JOLIET, Ill. (AP) — One day two years ago, Ernest Crim was driving to work and feeling frustrated and isolated.


Finally, he broke down.


Emotionally.


And wound up leaving work.


"I took a mental health day and tried to find a therapist," Crim, a social science teacher at Joliet Central High School said.


He cited this African proverb: "If you don't know who you are, anyone can name you, and if anyone can name you, you'll answer to anything."


That is the premise of Crim's newly released first book: "How Black History Saved My Life: How My Viral Hate Crime Led to an Awakening."


The book discusses Crim's experiences with racism (beginning in childhood), how he and his wife were victims of a hate crime in 2016 and ways people of all races can address these racism and other trials in life.


Crim said he wrote this book for three groups of people.


The first are individuals who live in the U.S. and are targets of racism. Crim said his book will help "give them a glimpse of how they can respond appropriately" and with "a good foundation of historical knowledge to help you progress through life in this country."


Crim also wrote his book for people who've never experienced racism, so they can understand the people who live with it and learn ways to "help us out."


He also wrote his book for parents, who may wonder, "How can I raise my child in a way in which I can prepare them for this?"


But in the beginning, Crim wrote his book for himself.


Back in 2016, while at a festival in Chicago, Crim and his wife Cassie Crim, a math teacher at Joliet West High School, were the victims of a hate crime Crim said went viral.


The incident was caught on camera and shared on social media, he said,


"After that was posted, mentally, I was just not in a good place, "Crim said., "More than 20 million people saw the video. It was not a video of me in the best state. I'm used to being composed. I'm used to preparing for things and putting my best food forward. This is how everybody saw me. Now I returned to work knowing most people probably saw that. It was vulnerable for me."


Crim said as a professional African American man, he often feels as if his professionalism alleviates the racism he experienced in the past, racism that other African Americans often experience.


The realism that he wasn't shielded hurt.


"It hit me real hard," Crim said. "Not getting much progress with the (court) case – that didn't help either."


So one day in March 2017, shortly after Crim decided to see a therapist and had trouble finding one, he decided to write a book.


Writing a book was a longtime goal of Crim's. He had never read a complete book until college, just excerpts of books in school, where he relied of Spark notes for the rest, he said.


But after taking a black history course and reading the writes of people like Frederick Douglass, Crim became inspired to write his own book.


"I graduated in 2009 and I still wanted to write a book," Crim said. "I just really didn't have anything to talk about or discuss. But I was so inspired by what I had learned in my black history class, I wanted to talk about something related to the topic. I wasn't sure what I could add. I didn't think I had any unique insight that was not already published."


Now he had.


At first Crim's writing was mostly therapeutic. Three weeks later, Crim found his therapist. At one point, the therapist suggested Crim write some of his experiences and Crim was happy to report he already was.


Although the main focus of Crim's book is not the mental health aspect, Crim said that, when he has the chance, he does like to advocate for mental health.


"I think we focus so much as people on our physical health," Crim said. "In school we take P.E.


When we get out into the 'quote unquote' real world, we work out all the time for sic pack abs and an Instagram model body. No one deals with the internal.


"I see it all the time with our kids. They have so much anxiety with over-exposure...we create this reality that might not be 100 percent accurate all time. What can I do to create my own reality and space?"


Crim set a person goal to finish his book by the end of 2018 and he did, on Dec. 30, 2018. But he did not publish it immediately as he became involved with two other projects to help stop racism in the community.


First, Crim decided to run for Joliet city council, he said.


"My mindset became, 'What else can I do to serve my community? What else can I do to help people?'" Crim said


Crim also started the Black Student Union at Joliet Central. In past years, JCHS had a similar organization for its black students, but that had gone inactive many years ago, he said.


"I talk to students all the time," Crim said. "We often fight because we don't believe we don't have anything to lose. If we're not able to win in any given situation, what have we got to gain or lose? But the better option is to walk away."


Crim said one more group of people may benefit from his book: those who are bullied. Racism, he said, is a form of bullying.


And Crim feels his book can help people with embody the idea of knowing who they are, of finding their identity, and how to respond when someone "calls them out."


"These are universal things anyone can be faced with," Crim said.


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Source: The (Joliet) Herald-News, https://bit.ly/33p1SJ0