The Wes Moore who is the author of The Other Wes Moore writes both in first person to narrate his own experiences and using limited-omniscient third-person perspective to narrate the other man’s experiences and the social setting in which he grew up. One should keep in mind that, although the...
The Wes Moore who is the author of The Other Wes Moore writes both in first person to narrate his own experiences and using limited-omniscient third-person perspective to narrate the other man’s experiences and the social setting in which he grew up. One should keep in mind that, although the author frequently corresponded with and interviewed the other man, the overall narrative is always filtered through the author’s perspective.
When he was young, the Wes Moore who was later incarcerated lived in the low-income Cherry Hill Apartments in East Baltimore. This segregation-era housing project for black people was “a breeding ground for poverty, drugs, and despair.” His older brother, Tony, became involved in drug sales by the time Tony was a teenager. The young people grew up understanding that employment opportunities were very limited, and sold drugs for money and to buy status goods that their parents could not afford. Interpersonal violence was taken for granted among the males, who developed the necessary physical skills for the frequent fights. The likelihood of police intervention was also very high, and Wes was arrested for assault in his early teens.
Although Mary, Wes’s mother, moved the family to a more middle-class neighborhood when Wes was a teenager, he returned to the old neighborhood when he became involved in drug sales. As he grew older and managed a drug-sales crew, carrying a gun and being willing to use it was also considered necessary.
Wes Moore—the other Wes Moore—vividly describes how the culture of the streets provides a kind of surrogate education for young men growing up in the ghetto. The mean streets of Baltimore are a place where young boys are turned into men pretty quickly. Drugs and violence are the norm in this neck of the woods; unlike his namesake, the other Wes Moore grows up in an environment of low expectations, where dealing drugs is seen as a ticket to a better life. Selling drugs holds out the promise of instant riches and respect, and so it's no surprise that Wes follows the path of his older half-brother Tony in peddling smack on the streets of West Baltimore.
Inevitably, the culture of the streets has no time for formal education. Tony's own schooling was disrupted on account of his drug dealing activities, and despite his efforts to keep Wes on the straight and narrow, it's a lost cause. Like many young men in the neighborhood, Wes feels disconnected from the world of formal education, and not just because of getting involved with selling drugs. His mother Mary was determined to be the first in her family to graduate from college, but is forced to drop out of Johns Hopkins after her Pell Grant is withdrawn. It's incidents such as these that reinforce the hostility toward formal education that forms such a major part of street culture. To many young men in the rough neighborhoods of Baltimore, going to school and getting an education just seems like a complete waste of time.