What Set You from, Fool

After reading this article “What Set You From, Fool? ” I must admit that I am confused. It was difficult to determine what the point of it was. The author expressed some clear points of the difficulties he faced growing up as a black man in Los Angeles, however the article seemed more of a story than a statement to the end. It is possible that having grown up in New York City myself, the difference in culture will be the reason for my confusion. Overall, most of the piece is awkwardly written and hard to follow. I’m not sure if this was done intentionally.
The author technique of switching back and forth between Standard English as he expressed himself through intellectual thoughts and words to what seemed like forced “ebonics”. In my opinion, the article did not flow smoothly at all. I found myself having to reread and translate words to grasp the full meaning of sentences. Having to continuously do this lessened my interest in the reading. However, like the connection the author tries to make between blacks having as tough a time being accepted into the black community as whites do.
He mentions a few instances where there was an entire thought process involving with certain situations that could have been disastrous for both races (the white boys greeting blacks using the word “nigga” and the author entering a store to buy St. Ides with a friend and encountering gang members). It was interesting that the author was born as a black man but until approximately middle school age, had never experienced the urban life. Apparently, before he moved to L. A. , he was surrounded by people who called him “nigger”.

However, he didn’t know how to react and/or if to react, so when he arrived in LA in their school system and was called a “nigger” he immediately associated it with what they (whites) called him in Santa Monica and identified himself as well as the other kids were. In Santa Monica he was called a “Nigga” there he hadn’t associated it to anything because it was never defined to him until he arrived in LA when he heard the students refer to him as well as themselves as such. That was when he associated the word to himself and the colored people he saw there. His mom taught him that “Nigga” was a bad word and that he should not be one…
He finally had a reference group for the slurs and bullshit, he had tolerated for nine years not knowing what it was just knowing that he should not be one. Experiencing the life in L. A. had an obviously deep effect on him. He went from a happy go lucky kid – to a hyper-vigilant state of mind. There seemed to have been a period where his identity was vague. He was uncomfortable cruising on the edge of social circles (hanging out with white and black friends), thinking as a activist (visiting a friend who’s parents were afro-centric), until he read the autobiography of Malcolm X and seemed to finally develop his own identity.
The author despised games (rituals that many kids endured amongst each other whether it was on the courts or in the streets to be apart of a set in order to survive). Whether the players are white or black (curiously no mention of Latinos), the author seemed genuinely annoyed at the thought of playing any games at all. I feel the author adopted a “can’t we all just get along” theme. Overall, this was just an ok piece not very enjoyable and very confusing; if that was the aim of the writer then he has done his job!

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