For the last couple of months, I (Hunter) have been talking about The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace. Why? Because Rob Peace’s story is what happens when you have a culture that does not take culture, tribe and emotion seriously.
Rob Peace was an African-American kid who grew up in a rough part of Newark, New Jersey. His mom worked hard and paid to send him to a prep school. His dad helped him with his homework whenever he could and through tenacity and hard work he not only got into Yale but a wealthy, white benefactor paid for his entire college tuition. Once at Yale, Rob graduated with a degree in molecular biophysics and biochemistry. And yet, after graduation, Rob didn’t go to medical school or Wall Street or politics. Instead, Rob drifted back to Newark where he taught school for a little while and then drifted into a life of dealing drugs. By the age of 30, this brilliant man was dead in a drug shoot out.
Rob was a man caught between two worlds. By the age of 10, Rob’s father was in jail for a double homicide connected with drug dealing. And for all his community celebrated his educational success, he often had to downplay it and hide it in order not to draw attention. Academically, he was a perfect fit for Yale but culturally he never really belonged. In short, Rob’s story is the real-life version of Good Will Hunting if there was no Robin Williams character. Without help dealing with that history that lives within us all, a man full of potential and promise has his life wasted. The book Jeff has written is a eulogy to a friend and a roommate gone before his time.
Of course, there are the inevitable questions about why Jeff, a white, suburban kid, gets to write a book about his roommate, a black, urban kid. There are uncomfortable feelings here but the human family isn’t going to get anywhere by avoiding these feelings. Instead, we must do what any family must do: talk through them.
Fortunately, there’s The Bryan Callen Show, a safe space where rather than issuing trigger warnings we just manage our own emotions. It’s revolutionary stuff. And not something you’ll get at Yale…or Harvard.
GUEST NAME: Jeff Hobbs
Jeff Hobbs graduated with a BA in English language and literature from Yale in 2002, where he was awarded the Willets and Meeker prizes for his writing. Hobbs spent three years in New York and Tanzania while working with the African Rainforest Conservancy. He now lives in Los Angeles with his wife.