As much as I find “Down These Mean Streets” to be very interesting, I also find it to be very sad. In many chapters of the book, we see how Piri gets himself in trouble through the many things that he involves himself, whether that be selling drugs or robbing businesses. It seemed to me like he was just going in circles and not learning a thing from his experiences. As the story progresses, I found myself thinking “why doesn’t he learn? He’s getting himself in trouble”. Then, I realized that it is easier said than done. First of all, he loses his mother and finds out that his Papa is with another woman, so that just makes his situation worse. His own home feels even less like a home and he almost ends up killing his dad. And then, the outside world isn’t any better either. We wonder why there are “bad people” in this world. Well maybe they were just not given the opportunity by society. Earlier in the book, we see how he wants to do things right but it’s the recurring mistreatment because of his color that keeps him hurting the society that keeps rejecting him. He keeps being downgraded because of what he looks like.
This reminds me of one instance that my older sister got into a silly fight on social media over a post about a girl being the first black lead for the Nutcracker with the New York City ballet. Charlotte Nebres’ mom has roots from Trinidad and Tobago and her dad is Filipino. This outraged my sister (and I understand where she’s coming from), because she thinks it is a misrepresentation of ethnicities. At fist glance, I can tell right off the bat that she has Filipino blood and I wouldn’t even think of her as black, but people keep insisting that she’s black. The big question is: why couldn’t the title be “the first Asian to land the lead role in the Nutcracker” or “the first Filipina…” I guess it would have had more impact to consider her “black” because of the rejection of African Americans.
I cannot imagine how tough it must have been to live a life like Piri’s. I am glad he is able to turn things around and that he was able to learn from his mistakes. This makes me realize that however many and similar faces we see every day, each face has a profound story to share.