Saturday, July 10, 2010

We Must Stop Making Martyrs Out Of Thugs

Like popping a DVD in the DVD player for the hundredth time and watching your favorite movie over and over again, we witnessed the ruling in the Oscar Grant case. It was not our favorite movie. Unfortunately, as the script seems to always call for, an African American male was shot by a Caucasian police officer. Now, I know many of you readers expect me to take up the cause of Mr. Grant, particularly since I am an African American male also; however, in this writing, I will not do that because I need us to really focus on connecting our decisions to possible consequences. There is no doubt the Grant family has my sympathy for the loss of their loved one. In fact, a part of me grieves as well just knowing that another brother is dead that did not have to be, but what we must look at are the events that lead to Mr. Grant’s death, and I am not talking about his last days when he was turning his life around and talking about his job and his daughter, etc. etc. There were some bad choices that were made early on that contributed to Mr. Grant suffering the consequences that he did. He was not a stranger to the police or the court system. Guy Finley has a brilliant quote concerning our choices and our consequences that says “We have freedom of choice, but not from the consequences of those choices.” Yes, Mr. Grant had freedom of choice his entire life; however, he did not have freedom from the consequences that followed those choices. Mr. Grant is not alone, hence the reason for this issue of The Critical Thinker.
In far too many cases we are ready to defend and glorify bad and wrong behavior to the extent of making martyrs of thugs. The inspiration for this blog came from Sistas, Divest, Now, also known as (AKA) BlowTheTrumpet on Twitter   (,) where the author is facing multiple issues from respondents concerning her position on the death of Mr. Grant. Many of the responders (like many of you will do after reading this) were criticizing her for her position concerning this glorification of thugary or thug life when a thug is killed. Not only was she criticized for her position but was also criticized differently as a woman with her point of view compared with a man who shares the same view. There was some sexism going on there too.

There is no question that EVERY life ought to be thought of as precious; however, the time to start seeing life as precious is not when one has lost it. To add fuel to the fire when it involves an African American and a Caucasian, we immediately begin deifying the African American even if he/she is a thug or thugette and vilifying the Caucasian making the thug or thugette a martyr. They are not martyrs. It is usually a case of being where you are not supposed to be in the first place. In Bill Cosby’s Pound Cake Speech, he asks a wonderful question hence the name of the speech. “What were you doing with the pound cake in your hand to begin with?” That’s what always seems to get overlooked when Rev. Al Sharpton and Rev. Jessie Jackson are called. What were you doing stealing that car? What were you doing raping that woman? What were you doing breaking into that house? And on and on and on. We never go back to the root, and because we never go back to root, we keep coming up with the same old sad story like popping a DVD in the DVD player of a movie you love and watching over and over again, except this is not a movie we love. These are the lives of our people. Michael Conliffe, an author who has done the thug life and was fortunate enough to get out before he got “got” is doing everything he can to spread the word about our choices and consequences. For all of the wannabee thugs, I recommend reading his book Hotter Than The Streetlife from Mr. Conliffe will be the first to tell you that the thug life leads to two places; death or jail.

I close this with a true story that happened as I was writing this. I am sitting outside on my porch and three young boys ran past me playing “shoot-um up” with cap pistols. Calling each other nigga and pointing the pistols at each other (some at close range) and firing the cap gun. The sound is real. I called the boys over and asked them do they realize how many people get killed in Paterson every year by gun violence and they shook their head yes (they don’t know) and I asked them, and you are still willing to play with toy guns? They walked away thinking. One of the little boys said “Is that your uncle?” and I yelled back, “No just someone who is interested in our young men staying alive. “ We must stop making martyrs out of thugs and help our young and old people connect their decisions with their consequences. I end with Guy Finley’s quote “We have freedom of choice, but not from the consequences of those choices.” When you get a chance check out some of the lyrics to “Thug Life” songs. I welcome your commentary.


Miss Marche said...

Your post is spot-on. Mirrors my sentiments exactly.

The other side of making martyrs out of criminals is that it lessens a community's credibility. So while black citizens have valid concerns about police brutality and abuse of authority, greivances using the examples of Oscar Grant and others with questionable histories are only met with contempt. People don't seem to understand that deifying criminals and thugs only chips away at a community's political and social capital. Why would authorities want to protect you when you glorify criminals and give them free reign? Why would governments and businesses invest in a community when there's no sense of decorum and accountability?

People march and holler for the Jena Six, who were involved in fist-fights, for Michael Vick, who was knowingly involved in criminal activity, for Shaquanda Cotton, who assaulted a school worker, Heather Ellis, who got into a verbal altercation at a store, and now for Oscar Grant, who was put in handcuffs because he was involved in a fight at a public train station. And then they wonder why no progress is made.

We need to understand that we can't aggress, assault and disrespect others with impunity. If anything, black people must understand that our actions are THAT MUCH MORE closely examined, and should act accordingly to build and maintain the political and social capital that we need to have our issues taken seriously.

Marc A. Medley said...

Miss Marche is right on point and her words are an addedum to my entry. She is right, we will never be taken seriously as long as we keep attempting to defend wrong behavior. People are free to make whatever decisions they would like; however, this does not mean we are to defend wrong behavior when the wrong decisions are made. Make whatever decision you'd like, just don't expect me to defend it when you receive the bad consequences that came with your bad decisions. Our political and social capital is put at risk when we constantly defend the behavior that brought on the circumstances to begin with. I say again, we must trace the situation all the way back to the root.

Anonymous said...

Shame shame shame... a young man is dead. It does not have to be one extreme or the other. Can't we be critical thinkers that acknowledge the TRUTH. Clearly Grant was no saint, which is why he was restrained to begin with. However, the reality is that does not justify him being shot while unarmed, and everyone ought to be outraged. Truth is that it is not an individual problem but an ongoing systemic problem. Black men are 6% of the population, why are they the only ones being shot while unarmed? The numbers don't add up for it all to be an accident.
We have a large complex problem in the black community, and ALL of it needs to be addressed. We need to address and teach personal responsibility and also need to address systemic issues and social responsibility. Another black man is dead... and whether he was a saint or a sinner is irrelevant to me when it comes to demanding justice for our community who are disproportionately victims. And I know first hand that you can mind your business and do what is right and STILL deal with these issues.

Marc A. Medley said...

I am well aware that another Black man is dead, that is why I keep trying to get folks to stop making decisions that will place them in situtations to wind up dead. Over and over again we keep focusing on the wrong end. It’s TOO LATE to focus on the brother after he is dead. Why don’t we put the energy into keeping him alive.

Responsibility and Accountability goes a long way in keeping folks from being in the circumstance of being shot unarmed or armed. No one is saying the officer was right, but what I am saying is the young man would not have been in the situation to be shot to begin with had he made better decisions.

Why is that connection never made? We will keep having dead brothers if they keep making bad decisions. Until we are willing to deal with that, we will keep on hollering about justice. There was a time when a neighbor, or teacher, or minister or whoever could let a child know when they were doing wrong. In fact the parents encouraged folks to let them know when their children were doing wrong and they could not see them. Now many parents will curse you out when you tell them about something that their children did wrong. There was a time when the village really did raise the child. Now the village is scared to say anything because of the reaction of the child and their parents. Then when one of them gets killed, everyone wants the village to defend the bad choices. No sir, not me. The families have my sympathies in the loss of a loved one, but the support of the wrong decisions... No. That must stop if we are to be taken seriously. Otherwise, prepare yourself to keep having these same situations.

I tell you what, the next time you see a young brother (or an old one for that matter) with his pants saggin', go up to him and suggest he pull his pants up......see what response you get. Let a parent know that you saw his/her child writing grafitti on someone's house and see what they say. Go let the parent know that their children curse worse than sailors and see what they say. Time is out for a bunch of excuses. These excuses are killing our brothers more than any white cop. In many instances we are our own worse enemies and it really is sickening. We must stop placing ourselves in circumstances that give white cops, black cops, purple cops, green cops or whatever color cops to have to encounter us.

Marc A. Medley said...

You want the TRUTH..... Black people must (1) Internalize Excellence (2) STOP MAKING EXCUSES and (3) Learn to "Give Back." If we start doing these things, I guarantee you we will stop being shot. Education must be taken seriously. Far too many of us do not connect our lack of education with our lack of making progress. Back to the root; Poor decision making. It's not about being a sinner or a saint; it is about having a sense of somebodiness.

Just like everyone else, I am tire of seeing Black men killed senselessly, but the senselessness did not start with the firing of the gun by the officer. The senselessness started a long time ago causing the paths to cross.

You want TRUTH.....stop doing things that will bring you in contact or connection with the Police. As I keep telling everyone, I highly recommend your reading The Pound Cake Speech by Bill Cosby (you can Google it), his book Come On People and the book by Juan Williams, ENOUGH. We have got to stop making excuses for these people and that includes the officers who are doing the shooting. Wrong is wrong, regardless of the color or the title.

Shay Olivarria said...

I agree with the fact that we have to stop doing things to come in contact with police in negative ways, however don't think that your behavior is the only factor in dealing with police.

The reality of life is that there is institutional racism that drives police to want to have encounters with me regardless of what I've done. Most of my friends are average folks. We own businesses. We are college graduates. We have families. All of us have stories about being harassed by the police. Not all police are bad and I've had positive experiences as well, but the fact that a police officer can shoot and kill anyone of my friends and get off bothers me.

If you're a thug and you commit crimes then the justice system should deal with you. I do not believe that it's okay to shoot and kill someone because you think that they are a criminal.

Marc A. Medley said...

In every field/occupation, you have the good and the bad. You have good teachers and bad teachers; good cops and bad cops; good judges and bad judges; good cooks and bad cooks; good mechanics and bad mechanics; etc. etc. etc. You get my point.

As of August 17th, I will be on the face of the earth for 48 years and have yet to have an encounter with the law beyond a traffic ticket every now and again, and even in these cases I did not have a bad experience. I find that how we approach the officers have a lot to do with how they respond to us. Now as I said, you have bad seeds in every profession, but knowing that, it is incumbent upon each of us to do what we can do to avoid dealing with law enforcement. We do all know that the potential is there to come across a rogue officer, just as again,it is there to come across a rogue teacher, rogue priest, rogue lawyer, rogue judge, etc. etc.

After a while just using the racist officer line becomes an excuse for behavior we ought not to have been doing in the first place. Each time I was caught speeding or making a left when the sign said "No left turn;" I was wrong and had to suffer the consequences that goes along with taking the risk of speeding or making the turn. Each time one of us steals a car, or beats up on someone,or "jacks" someone, we are wrong. Does that give a cop the right to kill you? No. Does it place you in harms way? Yes. We MUST stop placing ourselves in harms way with our actions. I don't excuse the police, and I don't excuse our thugs and thugettes either.