Food for the Beast

Just finished finals, I’m back home in North Carolina from Syracuse. I should be happy, right? Well, everything was all good until I opened up Durham’s local paper, the News and Observer (nothing like the local news can bring a brother down) and on the front page I see two of my boys: Kenny Cross and S.T. Vaughn III. The headline reads: “Ex-Swimming Stars Face Life in Prison.” I never knew Kenny that well, I met him at a few parties, but S.T. Jr. is family. His pops and my pops are barsboys, I’m only a year older than he is, so I’ve been to his birthday parties and stuff like that since we were young. Real cool guy, excellent athlete, full-scholarship to Florida A&M, very bright future – we had very similar living and familial conditions, growing up. Except now he’s facing life in prison for sexual assault, battery and armed robbery of over 50 hotels, check cashing stores and other businesses. According to this article, Kenny, S.T. and another Durham native, Gerald Raymond banked around 65 thousand in the summer of 2005, alone. But they didn’t need the money – these brothers were on athletic scholarships, from strong homes (with paper) with two parents! And this is not an isolated incident.

A few months ago, one of my boys I grew up with got shot on Fayetteville St., close to North Carolina Central University over a botched drug deal. This brother came from a well-off two parent house hold – hell his pops is a surgeon at Duke University! At what point does he feel as if he needs to be on the block, selling drugs!? He is one of the few brothers from Durham who is fortunate enough to have another option. This is the question that plagues me. Why? So often, we make excuses for brothers and sisters who come from poverty – as T.I. explains in his song, I’m Just Doing my Job:

“We got lives, we wanna live nice too,
We got moms, dads, wives, kids just like you
But our options are few, was hell in high school
when you helping with the rent lights and the gas bill too
so before you go judging us, loving us won’t hurt
we under 25, staying alive is hard work…
we can’t help it that we live like this
we don’t like it no more than you that we live like this”

Not that I condone drug dealing or armed robbery under any circumstance, but this is a common argument I hear among my fellow blackademics and colleagues: when brothers and sisters come from poverty, what other option do they have.. literally? That question is up for debate. But either way, that does not apply to these brothers, who came from family situations that provided them with other options. What, then, if not extreme poverty or other extenuating circumstances drives us to these extremes? Is it a sense of homelessness, entrenched in our psyche – a legacy of the Black holocaust called slavery? Is rap music and culture, which glorifies drugs and criminal activity having an influence on our children? Is the system so against us, that even our brightest and most talented are bound for prison or the cemetery before they reach 25? How do we protect ourselves and our community from becoming food for the Beast?

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Published on December 14, 2006 at 5:32 pm. 10 Comments.
Filed under black culture,news/politics.