One child grows up to be somebody who just loves to learn.
And the other child grows up to be somebody who just loves to burn
An excerpt of this poem paints a picture of two brothers, John and Robert Wideman, leading different lives. Robert Wideman, embraced a path common for black men during that era; a life of crime, glamour, and drugs. Quietly sitting in jail, he reminisces deeply about his troubled past and the consequences of the future that now haunts him. John, on the other hand, chose the path less taken by those living in the same world as he did and in due time become a successful professor at a University. How did two people from the same origin, living in similar environments, and raised by a caring family choose such different paths? Some might explain the cause to be risk factors, learned behavior, or missed opportunities. When explaining criminal behavior, it is inevitable to identify sociological, behavioral, and psychological problems as causes of crime.
John and Robert always dreamed about running away from the poverty embracing their community. Even though they shared the same dream, each considered different means of achieving this dream. John determined early on that “ to get ahead, to make something of myself, college had seemed a logical, necessary step; my exile, my flight from home began with good grades, with good English'; (27). In order for John to climb the social status, he realized that his only ticket out of poverty and his community is through a good education. Status must be earned through hard work and determination. Robert is just the opposite of John. Early on, Robert acknowledged that school and sports could not satisfy the glamour that Robert so much desired? Unlike John who disliked blackness, Robert “got a thing about black. See black was like the forbidden fruit'; (84). Robert embraced the people living in Homewood, Pittsburgh. He felt connected to them especially when he discovered Garfield “cause that’s where the niggers was. Garfield was black'; (85). By embracing what other people valued and thought, Robert incorporated the same criminal values as his own. Robert has accepted his fate, a life of glamour through deviant behavior.
Delinquency at an early age may have contributed to Robert’s behavior. According to Cohen, deviant behavior derives from an inversio...
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...an get with the least amount of work'; (241). This statement has profound effects. It is an attitude that frames the minds of criminals. Practically, it is stating that crimes are acceptable and that prosperity through education is wrong.
There is no one answer to why Robert Wideman led a life of crime. However, Robert is a person with many identifiable risk factors. He was born into a poor community where violence and crimes are rampant. His role models were often criminals. If there were opportunities for Robert to succeed, he would have certainly taken that chance. Unfortunately, the only opportunities present in his neighborhood were criminal opportunities. Robert’s greatest failure was to perceive his fate as something that can’t be changed. Only through times of isolation did Robert realize his mistake. We can change our attitudes by first looking within ourselves for that commitment.
Wideman, John E. Brothers and Keepers. New York : First Vintage