BOOK CLUB DISCUSSION | HENRY LOUIS GATES' "COLORED PEOPLE"

Freitag, April 27


7:17 PM Since the month is ending soon and I am more than ready to read new material, I want to finish this chapter here first. Did you join this book club?
You might have seen that this book club edition was a special one, but this was 100% my intention. You know my choices...I never stick to novels only, or drama, or horror - I try to read all different things, because I don't want to miss out. 
Sometimes it's personal interest...sometimes it's something I guess I need, because no one can give me answers, and sometimes it's just for fun. 
With Henry Louis Gates' "Colored People", I wanted to extend Black History Month and get familiar or let's say dig deeper into black literature. 

First of all...I hate using the word black in this context...I hate always emphasizing that this is black and this is white. Please be open to read this discussion here...and as the title says: it's a discussion! If I use any words here in the wrong context, please let me know...I try to use all the vocabulary pretty abstract, but I'll also ask questions which I hope someone can answer me one day. This whole race talk is super confusing to me and I don't want to sound too harsh, or too nice....I want to sound real and I hope I don't hurt or offend someone with this. So please give me a sign if something is wrong... 

Let's start this...
How did you like the book? 
Was this something for you? 

As I already mentioned, I am into celebrating things. This year, I wanted to be present while Black History Month happened. I know about this month...but I never focus hardcore on black things this month, because in my world...every month feels kind of black! I listen to hip hop, I eat "their food", my friends are black - I am used to this culture not only for four weeks a year... 
Since I am out of university for years and I looooved reading black literature, I thought that this year it might be the best time to read more from black authors! Poems, novels, biographies - I take it all! 

My Africa vacation changed a lot. 


Being in the country of former Apartheid, I started to think about race things more and more. 
With my friends and super close people being black, I never really questioned race, stereotypes, or anything else - why should I? It's just a different color - our bodies are still the same, no matter how dark or white we are! 
Living in a country where so many cultures live together, I never thought about discrimination or white supremacy...it never touched me, so I didn't care. 
In the United States, when I came to visit, I felt no difference. Black and white people seemed to get along with each other (I know this is a superficial impression...and we know that there is a lot of tension here and then, but I talk about a general state...). 

In Africa it felt different. It was different. 
I looked at myself from a different perspective. It was the first time I thought about myself being white. With this in my head, I started analyzing what this means for me or for others...especially the people in Africa that I met. I said it in my Cape Town posts already. I'm not rich, I am a nobody, but in Africa, I was a rich, white someone - and I refused to be all of that. 
I was not there to show off (lol with what?), I was not there to discriminate and put myself on a better position than others, I was not there to judge, I was there to learn...that's all. 

In my university years, my first idea draft concerning my bachelor thesis was actually South Africa and the Apartheid. I never knew this was such a crazy topic. (I'm happy I dismissed this topic....)
Coming back from my first Africa trip now, I felt bad being white. 
I started hating being white. Don't ask me why.
I don't want to be black either...
I don't want to have any color. 
But since I am here, I'm thinking about colors only. 
What has happened, yo? 

With my 27 years I start to think about differences of races. Is "my race" a fair race? Is there anything I can do to behave "better inside my race class"? Oh lord, this sounds like shit...I try to explain this as okay as I can, but it's hard. Sorry. I want you to understand my chain of thoughts, though. Maybe some of you who went to Africa felt the same...
I wonder why there's so much stuff happening between different races...
Why is someone better than the other one? Why is there so much hate and so much comparison? So much intolerance and ignorance...because of a color? I mean come on... 
I thought segregation and discrimination is far behind...but in Africa I was somehow in between. I couldn't do anything...I accepted it and I tried to behave the best I could. 
But I was hurt. 

I sat at home and I felt the need to study more about colors. 
I can never say I know how a black person feels, because I have never been in their shoes. I know about history, I know what's up out there, but I can never understand how they feel. This is not my business...but it's my business to be sensitive - to understand that there is a difference. We live in the same time, in a world with traditional and modern values, but the histories and roots vary. Our origin is not the same and I don't go through the same struggle as many others do. 
I hate speaking from this place, but I can't change my skin's color. 

I can educate myself though. 
I am sorry that I never asked my black friends how they feel. Do you feel good? Is someone treating you differently because of your skin color? Shall I kick some asses for you? Haha, you get the memo. 
I always thought my people around me are in the same cloud of confusion, happiness, joy, motivation - whatever we feel...
But deep down inside, they might carry many questions with themselves. They might have experienced discrimination and I might have missed this "event". I'm being an ignorant friend...


I don't want to be ignorant. 
I just don't see colors. 


That's why I said to myself I will read more books about black experience. 
How is it to really be black. 
What's life like. 
What can I do to improve tensions or problems! 

I read this book to understand beyond and learn. 
Just like I said. 
I want to be there for my black brothers and sisters. 
I promise you to take care of you. MORE than before. 

Now back to the book. 
I was ready to read Gates' words. The reviews were very positive, so I got super hyped reading this!

First of all, I love the way Gates is writing. It feels so natural and pure, I could literally imagine growing up with him in West Virginia. 
The first pages, I was hoping that this memoir doesn't feel like a boring and dry autobiography! Talking about families and 700 different people can sometimes be really frustrating and poor to read. Names after names, and actually no one of these people is important...
Gates is so smart, he talks a lot about his family and it feels like everyone is a true character, so you really want to know all about him or she. Just like I said...it's natural. 

You get a feeling of the mood back in the 50s and what I appreciate so much is the perspective. 
Yeah, I could take a book out and read about segregation and race issues in the US, but with a true memoir, past conversations, discussions, and thoughts, I get to know a true opinion and a state of mind which no history book can teach me. 

Henry Gates emphasized a lot how great black culture is. Maybe unconsciously, but fact is that I ended the book and I felt like, yeah, this is good! Good stuff! 
I hear a lot about black culture through hip hop, the food I eat, the friends I'm with...but Gates gives us a perfect insight with no limits and no hiding. 

If it's segregation, integration, heroes like Martin Luther King, Mandela, and Black Power, one understands the emotional connection to every issue or historic milestone. It's massive and powerful. 

It's crazy to relive a time through the book, where everything which is normal or at least okay today was not okay back in the days. Interracial dating, black pride, finding a voice, integration, establishing identity...
The time must have been hard. I can't imagine it... but I am happy we are through it (kinda). 

Throughout the book, I wrote myself some keywords down which often showed up, or which inspired me to put the book away for a second to think. 

Conscious, or consciousness
Fear (of living in full bloom, or showing roots, ethnical origin)
Black - Blackness - Colored - Colored People - very interesting linguistics here, but also the question who is really black? Who can call themselves Africans?
Stereotypes. I'm dating a black guy. I never mention this when I talk about him. Somehow the people around me must mention it...or when I describe him, they ask the typical black stereotype questions. I'm sick of that... In the book, one reads a lot of stereotypes as well. It may be good, it may be bad - up to you how you see it! I have to admit that I like the characteristics of the black community. I cherish their great food: fried chicken and green beans, "their loud being" (that's called being passionate), their manners, going to church and building community like this....their faith is very inspiring.
Finding a voice. Every time I read about experiences where one was judged, or experienced racism, discrimination or whatever, I felt bad. It was hard for them to find a voice. Being a kid - who should you look up to if there's no black hero on the TV. If people speak bad about black people...do you feel proud sharing the same roots? Swallowing all the struggle and fears down must have been hard. But here you got people like Martin Luther King who gave the people the voice they needed. Such a powerful moment and an action we shouldn't forget. Especially today. We all have a voice. Black voices matter, too!!! 

I am touched by this book. 
And I still ask myself a lot of questions when it comes to race. 
I appreciate black culture a lot.
I totally understood the moment when Henry Gates talks about his first John Coltrane experience. I have been in these shoes, too. I love Coltrane. 

I feel so much love for this culture that I feel so many emotions when I think about races and discrimination. 
I want to change something, but I don't know how. 
From this book I take a lot of inspiration, though. 


I want to be a better friend to my black lovebirds. Any color out there...
Don't be mad if I'm color blind again...I just love seeing your heart, that's it. 

But I really love how passionate and strong black people are. They created such a sweet culture which made our planet a good planet. I don't want to miss all the cultural goods they brought a long and I want to be as a hard worker as they are. 
I am forever inspired from you. 

Now.
Tell me how you feel about the book! 
You are free to leave feedback to my words.
I hope I could tell you how I feel...and I also hope I don't hurt anyone with these words here. 
I might write like a naive dumbass, but I just wanted to let some thoughts out. 
Maybe someone feels the same way. 
I apologize for confusion.
But I stick to what I say. 

On Instagram, I will ask you this weekend what we should read next. Join the discussion!
Happy weekend and thanks for this other type of book club! ~ 


*If you want to read "Colored People" as well, get your copy here

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