“The Color of Character” by Glen Shuld— Dealing with Prejudice

the color of character

Shuld, Glen. “The Color of Character, CreateSpace, 2015.

Dealing with Prejudice

Amos Lassen

Glen Feigman was raised in a liberal Jewish home with a strong emphasis on civil rights and social justice. When writing this book he isan out gay man living in the city of Chicago. When he, along with his elderly mother, witnessed one of many violent attacks plaguing his hometown, he begin thinking about his past and how he’d been raised and he questioned everything he thought he knew about race, character, and the true nature of acceptance.

He traces the influence of racial tension and pervasive prejudices throughout the 1970s, ’80s, and 2000s, including a shocking event that would forever change the way he viewed race relations. In his memoir, “The Color of Character” he writes candidly and honestly about his coming of age and he faces questions about the true state of race relations in America today.

Those of us who grew up in the 50s and 60s all struggled with our ideals and many times were in opposition to our own parents. Now we look back at the world through Glen’s eyes and feel his pain and frustration as he deals with the chaos of integration around him and his own inner turmoil of being gay in a heterosexual world. His family and religion were a solid moral compass that helped guide him through this very difficult time.

Here is a book that gives a look at suburban Chicago at the end of the 60s while at the same time “gives voice to a rarely-spoken sort of racial prejudice that’s emerging in a world changing far faster than the narrator’s highly conflicted pre-teen sensibilities–or his Jewish family’s core values–can easily understand”.

The issues of race relations and growing up as a gay adolescent/young man in America that we read here are the same ones that so many have to deal with today. I found it very easy to identify with the author—we share a lot in common but with one major difference—where we lived back then. The South and the North were as different as day and night and this was especially true with integration.

On one hand this is a coming-of-age story but it is so much more than that. Coming-of-age also means discovering who we really are and what we want and believe as well as what are our attitudes, prejudices and our levels of tolerance (a word I hate). We see here that even though we have, in this country, made tremendous progress in dealing with alternative lifestyles, there is still a great deal of racial discrimination even at a time when we have a Black president of this country. We learn here that not all racial discrimination comes from the white man and that there are blacks who are their own worst enemies.

I read this book in one sitting. It is much more than a coming of age story. It is coming to know who you are—  your beliefs, attitudes, prejudices and your level of tolerance. What I found interesting and sad is that not much has changed regarding racial intolerance, while great strides have been made in the acceptance of alternative lifestyles. I found myself questioning why there is still so much racial discrimination in our country. On one hand, I believe that blacks in America have done it to themselves. On the other, whites have certainly played their part. This book will explain what I mean when I say blacks are their own worst enemy.

It is not easy to write of the confusion and pain that we suffer and here is where this book excels. As we read it is almost impossible to not question how we feel about the issues of race and sexual lifestyles.