Sometimes I am talking to someone I know or watching the news and will hear a story about a kid I know from growing up in the city with some rough circumstances. Let's give him a generic name and call him Joe. I may hear how Joe is committing robberies or has murdered a few other young cats like him. He might be on drugs and struggling day to day to survive. Some nights I turn on the news and see Joe in handcuffs heading into Central Lockup. When I see this two things go through my head. The first thing is that I am glad he's off the streets because he's a danger to the community. The second thing is that although I am glad he's off the street, I feel sorry for him at the same time. See, I grew up around Joe so I know his circumstances. I remember when he was the only one taking care of his brother and sisters because their parents were out doing crazy stuff. I know he got a horrible education in a failing school with limited resources. I know when he was coming up he probably needed some counseling or special education but no one was paying attention until it was too late and the streets had already claimed him. Everything about Joe's life until the end is disappointing and some of it was caused by things he couldn't control.
I have been listening to people on black radio in this city talk about how bad they feel for William Jefferson. Yesterday our former congressman was convicted on 11 of the 16 counts against him in federal court. He is now facing jail time. The comments are too bad to link to any of the news sites so just take my word for it. I don't celebrate when anyone goes to jail. One of the worst things for me to see is a black man inside of a cage. The day Mr. Jefferson turns himself in I won't be popping any champagne bottles. However, I won't feel sorry for him like I feel for Joe. I’m mad at William Jefferson and all the politicians like him who gave in to greed. William Jefferson is an educated man. He had options and access that most of the people he represented in Congress never had. He got to go places and see things that guys like Joe are too disenfranchised to dream about. The people sent him up there because he was our best and brightest. He was representing us. If he wanted to make money instead he should have stepped down and did his business in private.
Besides all of our other issues, we have an image problem. Black people in the New Orleans area are probably the most stereotyped people in the country even amongst other black people in different cities. Many think we are ghetto, ignorant and criminals. That means that even if the people representing us are not going to be effective doing their job, the least they can do is not get in trouble and tarnish our image any further. If you can’t bring money and opportunity back to the hood at least help our image by behaving with integrity. It’s not wrong to expect that out of people who represent you. I was raised by men that didn’t have some of the opportunity Mr. Jefferson had and I know that conducting yourself the right way can make up for a lot of things. Imagine what the congressman could have done with all his advantages if he just would have stayed true to the responsibilities that he asked the people to give him. That’s why I get pissed with politicians like William Jefferson when they get in trouble. I don't hate them at all. I just want them to do the right thing. I wish I could ask them all was the money they received worth the loss of prestige and disappointment for the whole community.