A Hope in the Unseen: Chapter 10
Chapter Ten: A Bursting Heart
Donald Korb, the wealthy Boston optometrist, sponsors minority students and has been helping Cedric since the MIT summer program. He gives Cedric a $200 month allowance at Brown. He talks Cedric into getting tutored with his writing and pays for it. Helaine Schupack is his friend and agrees to help Cedric. Cedric brings her two essays he is working on, one for the Richard Wright class, and one is on his family’s history for his education class. Helaine thinks Cedric’s writing is inspirational and helps fix the grammar. She knows that the essays are good enough for now because they can include personal perspective, but she foresees trouble if he has to write more objectively.
Rob Burton, on the other hand, is at ease academically. In the dorm room, however, it is a war zone. He and Cedric do not speak and have taken back their shared property. They argue over noise and whose music is to be played or if the TV may be on. Even headphones do not solve the tension. Zayd is busy, having written a play. He is being pursued by women, and is immersed in his existential philosophy class. He and Cedric still spend time together, and they confess their childhood memories to one another. Zayd had to hide out with criminal parents and was beaten up at a black school he attended. Cedric had to move constantly with a mother in poverty and a father in prison. Zayd does not understand Cedric’s strict codes but is fascinated by them. Cedric lives by moral principles. Something is either right or wrong. Zayd knows Cedric is sincere about this. Zayd knows that Cedric does not give friendship easily and that one must be loyal to gain his affection.
Cedric spends Thanksgiving with Dr. Korb and his family on Beacon Hill. Korb is a millionaire with his patent on soft contact lenses. Cedric looks at his house and thinks that he has come from the very bottom, the ghetto, to the top of society. Barbara told him to watch the other people to know which utensil to use at dinner. He is uncomfortable at the Korbs, and the foods are unfamiliar to him. The Korbs are very kind, but he finds it hard to know what to talk about.
Dr. Tom James is Cedric’s education professor. He watches Cedric with interest, since his research has been about the different ethnic groups in America. He sees that minority students fall into two groups: The “accommodationists” (p. 258) (like Chiniqua Milligan or Franklin Cruz) who enter into white education in high school and adopt white middle- class behavior and values. In college, they are at ease. Others (like Cedric) are “culturally fixed”(p. 260), such as the inner city public school kids. They may end up in college through affirmative action but they cannot intellectualize about their lives. They become angry and often fail in the foreign culture of college. James understands what Cedric is up against and wishes he could help.
Commentary on Chapter Ten: A Bursting Heart
Several professionals trying to help Cedric see his challenges and all agree on a central problem: he has no distance from his roots or ability to analyze objectively. These are skills he needs in college. Helaine Schupack, his writing tutor, had helped Korb’s own son succeed. She is very good, and she likes Cedric’s “gentle, open face” (p. 238). She likes his Richard Wright paper and compliments him, because he is able to be passionate and inspirational on a topic he knows. Then she looks at the education paper, a history of his family’s education. It is another instance where he can say what he wants in a direct way. He speaks of his mother and religion in his life. First, Helaine thinks it is exciting to work with Cedric because he is “devoid of irony” (p. 242). She also feels terrified for him because “he can’t afford to fail” (p. 242). He is not writing “the type of smart, dispassionate exposition he’ll need to excel” (p. 242). For now, he can use “his bursting heart” to advantage (p. 243).
Dr. Korb has been good to Cedric, calling him and sending him money and letters. He insists that he come for Thanksgiving. Korb’s neighbor is Stephen Roosevelt, grandson of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and the table is full of professionals and wealthy people. When they ask him his major, Cedric makes up something: “Computer science, math, and education” (p. 253). He feels like an imposter as the words just pop out, but he is with super achievers and wants to impress them. He overhears Korb saying to someone that Cedric’s faith stands in his way: “he needs to find his place through reason, not faith” (p. 256).
Dr. Tom James is Cedric’s education professor. He meets with Franklin Cruz, a Latino student who is doing well because he got into college prep programs in sixth grade. He does not deny his Latino heritage but he is “artfully accommodationist” in “cutting away some of his cultural ethnicity as he cuts a deal with the broader American society he expects to enter” (p.258). Then he meets with Cedric, who admits to James that he feels lost at times. James notes that Cedric is “not accommodationist. He is black and urban, a church kid . . . culturally fixed” (p. 260). He means that Cedric “can’t intellectualize” his background or see past it. James also wishes he could do something to help Cedric and offers him some weak praise and encouragement.
All of these people see Cedric’s genuine desire for education; they see the obstacles more clearly than Cedric does. They are not sure how to get around them. Zayd, perhaps, is the best help he can get, because Zayd accepts Cedric and is able to admire the culture he came from as far as music goes. He also likes it when Cedric asks innocent questions because it takes him back to his own innocence before he got sophisticated. All of these people, students and professors, like Cedric and want him to succeed.