Monday, August 17, 2015
Losing My Cool: Love, Literature, and a Black Man's Escape from the Crowd by Thomas Chatterton Williams
So, I was ranting to a friend about Robert Peace, the guy from Newark who graduated from Yale and eventually was killed. I was proposing things such as what is the American Dream, systematic marginalization, reparations, and on and on and on, and my friend mildly suggested that I read Losing My Cool as a juxtaposition to Robert Peace.
However, when I first started reading this book about Thomas who has a Black dad and White mom, his dad has a PhD, both of his parents raised him in the suburbs in New Jersey, I thought “This guy has all of the advantages, and he better make it.” I just knew that he knew nothing about “the struggle.” However, my friend encouraged me to keep reading, and I did.
Thomas was told by his father early on that he was Black, and he let him know that in this country he could not be both Black and White, and he was Black. He read and discussed The Autobiography of Malcolm X at the age of seven with his father, and at this point, Charles decided that he did not want to be White, because he did not want to be like the people who killed Malcolm X’s father.
Charles and his brother went to predominately White schools, and they both realized that if they put on the ‘hood persona’, they could get gain the ‘respect' of the the White kids. So he watched BET, listened to rap music, and closely watched the people whom he played Basketball with in the street in order to imitate what he thought was “Blackness." Charles played basketball in order to be ‘more Black’ but his father let him know that “he didn’t care to see another Black athlete or entertainer.” His father pushed him academically, and Charles went off to Georgetown University, and that is when he slowly started to have his awakening.
He barely went to class his first year at Georgetown, and he only hung out with the Black students. Eventually, he started a friendship with a White student who was from a completely different world than he. And, from this interaction, he realized, that he wanted more.
The summer after his freshmen year he started to scrutinized his relationships from high school and to read the many books that were in his house, and he returned to Georgetown his second year a changed man. He submerged himself in the culture of the school, studied and earned good grades, declared philosophy as a major, graduated, and left for France to teach.
As I was reading this book, I kept trying to see the juxtaposition between Charles and Robert Peace, and I see it, but I don’t....
Charles made the decision to submerge himself in the culture at Georgetown, and get all that the school offered, and Robert Peace made a different decision. Peace decided to isolate himself, not submerge himself in the culture at Yale, and maybe even protected himself with his ‘hood persona’, and this decision may have caused him his life.
However, I think that we must look at the fact that Charles grew up in a mixed world, and he went home to a Father who was present to guide him. On the other hand, Peace did not grow up in a mixed neighborhood, and his Dad was in jail and may not have been able to give him the advice that he seem to have needed.
However, Charles and Peace made different decisions that deeply impacted their lives, and I am still wondering if Peace had the tools that were needed to make a different decision.
Not sure if Charles is a juxtaposition of Peace, but I am sure that I will be pondering this idea for quite awhile .....
You know, My People, I thought that I knew Blackness, but after reading Men We Reaped, Between the World and Me, The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace, How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America, and Losing my Cool, I realized that Blackness is complex and unique for every single Black person, and you just can’t sum us up and put all of us into a neat little box; we just don’t fit.
Read this book and learn another one of our stories!
By the way, James Baldwin has been coming up a lot in my readings, and I need to understand him and his place in all of this. So, I will be reading another recommendation from the same friend: James Baldwin: The Last Interview: and other Conversations (The Last Interview Series) by James Baldwin and Quincy Troupe!
According to the books that I have been reading lately, Readers are Leaders!
Get to Reading, My People, and lead....