Friday, June 3, 2011

Losing My Cool - "Keeping it Real"

As Thomas continues under his father's tutelage, he deeply desires to be "authentically black." This is where things get horrifying. While constantly pumping the hip-hop music which scripts his life, he develops a persona of which I suspect his dad would be deeply disappointed.

Now I recognize that I am a sheltered little white girl, but the life he paints of young black people "keeping it real" involves such self-destructive behavior that I felt shocked and disgusted to my core. Can it be that in order to be considered "cool" and "authentic" in black culture you must engage in every hedonistic pursuit imaginable? That to try to better oneself is to betray the race?

In one particularly disheartening passage he describes his trips to Howard University, only a 30 minute drive from his own Georgetown. "I saw a giant masquerade ball, a gangsta party where middle-class college kids - the sons and daughters of doctors and lawyers from suburban enclaves outside Atlanta and Chicago (north side) - as if just to prove that the were not middle-class, mingled and flirted with the street and everyone got dressed up as thugs and hustlers and hoes. And this vision corresponded neatly with the images I saw on television and in the D.C. clubs with the way my friends got down back home in Jersey, with the way the faux-thugs and athletes carried themselves at Georgetown. This was real. "

And these were the good ones! The ones that had escaped the life of crime and poverty that captures too many black youths. The ones who parents slaved and dreamed of a better life for their college-educated progeny. The ones that were supposed to "make it" and bring their race with them. The ones that carried future generations, yet unborn, on their shoulders. These young people were lowering and degrading themselves, abandoning their shot at a successful life, sinking into the gutter to be like those left behind, all in a desperate, almost suicidal attempt to fit in, to be cool, to keep it real.

It churned my stomach to see such self-destructive behavior. Where is the hope?

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