Thursday, June 2, 2011

Losing My Cool

This book tells the story of a young man raised by a white mother and an extremely scholarly black father in a white middle-class neighborhood, yet still feels the pull of identifying with the black hip-hop culture. While he studies the classics at home after school with his dad, he turns into a different persona at his high school. He recognizes the inconsistency, but finds it absolutely necessary to play the role of a tough ganster youth.

Two statements from his dad lodge in his mind and get him thinking. After winning a basketball game, his dad tells him, "If you're going to compete, then do your best, son always do your best, but remember that I really don't care if we ever have another black athlete or entertainer." Later after getting into a fight with his girlfriend and resorting to his ganster persona and beating her, his dad, at a loss for what to say, breaks the boys heart with these words, "Well, let me just ask you something, then, son, because I really don't have the answer. If you had spent years of your life trying to do something, son, trying to rear a thoroughbred, say, a thoroughbred who would go on to run beautiful races and make you proud, if you had sacrificed everything for this thoroughbred, giving it everything you could, giving it he best you had to offer, if you hoped that this thoroughbred would represent the best that you and your people could achieve - well after all this effort, after all this time and hard work and hope, after all that, would you be able to just sit back and let your thoroughbred run around in the mud with a herd of mules and donkeys? I mean, it might get hurt doing that, right? It might really get hurt. Or - and this would be even worse, in my opinion - it might somehow start to believe that it, too, was a donkey or  a mule"

The question here becomes, if a man raised in a two-parent, middle class neighborhood, with a dad that spent hours every day educating him to rise above the hip-hop black culture cannot do so, is there any hope at all for millions of other young black people to break out of a destructive lifestyle that demands a certain persona to be considered "authentically black"?

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