I understood Ridley Scott's point about gangsters when
Denzel murked Idris and then promptly returned back to
the diner to eat with his family and discuss what it means
to be loyal and faithful. To have a code.
The muder scene was almost comical. And it was meant
to be based on the expression of some of the actors faces
after witnessing the murder.
I was also disturbed by the scene because it made light
of the fact that A MAN could be so powerful so as to feel
comfortable murking another man in broad daylight and
was sure that those who saw the event take place KNEW
better than to talk to the police. It was as if he presumed that
the witnesses would remain silence, so “I can do what the
f*ck I need to do.”
I have been thinking about the general premise of American
Gangster. The notion of the benevolent COKE/CRACK dealer
who REALLY loves the hood and it dovetails nicely with
Will Okuns latest piece in The Times about his students who
are members of gangs.
He points out that having had conversations with his
students that there are four reasons why students join gangs.
He also talks about the intervention he attempted with a kid who
was murdered recently.
I asked my classes if gang members feel any remorse when an innocent bystander is killed. I asked if this type of tragedy forces gang members to at least temporarily question or reduce their own violent actions. I asked if gang members feel regret that their community expresses outrage that their “children are too scared to play outside.”
To all three questions, the students answered with a resounding no. One student volunteered, “That kid was just at the wrong place at the wrong time.”
It is easy to write off gang members. In my school, they are often hard, violent, disrespectful, indifferent, ignorant, hostile, agitated, boisterous and confrontational.
But sometimes you get a glimpse behind the steely façade and realize that many of these gang members are just scared, angry teenagers who have raised themselves and are trying to navigate an adult world on their own. Both their support system and their safety net in this chaotic environment are disproportionately small.
You just want to grab them and yell, “Stop! Life does not have to be this way. You do not have to be this way. I can see who you really are. It is not too late to change.”
When I first came back to the bay, my cousin told me I could
earn $60K starting, annually, working at juvenile hall. I was like,
“why does it pay so much?” He said the work was hard. I told my
dad about it, and he said that that not only was the work hard,
but that it is very difficult to watch people fail.
Back to American Gangster. I also thought about Russels
observation that “some people just don’t want to stop
drugs from entering the country” so many “laywers,
correction officers, judges” would lose their jobs. And to
that I say salute.
Where is the economic analysis of the number of jobs
created by the sheer volume of Black/Brown men and
women who are in jail violent AND non violent drug
offenses. How would our economy be impacted if
these offenses were no longer prosecuted at the current rate?
What would happen to said our economy IF those
I ask these questions to get us in conversation
about whose interests are being served by having such a
robust prison population.