Hero’s (Nathan McCall)

The time has come, God knows, for us to examine ourselves, but we can only do this if we are willing to free ourselves of the myth of America and try to find out what is really happening here.
-James Baldwin

Nathan McCall has made a significant contribution to the American Society, especially with the youth of America. He has dedicated his career to the problem of race in our country. (1) His first major impact on our society was with his first book, Makes Me Wanna Holler, which is a true story about his life and the hardships he endured growing up with racism and stereotypes. His book doesn’t justify his actions by any means, but rather it shows why he did what he did. McCall takes the reader on a roller coaster ride through his life by showing the reader where the racism exists, and how some people perceive something not to be racist, when one side might see it as racist, which creates that everlasting tension. The book helps the reader to better understand why these black men are resorting to violence and drugs instead of being on a better path towards adulthood. His second book, What’s Going On, is about race relations and issues in America. He uses personal essays to lead into some larger issues in the country that were not dealt with in his autobiography. (2)


 McCall believes that the myth of America is one huge melting pot, but in actuality, it’s the  opposite. McCall says in one of his interviews, The myth of America is that it is this great  melting pot, this wonderful quilt where people from diverse races and diverse cultures  come together and blend together harmoniously, you know, to make for this beautiful,  colorful quilt, or as in the case of a melting pot, this great taste, you know, very tasteful  stew. That’s the myth. The reality is most of us operate as separate entities, racewise  and culturewise. (3) McCall’s statement was just another point of showing that the world  is definitely not what it seems, and many people have different perceptions.

 McCall uses his two books to get his views across the nation. He teaches us to think  about today and yesterday with no regrets and to focus on tomorrow without fear(4).  His books have such a major impact on the readers that no reader goes away  unemotional. As an author he focuses on so many of life’s issues, that some people can  really relate to him. He talks about fatherhood, Black women, jobs, racism,  discrimination, plus many other issues. McCall points out that through being a black  teenager and trying to earn respect, it eventually leads to more violence because it is  such an un won struggle with whites. (5) His book isn’t meant to give ideas away to  struggling teenagers, but in fact it is to explain his philosophies. Makes Me Wanna Holler  was not written to excuse his behavior, it was only written to show how these black  teenagers are suffering with who they are. No matter if you are black or white, or Asian  or Mexican, Nathan McCall will get a response out of his reader. He pushes his readers  to follow along his path, either in his footsteps or not, just to rise to level of open  mindness.

  Some prejudice that still exists today that McCall was definitely trying to get across was  the issue of racial profiling. Not just teenagers have to deal with this. McCall almost killed  a black man when he shot fire to him, and got thirty days in jail and a fine. But when McCall robbed a white business, McDonalds, he got twelve years in jail. He is the voice for black males. (6) Even today black males are getting followed while shopping, or even get pulled over just for being in Atherton. Personally, I think racial profiling is getting worse and I don’t think it was as bad as it is now.

McCall also treads upon class differences. McCall was obsessed with being different for most of his life and then he started to resent those differences because he realized it was those differences that landed him on the path he had taken. McCall even admits to saying that he hated himself. (7) Also, by black men taking their anger out on black women, it was harming the weakest of the weak. Society perceives women to be less inferior than men, and blacks to be less inferior to whites, so if you put two inferior substances together, you are going to get the bottom of the pit and definitely the most vulnerable. By these young angry black men hurting these young black females, the men were just trying to show their inferiority to everyone. (8)

McCall in some ways is kind of one-minded because he does consider all whites to be as racist as some of the ones he dealt with while growing up. He has just as many misconceptions about whites as some whites do about blacks. (9) But near the end of his biography, he realizes not all whites are out to get him. However though, I believe McCall has been through too much to think that whites didn’t influence him to be what he is. Luckily though, for the sake of his audience, all the troubled times that endured that young man to do what he did influenced him to be the important person he is now.


Nathan McCall, former reporter for The Washington Post, teaches introductory news reporting and writing. He also teaches the elective course, “African American Images in the Media,” in conjunction with the Program of African American Studies. He has also taught “Covering Race Relations,” an elective course, as well as “South African Journalism and Culture,” the preparatory course for Journalism’s Summer Study Abroad Program (he directed the May/June 2000 trip) where students traveled to South Africa for six weeks to intern at Cape Town news media. McCall earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism (’81) from Norfolk State University in Virginia. Before joining the Post in 1989, he was a reporter for The Virginian Pilot-Ledger and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. McCall has published two books: “Makes Me Wanna Holler: A Young Black Man in America” (Random House, 1994) and “What’s Going On” (Random House, 1997). In 1995 “Makes Me Wanna Holler” became a New York Times bestseller and was named Blackboard Book of the Year.

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