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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 (www.blackwomenblowthetrumpet2.blogspot.com,) 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 http://www.thetruthhurtspublishing.com/. 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.