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"But look at me, I got away"

Sasha De La Cruz's picture

As I'm reading pages 26-27 in Brothers and Keepers, I could not help it but to pause and write. The part where he begins by writing, "The problem was that in order to be the person I thought I wanted to be, I believed I had to seal myself off from you, construct a wall between us" (26). This line really struck me. Although I am still trying to tie this theme/topic to silence, I'd like to reflect a bit on what he continues to say as he writes. 

"Your words and gestures belonged to a language I was teaching myself to unlearn … I was running away from Pittsburgh, from poverty, from blackness.” These words are just hitting home for some reason. I say this because I can see this issue/challenge/mindset taking place in so many peoples lives. A lot of the people from the low-income families/communities see a need to get away from
the poverty or blackness in order to succeed. His words petrify me in a way, “youall were back home in the ghetto to remind me how lucky I was … acknowledging in myself any traces of the poverty, ignorance and danger I’d find surrounding me when I return to Pittsburgh” then he continues, “Fear that I was contaminated and would carry the poison wherever I ran. Fear that the evil would be discovered in me and I’d be shunned like a leper”. The feeling of having to distance yourself from where you come from is such a typical mindset in communities. But the line that kind of “justifies” his mindset is when he states, “to succeed in the man’s world you must become like the man and the man sure didn’t claim no bunch of nigger relatives in Pittsburgh”.

 This mindset of “the white way is the right way” (although there is not a clear definition of what the “white way” looks like) comes with the imbedded internalized/institutional oppression we are born into, so at the end of the day who is to blame him for thinking that leaving was not the best way out? 



couldntthinkofanoriginalname's picture

I want to have this

I want to have this conversation in class!  I think it is relevant to a lot of us. When I was discussing this book with Chandrea, I was hesitant, and quite ashamed, to say how much I  identified with the main character because she believed he was a poser and was not there for his brother. In many ways I guess I am a "poser" too. I have a sister who is a Robby and I am John...I have purposely chosen to be ignorant, to leave my neighborhood and what it represents(both out of fear and wanting to succeed in the "white world"), at the cost of my semi- nonexistant relationship with my sister. So while I have "suceeded," her path mirrors the offending women we analyze. This book is too heavy.

Erin's picture

maybe we need the wall?

To be honest, I was also intrigued by the sentence that "The problem was that in order to be the person I thought I wanted to be, I believed I had to seal myself off from you, construct a wall between us", but for a different reason.  I have to admit that I understand from his point of view and I agreed with his choice of putting up the wall. 

I try to comprehend his choice by thinking about the completely different growth paths and growing gap between that author and his brother when their lives finally intersect again even if that’s not their intention. Many years ago, the author had made up his mind that he wanted to leave his community and be successful one day. At that point, to be able to get out meant that author had to go against everything around him which was viewed as poor and lower-classed by popular culture.

However, it’s really possible to complete segregate yourself from where you are from? I don’t think so. Therefore, some people decide to go to the extreme to get rid of the undesired part in them. I had ambivalent feeling about this choice though. I understand that people are frustrated about where they are coming from and I do to want to change something in background if possible too. On the other hand, I think since race, class, community and family are things we can’t decide. You have to teach yourself to talk through to admit and accept such unfairness and born disparities in various perspectives. There is no such a thing called fairness.( At least in my opinion) Poepl are born equal but differnt.

Throughout his growth, the author tried so hard to build the shell all the time to hide all the vulnerabilities and uncertainties he has in order to be the successful one. I believe that he knew that he the shell is not his real self to some extent. But if to put on the fake mask is the price to succeed, he was willing to do so with all his efforts. At the same time, he was too focused to accomplish his dream and ignored those moemnet of awakendings.However, he has been wear the mask for so long, even he got confused about which one is the real self to the one he wished to be.

He did succeed in distinguish himself from the rest of the community. Now he is going back to his community which he spends the whole life and all his effort to refuse. I think that he is not ready to put the guard down and not ready to be honest to the environment and himself. However, if the wall is the only way they can communicate or just in the same room. I think I will accept that of course as an outsider. After all, the problems cannot the settled shortly after all those years. The wall has been built and be there for many years and it will take time to take it down as well. Or at the end, people realized and decide that the wall is still  necessary for them to hold on to.

People made their deciesion whether to build the wall or destroy it at the end. I feel that as an outsider, I don't have authority to judge the motivationa or ratioanle behind them becasue we will never fully comprehend the situations that they are going through.

There are occasions in my life, I just feel I need the walls, shells or the masks to just get over them. And, I decide to keep some of those self-protection tools just in case.

(I think I get lost my original point and I am trying to defend it. All these sentences are just thoughts and I don’t think they can form an argument now. )

Uninhibited's picture

Sasha, thats exactly that

Sasha, thats exactly that part that struck me too as I was reading! It was so sad to put the belief that many of us have carried all of our lives in words. I agree with you that this is an example of internalized oppression that too many of us carry. I wonder also wonder how/where/when we can obtain the "skills" necessary to make it in a white middle-class values type of society without losing who we are. Should we protest agaisn't this reality? Perhaps we can both fight it and work within it? But can you change a system if you're part of it?

I'm not sure how relevant the link below is, but I've been thinking about it a lot in relation to this book, our discussions in class, my thesis, the need for Perry House...