I remember a college course from years ago, where one of my professor’s lectures addressed the subject of how we establish our identity or persona.
He talked about something called the looking glass self, which is a social-psychological concept, created by Charles Horton in 1902. To summarize the concept, it seems to mean that the opinion that we have of ourselves, in terms of who we are, is not necessarily the opinion that others may have of us!
This can result in problems, especially if we attempt to live up to the opinions that others have of us that can be detrimental.
Trying to live up to the opinions that others had of me in college almost resulted in my being imprisoned or worst for doing something very stupid.
I attended college during the latter part of the civil rights era. Before entering college, I learned that freshman students are targeted by upper-classmen for harassment. We would call this “hazing” today.
Most of the activities centered on humiliating freshman in front of other students. When I finally entered college, sure enough, several upper-classmen, the first week of school, entered my dorm room with the intent of harassing me and my roommate. We had heard them going throughout the freshman dorm before they got to our room.
We discovered that they were all football players. As they entered our room, one of them shouted to my roommate to get up immediately and do 50 push-ups.
I was actually sitting on our bunk bed reading when one of the other players snatched the book from my hand. When he did, he discovered that I had concealed a gun under the book which I pointed in the direction of him and the other football players and demanded that they leave our room.
I can honestly say that word of the incident must have gotten around on campus, and I was one of a few freshmen who was never hazed by upperclassmen.
In fact, no one was brave enough to bother or harass me during most of my college years. I became active in the Black Power movement at the time and developed a persona as a person who was not only crazy, but a kind of bully toward anyone that did not agree with my philosophy.
I wore some of the Black Power regalia and relished talking to anyone who would listen about a revolution that was going to occur in America. I truly believed that a civil war was going to break out between blacks and whites in the United States of America.
I felt that the eventual strain of blacks demanding to be treated as equals in the country and whites insisting on their being patient created a powder keg waiting to explode.
Blacks were ultimately provided the rights guaranteed to them by God that years earlier had been abrogated by man and validated by law. This period of time was tumultuous for both blacks and whites.
It was during this period that I would host plays and poetry nights on campus that would capture the trials and travails of the freedom movement. The events would normally be packed with faculty and students all realizing that the future for people who felt disenfranchised was going to change for the better.
The plays, skits, and poetry readings allowed them to vicariously experience the power of the movement.
On one such day leading up to the evening of one of my productions, I entered the college cafeteria during lunch to make the announcement to students. As I was about to speak into the mike concerning the evening activity, I was blind-sided by two very large football players.
These guys actually had the nerve to physically pick me up as I was making the announcement with the intent of getting a laugh at my expense in front of the students.
You know what? No one laughed. More than 400 students in the cafeteria and not a soul laughed. They immediately apologized.
I was enraged. These idiots had “dissed” me in public.
I left the cafeteria and rushed home to retrieve a gun and a large stick. I then rushed back on the campus in anticipation of ambushing the two players upon their walking from the cafeteria. …
See the conclusion of this two-part column in Tuesday’s edition.
Glenn Dowell is an author and LaGrange native who currently lives in Jonesboro. He may be reached at [email protected]