The Criminalizing Of Our Youth
By Kilaika Anayejali kwa Baruti
I live in Dallas, Texas. Dallas is one of the largest cities in America. Just the same as other cities, Dallas is of course divided by classism. You will find an overwhelming population of working class people all over Dallas. The American foundation is of course built upon the work of the working class, Africans particularly, but more so in the Southern part of Dallas you will find amongst the working class population an extreme amount of poverty. Among the faces of poverty you will find a lot of chaos, things such as; the ugly and harsh reality of substance abuse, crime, prostitution, loitering, very heavy police patrol, and a growing number of youth amidst it all. I was born and I was raised in this place called South Dallas. When I became a young woman, like many, I naturally wanted to and did venture outside of the community I was birthed. I moved to Oak Cliff and I also moved to Northern Dallas. These places also have these elements of destitution, but not like the place of my birth, that is overrun with liquor stores and churches. I later ventured out to a more suburbia type environment, a place that safeguarded Europeans born in America of the Republican persuasion; they pretty much dominated the blocks I lived on in Plano, TX. This was a place where they may wave and they may smile, but you can feel there is a lack of genuine delight that they are happy to see they neighbors because of who they are…Africans. Most people when they make a bit of money and they achieve their desired financial status in life they dream also of moving to these places, places that are not so far away, but far away from environments like that of South Dallas, Sunny South Dallas is what we call it. We do not call it this because it is always sunny, but we call it this because it is always live. There is always something going on and it is not always good, unfortunately. My uncle was murdered in the streets that most call home. He was gunned down in the back. He was a very young man. Handsome and talented as well, if you allow me to add. He was gunned down because he owed money to a drug dealer, less than twenty dollars and he did not have it so he was slaughtered and when I walk the streets of my neighborhood I can still smell and see his blood on the pavement. These circumstances are not out of the ordinary in the place that many call home. It is not estrange in this place that I grew into adulthood. So yes, people do as in many places like this try to create some sort of escapism. They say to themselves that they want a better life. They want the house with the white picket fence. They want to be able to leave their doors unlocked in the middle of the night and not fear anyone coming in on them, so they work hard to escape “The Ghettos”. Then there are those who work their fingers to the bone and are still, even if it is desired, are not able to escape these conditions and will live here all their lives. I live in the heart of the chaos. I live in the depths of poverty. I live in a heavily populated community of African people. A friend told me, “In this neighborhood if you see a European walking and driving around here they are either a drug user looking for drugs, a police officer, or an undercover on the prowl for people they can take down.” This is more true than not. I don’t think it can even be argued unless they are visiting the area called the Fair Park, other than that, this is what it is. If you find any living there it will be very few. They have more than likely been place there because they are on assisted living. In my community the children are everywhere out and about. The children are very mature, a bit too mature, if you ask my opinion. They have a very strong sense of independence. They carry a very dominate personality. They too often act like adults, and most times they also have to make adult decisions. The children want to be respected as though they are adults. The children are far too often not children. Why this and also what is the result of this? Many of the youth in our community have been abandoned in more ways than one. The abandonment for the most part is not intentional, but there is a very huge chunk of neglect. The children in these communities have seen more havoc and chaos in their lives than the average European who resides on the Northside of Dallas and the suburbs of Plano and Richardson. The youth have seen the majority of their family members become members of the ever growing prison industrial complex; mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, cousins, and neighbors. They have also seen their parents become slaves to a number of drug habits, habits that continuously take food from their very own bellies. They have seen their mothers become subjected to domestic violence, they have seen death, they have also seen hunger, and desperation. Some have been engaged in this war from birth and it is an ultimate challenge and battle for survival. The constant reality of not having any money to curve their appetite and are unable to sleep at night because of their growling stomachs. These conditions cause a person to become very emotionally frustrated, hostile, confused, angry, ashamed, sad, uneasy, and unloved most of all. The reality that they see is a reality of every man for himself and not one of collectiveness. A barrier, an exterior, and a hardcore edge in persona is produced just for survival, so one will not be viewed as a pushover and taken for granted. This imagery is achieved by the youth being loud, disrespectful to elders in public, disrespectful to one another, bullies, foul-mouthed, blatant I don’t give a damn mentalities, I don’t care about anyone because no one cares about me, and so forth. A lot of our youth do this because it will help them to fit in and appear to be fearless but on the inside it is a plea of desperation, an unconscious call for help. Unfortunately, this society helps to nurture this persona by promoting a culture in music and other forms of entertainment that promotes this ideology and it is rapid and it is not so common to find an alternative to it. The Youth from the start is rebellious against anything that embarrasses him or her. They are already subjected to being representatives of nothingness and it is a blow to their egos. These egos, whether they are a threat or not, are stereotyped and this put the AFRIKAN YOUTH UNDER ATTACK. They are considered a threat to all that is good to the middle and upper classes. So, in their communities there are police everywhere to keep them at bay. The heavy police presence is not set in place to change the child’s conditions, but it is put in place to be ready to capture, lock up, and throw away the key. This is evident when you do an analysis of the laws in place and check the punishment in regards to the offense and see if you can find balance. There is youth today being placed behind bars for petty theft and given years in prison only to be lost in the system because the family’s collective strength is nowhere to be seen and they are left to fend for themselves in these institutions with no one helping to argue their case. I saw just a couple of days ago a case of white privilege being utilized to criminalize the African youth. The manager of my apartment complex lives on the property. She is a European woman. Her teenage daughter, who I would say is about 13 years old, was in a heated argument with a young African male. The girl, although she knew she was no match for the young man if it came to a physical brawl was not speaking to him as if this was the case and because of it more hostility ensued. The mother/manager comes out and instead of diffusing the whole thing begins to act as her daughter; yelling and screaming at the young boy who was not backing down from their river of insults. This made the young man who was trying to walk away very infuriated. So, they drew nearer to one another. I saw the boy trying to back down as if he knew the consequences, but the mother started to get in his face yelling, “Hit me. Come on hit me so you can go to jail.” I knew he could of taken both of the easily. However, again he marked her words and he did not hit her. She was waiting for him to hit her so he can be sent away. He replied to her, “I don’t care about going to jail. I have been twelve times already.”, but because he really did care and it was only his ego talking he chose the former and walked away. His pride was smashed. He did fear jail. He did not want to go and he knew all too well that if he hit the white woman that was provoking him, jail was going to be his next destination. Not only that, they would put him in the dungeon and that would become his home. The lady walked away like she was the victor and her loud mouth 13 years old daughter had her chest sticking out too. They were very well aware of white privilege and they executed it, leaving the young man to more hostility and fuel for an unmanageable temperament, an angry spirit. These instances occur every day in America, but there is an anecdote to it all. In these communities where all is seem to be lost, it is our responsibilities to create institutions, activities, and a presence for things the youth can implement and bring out their creative genius. There must be a continuous implementation of educational activities for the child to get involved in. There must be programs and resources that create more programs and resources that the youth can feel proud of and yearn for. Abandonment is real. The Youth are under attack. They are unaware of how to fight this battle, the internal and the external. They must not be left alone on the battlefield. We must be their commanders and show them how to take the lead so they will be the Commanders of those to follow.