Sometimes We Fail

With the current climate, a cry that I hear called out on a regular basis is the question, "How can we prevent our young black men from being gunned down in the streets by the police?"  

Parenting is a hard gig.  Parenting young black men in one of the most dangerous cities in the world (not to mention one of the most racist cities) is even harder.  I can lay out all of the blueprints, plans and ideas that I want, replete with real life examples, and still not solve a perceived problem.  Everyone's circumstances are different and you can't just have an ACME Young Black Man's Survival Guide printed and distributed with hopes of a 100% success rate from it's readers.  The unfortunate answer to the above opening question is, "We can't".  The reason we can't is because sometimes we fail.  None of us are perfect…and because this is a fact of life, sometimes things are going to go disastrously wrong.  If you were a teacher and someone came up to you and asked, "How can we make every student in the school honor students with scholarship offers?"  You would probably look at them like they were insane.  Instead of assuming certain things are common knowledge, I'm going to share some knowledge.  You can't save everybody, but you can save some and here are a few ways how.    

First, lets dispel the myth that only thugs and gang bangers get harassed by the cops because they look the part of the criminal.  Granted, wearing clothes from the Fall Season of the "Person of Interest" collection doesn't help your desired undetected mobility, in Missouri you simply have to be black in a predominately white neighborhood to be harassed by the police.  It doesn't matter if you're wearing a hoodie or Ralph Lauren Polo, if you're black and it's dark outside…they're going to need to ask you some questions.  The end result of such a scenario can be varied, but the saving grace for a black man of any age in such a situation is "vernacular".  If you are a young black man and you don't know what this word means then you need to look it up, learn it and live it…in multiple.  If you only have one vernacular…then you are already behind in class.  In simple terms; don't use the same voice and vocabulary that you use with your friends when you're hanging out on the street, when you're talking to cops, judges, job interviewers or even your attorney.  When you only use your street level vernacular all the time, wether you like it or not people are judging you and trying to assess your intelligence level.  When you don't change up your vocabulary people automatically assume you're not very smart, be it true or not.  If you're not the strong academic type or you're not good with words, fret not.  What you're saying is not as important as how you say it.    

Next, Suicide by Cop.  Apparently everyone didn't know that ever since the 1960's (well actually since forever), assaulting a police officer in the state of Missouri (or anywhere else in America) is a guaranteed death sentence known amongst some of my lesser known associates as "suicide by cop".  If you're black or not and you so much as flick a booger in the face of a police officer…consider yourself a dead man.  If you want to live in Missouri as a black man you need to know this and spread it to your friends.  I'm not saying it's right…I'm just saying that's how it is and has been since as long as i can remember.  I've known people in the past that died this way and it was common knowledge that they did something that is widely known to get you killed.  People get emotionally charged when I say this and argue, "How the hell are you going to call a man being gunned down by another man suicide?  That's BS criminal logic.  You must be a criminal!" Do all the name calling you want, but people ask how to keep their young black men alive and well…I'm a black man in his 40's with two younger black brothers that are both alive and kicking that were born and raised here all of our lives and have lived everywhere from the ghetto to the far edges of the counties.  Which do you think is going to keep your young black men alive; listening to me or standing on the corner with a misspelled sign yelling through a megaphone?  Don't fight the police…period.  In fact, don't pick a fight with anyone that is openly displaying a firearm.  Guns aren't for decoration…they're for shooting people. Unless you happen to be from Krypton, don't get into physical altercations with armed officers of the law.  

Problem areas for young black men in Missouri.  Honestly it's pretty much anyplace that is 35 minutes to an hour's drive out of the St. Louis City limits as well as small pockets within the city.  I know it sounds like I'm making jokes, but that's pretty much the truth of it if we're talking racial profiling and being harassed while committing no crime whatsoever.  A good tip for young people and new residents is to avoid any small cities with the word "wood" in their name.  Sounds silly, but trust me, you don't want to be a black man lost in Brentwood, Maplewood or Kirkwood, MO at night and getting pulled over by the police. It's a crap shoot.  They might be friendly and nice or they might throw some dope and a gun in your car…it's that serious.  If you find yourself headed towards West County around sunset, go to the nearest exit and turn around and head in the opposite direction.  Nothing is more dangerous than being cornered by a sketchy cop in a spread out rural area where, not only could your body not be found for days, but there are dozens of out of the way places where you could be pulled over and there would be no witnesses.  Stay out of South County because there is still heavy Klan activity there.  There is no exaggeration in that last sentence.  If you go to the wrong place at the wrong time in South County your family will never see you again.  There will be a place setting at the dinner table for you…but no you.  

I wish I could say, "if you're a good person and you remain good, then this doesn't pertain to you and you'll be just fine, young black man", but I can't because that's totally not true.  I know plenty of black men with clean criminal records that mainly mind their own business that get harassed by cops on a regular basis…myself included.  One night, in one of the "wood" named cities I joked and warned about, I was casually walking down the street, returning home from a friend's house. Suddenly I was descended upon by five cop cars with lights flashing.  When I asked an officer what the problem was, I was told that they had problems with auto theft in the neighborhood.  I said, "Yeah, but I'm on foot and walking away from a new car lot.  If I were any kind of decent car thief wouldn't I be walking TOWARDS the new cars and not away from them?"  After being accused of being a smug asshole (and a car thief to boot) I was frisked for weapons and drugs.  I asked, "What's with all of the cop cars?  You can search my backpack but I'm going to watch you search my backpack.  I know how you guys like to drop stuff."  One of the cops asked if I had been drinking.  I said, "Yes, but I'm not driving.  There's no law against walking home drunk is there?"  One cop was getting annoyed with me before suddenly a different cop approached me and apologized for detaining me, sending me on my way.  Do you think that I would have been stopped and assumed a criminal if I were a white guy walking down the street that had just moved into a predominately white neighborhood?  Hells to the naw.  If someone white in Missouri tells you that the race problem is "exaggerated by black people", ask them where they live and then read the "problem areas for young black men in Missouri" section again.  Later, and don't be a hater.

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