The placard read, “Heart of the Streets”.
I’d seen it before, standing in the record shop window, possibly a notice of a rapper’s upcoming CD, maybe something “indie”. I thought it an ironic turn of a phrase, especially in light of all that’s been happening lately and because truthfully, the streets have no heart and if you’re hanging out on them, thinking that they’re going to afford you a ready conduit to success or happiness well, you’ll not only find out with the quickness that they have no love for you but also that they’ll kill you if you don’t recognize their lethality and act accordingly. That means get the hell off of them.
A few days ago, a young man, a skateboarder of all things, attacked a park ranger in Philadelphia Love Park for trying to prevent him from riding his board in the public space. The ranger suffered injuries from the beating, which was posted on the internet. And the young man has since been picked up by Philly’s finest.
Watching his arrest on the tube and in the wake of what’s going on in Ferguson, I ask myself, what is it that makes these young men take a situation that should be routinely easy to solve and turn it into a violent affair with dreaded consequences? My question took on new meaning as I saw that he was a young black man.
Now, fast forward to today and the newly released police report concerning Officer Darren Wilson’s injuries allegedly at the hands of Michael Brown.
Hearing that he was a skateboarder from the suburbs, I assumed that he might not be subjected to the same economic hindrances that punish his inner city counterparts. Of course, I could be wrong but even still the question remains, why the chip on his shoulder?
Two young men, seemingly from two different spectrums of life, yet both possess the same inner anger and hostility towards uniformed positions of authority.
And my second thought answered my question. It makes no difference where they hail from. Young African-American men are breaking bad everywhere in an attempt to afford themselves a measure of self-respect in a world that, in their minds, doesn’t respect them and to provide themselves some semblance of control over a life they see as being suspect. My question is, why?
It’s an amalgam of economics, education and dedication that drives this persistent idea gripping these young men that one can succeed by wheeling and dealing on those paved, hot walkways. And to deal on these mean streets, you have to be hard; soft is not an option. In their minds, without any cred-credibility that you have to fight for and safeguard every day- you’re as good as dead.
Maybe I should say that it’s the lack of the three: the absence of an emphasis on education, the nonexistence of economic opportunity in the inner city and ignorance of the true dedication and perseverance needed to do well in all things.
Education is still the key to success in America yet somewhere along the line young black men have turned away from that path, seeking instead the fame and riches of the sports or entertainment world. And while sports has always been a draw, this penchant these same young men now have for striving to enter the entertainment world is driven by the success of others who, according to their biographies, “came up” from the streets.
Newsflash, there is no coming up from the streets. On the streets, you do one of two things; you either stay on them and die or go to jail or you can leave them and live to succeed.
We have to amend the message we send our young black men in an effort to stem the bleeding currently going on within the community. We must restructure their approach to this “American Dream” and stifle these adventures into territory that leaves them crippled, incarcerated or dead. A renewed dedication to the right way of attaining success, the slow and deliberate way-staying in school, getting a job (even a minimum wage one) and taking care of family-has to be packaged in a message palatable to these impressionable young minds.
Right now, that necessary dispatch is nowhere to be found and the only guidance seemingly followed is what comes from those who’re selling our young men down the river.