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Sunday, March 9, 2008


Blonde Faith is the name of Walter Mosely's latest mystery novel in the Easy Rawlins's series and it may be his last. Among the critics writing about this are Felicia Pride: "In what may be the last of Mosley's bestselling Easy Rawlins novels, Easy has to solve the mystery of a friend's disappearance; his best friend Mouse is accused of murder; and his lover, Bonnie, tells him she's decided to marry another man." Publishers Weekly, 12-10-2007... Buyers Aware: Inside the Black Book Market.

Any one of those challenges would turn my inner being into one tightly twisted mass of heart stopping emotions. One of my close friends, a few years ago, stopped contacting me for a month... no matter what I tried to focus on, my thoughts came back to that person... sleepless nights, feelings going from confusion to anger to depression... much to much for me. And here is Mr. Mosley sharing a story where I was only seeking a brief diversion and found myself having to go deep inside myself and confront my past memories of loss and my present fears of abandonment.

And then Mr. Mosley invited me to take a good look at feelings I experience daily as an African American male. Easy may have to work out the challenges of his daily life in the late sixties in Los Angeles but so many of the thoughts and feelings he experience shed an uncomfortable bright light on my own inner concerns.

White critic, Michael Ridenour, invites his readers to walk with Easy Rawlins into the world of an American Black man of the sixties: "If you have never read an Easy Rawlins novel, prepare yourself for a voyage into the inner workings of a 1960s African-American psyche, filled with avenues and byways not imagined by the typical WASP, such as me. I enjoyed this book as much as any I have ever read." Intense Series Ends: Roanoke Times & World News 1/27/2008.

Let me end with one quote from Blonde Faith where the hot light of truth got my blood boiling just like the water boiling in this pot:

The character focused on in the quote from the book I am about to site, Tomas High, a White male, has just kept two other White males from beating up Easy Rawlins. Easy feels both grateful for his help and anger for feeling grateful:
"It's worth the time to explain the complexity of my feelings at that moment. Tomas High was the quintessential white man, the white man that all other white men wanted to be. He was tall and good-looking, strong and restrained but willing to act. He had saved my butt from a beating or the gas chamber and even brought me into his home, such as it was, even though I may have been armed, dangerous, and depreaved. I felt tratitude toward him while at the same time feeling that he was everything that stood in the way of my freedom, my manhood, and may people's ultimate deliverance. If these conflicting sentiments were meteorological, they would have conjured a tornado in that small apartment.
Added to my already ambivalent feelings was the deep desire in me to respect and admire this man, not because of who Tomas High was or what he had done but because he was the hero of all the movesi, books, TV shows, newspapers, classes, and elections I had witnessed in my forty-seven years. I had been conditioned to esteem this man and I hated that fact. At the same time, the man standing before me had actually done me a great service without coercion. I owed him respect and admiration. It was a bitter debt.
My two minds slammed against each other, and I was stunned." Blonde Faith,2007

Like Easy I have to work through those feelings daily: living in a culture whose male ideal is portrayed as being fair, blonde, trim, loyal, and honest where many fair skinned males appear either ignorant of, indifferent to, or hostile towards the needs and concerns of dark skinned people, and I have to spend a tremendous amount of emotional energy deciding what I can say and do in so many situations when what I really need is concrete support, intelligent and sensitive challenge, and civil, self-revealing discourse.

And I think what people of color want is to be accepted as intelligent and sensitive human beings, who are quite capable of being self-revealing and supportive.

What do you think...

Let me end this post with this great picture of Walter Mosley... thank you, kind sir, for being a challening and supportive writer.


M. Sugimura said...

Oneal -

You hit the simple truth beautifully on the head:

"I think what people of color want to be accepted as intelligent and sensitive human beings, who are quite capable of being self-revealing and supportive."

Sadly, it is more difficult for individuals and groups of people in the human collective to extend the same definition of good people to others who are outside the boundries of whom they consider to be their own.

And as we know, during times of
conflict it is far more expedient (and uncomplicated) to toss out the time required to distinguish what nuances exist and ascertain if they are valid or invalid.

This is why I would assert, at some point reason goes out the window and those posing any questions (the truly reasonable people among us) are called out as misguided malcontents and disloyal saboteurs.

The penchant of humanity to do so all over the world, in so many eras and so many communities beautifully illustrates even among Christians for example, why despite having the example of the great commandment in front of us for many centuries, that even those who call themselves avowed followers are unable to carry out to the last letter this beautifully composed, eloquently delivered and ultimately freeing truth.

In this respect I am entertained by the imagery called up by ancient story of the Greek philosopher Diogenes holding his lamp and going out in the dark of the evening to look for a (truly) honest man.

But the truth I'm afraid, is that we cannot loose what hope we have to the malaise of cynicism.

Lorraine Hart said...

Self-sabotage buttons seem often put in place in childhood, both by family and society...the push-me-pull-you, internal struggle of, "am I acceptable?" in a world where the playing field is never level and the 'top' is something achieved by climbing over someone else, by looking down upon them.

Heroes we've learned about...Dr. King, Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Susan B. Anthony, Waka Yamada, and so many more...first gave themselves freedom by believing they were acceptable, welcoming home their own weary traveler. Their dignity came from some inner discourse that allowed them balance between humility and unlimited possibility, in their own acceptance and alliance.

I wanted to free myself from the image of being somehow less because of my gender from a very young age. I also wanted to free myself from the shame I carried within the privileged colour of my skin...privileged, it seemed, at everyone else's expense.

Behavior Modification 101 teaches us that the only behavior we are capable of changing is our own. Maya Angelou put it beautifully in the title of her book, "I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings." Nelson Mandela turned a jail cell into the seed of hope that could not be stopped in its growth and fruition.

Finding the honest human inside ourselves seems the moral behind the tale of Diogenes, wouldn't you say, Mizu? We must hold up our own lamps in the nights of cynicism and prejudice...and offer the match to spark the lamps of others. Sometimes I lose the strength of the message, in the middle of all the sticks of dynamite being lit instead...but I come back to it as a core truth and a balm for my aching heart, my angry tears.

I can't know, personally, the struggles Joseph or Mizu's families have been through...but I feel blessed to know who you both have become in the fire of your forging.