Wednesday, 4 July 2012

AN HONEST LOOK AT RACISM

Hi! My Name is Loco and I am a RacistHi! My Name is Loco and I am a Racist by Baye McNeil
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Hi! My Name is Loco and I am a Racist is hard to read.

Not because of the writing, far from it, Baye McNeil's prose is straight and true, with a playful turn of phrase and compelling immediacy that won't surprise anyone who has read his blog.

No, it's personal. Completely personal.

Enter Hi! My Name is Loco and I am a Racist and you don't just enter the author's world, you enter his mind, heart and soul. This is no mean feat -- it's much harder to do than it looks. But it's not always comfortable for the reader.

Our Man is only able to write honestly by establishing a complex set of mirrors within mirrors held together with bits of string and a knotted hanky or two -- the silhouette, the third person, the bottle of 7-Eleven red, the humour (not to mention asides from me - ed.). Reading Baye's book is like being asked to walk in his footsteps, only he's walking the high-wire with no safety net.

And now it's your turn, go on. Just don't close your eyes. You can't close your eyes.

Baye's life is revealed with clarity and an honesty as 20/20 as his hindsight. The women he has screwed. The friends he has made. The assholes who dissed him. The friends he has outgrown. The love he has lost. His failings. His successes. His confusion. And his clarity; his absolute certainty that he is a racist.

And yet, and yet, and yet... it's this premise, in a book packed with as much honesty about race as Richard Wright's Native Son, that doesn't ring true to Our Man. Baye calls racism the mammoth in the room, but Our Man would call it the paper tiger in the book.

If we accept that race is the defining characteristic of Loco's life and that he is a racist, then in his world view, this is the operating principle behind everyone's life.

But Our Man doesn't buy that. And Loco doesn't either.

At every turn in the book, Loco's humanity and individuality shine through. Every insult from the Japanese who refuse to sit next to him on a busy train, every ignorant jibe from his white former roommates, every act of opportunism from his black friends are met with indignation. Indignation that anyone could be so blinded by bigotry to not see the individual staring back at them.

Loco is many things: a great teacher, a straight-talker, an individual, not to mention a great writer. But a racist? Our Man begs to differ.

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2 comments:

kamo said...

Gotta say that this chimes very closely with my experience. Except the bit about the mirrors and string. I just use a picture of a duck's arse. Far simpler all round.

Good that this is still getting talked about after all the initial excitement has worn off. Deserves to be read as widely as possible.

Our Man in Abiko said...

Our Man meant to write a review sooner but the strings kept snapping. Want to see the next piece from Loco. Would love to see him write some fiction.

Bottoms up.