Culture and Society
Connie Rice Lays Down The Law To Cops And Gangs
When you sit down with the Bloods and the Crips as Bloods and Crips, you just reinforce the symbols and ethos and dynamics of the gang. You need to take them as individuals and talk about their leadership in the neighborhood, their roles as men in their community, and what they can do to reduce the violence. You get them to take on responsibility. Then you have them at the table as community leaders — not gang leaders. The gang doesn’t get mentioned.
Things go wrong. Call it entropy or original sin or plain old human suffering. Once it gains momentum, life can go downhill at an astonishing rate. Bad decisions are famously blamed, and one I made thirty years ago eventually led to a twenty-two-year prison sentence, which I’m still serving.
In 1984, the year vigilante Bernhard Goetz shot four black boys on a New York City subway car, I was nine, and I loved to ride the subway by myself. The dingy trains were spectacular space rockets to me. When I rode them, I wasn’t just going to Queens to visit my grandmother; I was saving the galaxy.
At fourteen, shoplifting is fun. Like a sport, it takes a lot of skill. I have to be quick and gutsy and able to fool people. I put on my good-girl face and wear my cargo pants because they have deep pockets.
For years now my brother has gone by the name Captain Smoke, or Smoke for short. I’ve always figured it’s a reference to his chain-smoking cheap cigarettes, but it could be about marijuana. I’ve never asked. I do know that living with our father off and on for more than three decades, as Smoke did, would drive anyone crazy enough to come up with an alter ego.
I first knew Marcus by his constant muttering. In my tracked eighth-grade classes, he was in the lowest track. He had failed every class in every quarter the previous year, for the simple reason that he had not completed a single assignment. Not one. He never did the in-class work I gave him.
Buddhists and nudists, Peace Corps volunteers, Quakers spinning in their graves