From: The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace
Rob's speech in front of the fraternity he had joined. The text at hand is part of his speech in which he would talk for four hours about a part of him: his father, who had been convicted for murder.
For the entire year, Rob had placed himself above, petty* class conflicts that had plagued* many of their discussions. On that night he made clear to his secret society* that the fundamental conflict of his life was founded on precisely that belief: the white establishment would always keep the common black man down in order to cover their own asses*.
Arthur Turpin had become close to Rob that year. An affluent student with an aristocratic way about him, he and Rob had passed many Thursday nights playing pool and having fun with their contrasting personas in other words, they "fucked with each other*." Arthur had always been troubled by the anger* he sensed in Rob. Though he hid that anger well behind the grin and the laughter and the marijuana, Arthur felt it in the jokes Rob made to Laurel and others about their privileged upbringings, in his heavy quietude* whenever socioeconomic topics came up in conversation, and in his general disdain* of Yale and Yalies. Arthur saw a closed-mindedness* that was, he felt, self-propagating* and innately* limiting. More broadly, he believed these qualities explained precisely how an intelligent guy like Rob would always make life harder on himself than it needed to be. Here he was, drinking brandy in a prestigious* society in a top-ranked school, the beneficiary of so many gifts both natural and bestowed, surrounded by bright and open-minded classmates, and yet still he remained mired in*, even paralyzed by, what was effectively his own racism. Of course, Arthur never broached* the subject with Rob, since it was easier to screw around* instead. He'd made assumptions about his friend that were treacherous* to air out, the central one being the most common: you truly can't shed your roots.
On the night of Rob's bio*, Arthur realized that those roots were embedded* far deeper than he ever could have imagined. He felt very sad for his friend that night, listening to Rob arduously* construct his own defense of his father, the defense he believed Skeet* was deprived of fifteen years ago, a defense that came with its own many loose ends*. Rob was able to intellectualize almost every argument that arose, but where Skeet Douglas was concerned, each word of the thousands Rob spoke came from a deeply, dangerously emotional place. In truth, even after all the hours he'd spent in Trenton State* talking to Skeet about it, Rob seemed to have no idea where his father was or what he was doing on that morning. Arthur found it quite obvious that until Rob was able to place his father that day long ago, he'd have a hell of a time trying to place himself here, now.
Source: From: The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace pp. 195/96
* petty - kleinlich, belanglos
* to plague - jdn. quälen, plagen
* secret society - here: sth. like a fraternity (stud. Verbindung)
* to cover their own asses (slg) - um ihre eigene Haut zu retten
* fucked with each other (hört sich schlimmer an als es in diesem Fall ist) - miteinander herumalbern
* anger - Zorn, Ressentiment
* quietude - Ruhe, Stille
* disdain - Verachtung
* closed-mindedness - Engstirnigkeit
* self-propagating - sich selbst verbreitend
* innately - von Natur aus
* prestigious - angesehen, renommiert
* to be mired in - in etwas stecken (Schwierigkeiten o.Ä.)
* to be paralyzed - gelähmt sein
* to broach - etwas ansprechen, zur Rede bringen
* to screw around - herumgammeln
* treacherous - verräterisch, trügerisch
* Rob's bio - seine Rede über seine Biographie vor der stud. Verbindung
* embedded - eingebettet, eingeschlossen
* arduously - mühsam, anstrengend
* loose ends - offen stehende Probleme
* Skeet Douglas - Rob's father who had been accused of convicted for murder
* Trenton State - prison
1. What did Rob worry about most?
2. What is the relationship between Arthur Turpin and Rob like?
3. Although Rob was one of the most intelligent students at Yale, he paralyzed himself and couldn't take advantage of his talents. Why is this?
4. What does the phrase "you truly can't shed your roots" mean? Explain by referring to Rob and any other person you are familiar with.
5. Why can Arthur's view on Rob be called 'optimistic'?