks argues that any lasting and successful movement against white supremacy must therefore be anchored in solidarity. Following this, “Marketing Blackness” talks about how Blackness has acted as a class signifier that creates a separate class, regardless of actual economic success. hooks concludes that materialism, or the desire for possessions, is a critical element supporting capitalism, and through capitalism, white supremacy is created.

“Overcoming White Supremacy” examines hooks’s use of the term “white supremacy” rather than “racism” in her writing. White supremacy includes white supremacist practices executed by people who are otherwise not racist. White supremacy benefits a select group of people in various situations, including Black men when they enact hierarchies to control women. hooks argues that education is a critical tool in resisting white supremacy. “Beyond Black Only” describes historical relationships between the American Indigenous population and Black people that have been damaged by white supremacy. hooks claims that white supremacy breaks down relationships between marginalized peoples, and Black communities participate in this by excluding and enacting white supremacist acts against non-Black communities of color.

“Keeping a Legacy of Shared Struggle” is focused on antisemitism and solidarity between the Black and Jewish communities. hooks describes how Jewish people can participate in white supremacy against Black people and how the Black community has struggled with antisemitic tropes. hooks argues that both communities must focus on defeating white supremacist tropes to create solidarity in movements and work out liberatory issues worldwide.

“Where is the Love” goes into hooks’s personal experiences with relationships between Black and white women, as well as her issues describing those relationships. White women have difficulty extending solidarity to Black women as a result of internalized white supremacy. Black women withdraw from potential solidarity relationships on account of the potential danger that those relationships represent. “Black Intellectuals” then describes how white supremacist frameworks exist even though Black individuals now attend elite colleges and possess college degrees. Academia prevents solidarity between Black individuals through competition, patriarchy, and inaccessibility.

“Black Identity” examines how Black communities have changed and refused solidarity with other Black people throughout history. Early solidarity was based on both skin color and racial background, but the assimilation of white values dissolved this solidarity. Black nationalists have supported problematic conceptions of identity while attempting to combat white supremacy, unsuccessfully. hooks believes that Black nationalists need to expand Black identity to include liberatory Blackness. In “Moving from Pain to Power,” hooks examines how the media, academia, and Black leaders have endorsed capitalist values that undermine liberation and self-determination. White supremacy murders and imprisons those who fight against capital, and rewards a small minority in order to model success within the system. Liberatory movements need critical vigilance and support to fight these assimilated capitalist values.

“Beloved Community” imagines a possible future without white supremacy, as well as some of the steps and tools available to build it. hooks states that racism is still active and only love, education, and growth can defeat it. hooks praises a woman for moving past her traumatic experiences to combat racism, and hooks calls for Black people to abandon internalized white supremacy, including self-hatred.