Note: This blog is about New Orleans because that’s where I am and where I grew up. I am sure it applies to other places around the country. I never try to make my city the ignorant capitol of America. Anyone outside of the city can apply their city and their neighborhoods in place of ours.
We have a murder problem that’s not getting any better. One of the main problems is the easy access to guns. Guns are the tools by which we take out our frustrations on one another. Guns are the tools, but if you took every one of them off the streets of New Orleans we would still have problems because of our philosophy to never let anyone get away with anything. We have been raised not to take any shit from anyone. We can’t let anything go even when it’s something as silly as “she was looking at me like she wanted to fight me”. When the line has been drawn in the sand there is no walking away. Just listen to the second line and Mardi Gras Indian music. It’s all about representing where you are from and standing your ground. Backing down is seen as a weakness. It’s not a good idea to let anyone know you might not be the type to whip some ass. That’s why because of my size I never smile in public around strangers. I don’t want any lightweight thinking he’s going to get a rep by trying to punk me. I’d break his back first.……..See what I mean?
This is not a new phenomenon. One of my grandfather’s favorite stories is how he got kicked out of the fourth grade for breaking a little boy’s jaw for laughing at his honey and bread sandwich. My grandmother Mildred told me about fighting their way back from ballgames on the Westbank when she was in school and that was the late 30’s. My Auntie Anna told me about all the kids from the Ninth Ward fighting their way to the bus at Derham School uptown. That was the early 60’s. These youngsters are not doing anything we didn’t do when we wore our Ninth Ward hats and had beef with the cats back of town at the house parties. They just have AK-47’s at their disposal. They also have much less family structure or sense of purpose after the crack epidemic destroyed many of the people that should have been raising them. Nowadays those family fights in the neighborhood turn into an unnecessary loss of life. Some of those cats could still be here by just being quiet and walking away, but didn’t know they could and still get respect.
I am a pretty easy going guy by hood standards. There are some things that happen I chose to let go. It was always for the best but there’s a part of me that thinks I would feel a lot better if I had just whipped somebody’s ass. Actually, sometimes I think about every time I didn’t knock someone on their ass and it bothers me a little. I’m not violent. That’s just the environment we came up in. I wish I could describe the look on my boys’ face when I make the case for not dealing with somebody in that manner. Take my neighbors for example. By hood standards I have had at least three valid reasons to go knock on their door and start some shit. I don’t because I know that every ignorant story like that slows our progress so I just go inside and try to laugh at it enough not to set her car on fire. Sometimes I am in the store minding my business and some dude is just staring at me with that look. I want to say “ What the f#*K are you looking at?,” but I don’t because I know by protocol he’s got to reply with something like “I’m looking at you ole bit#$ ass ni**ga”. Then all hell is breaking loose after that.
Now, here I am, Mr. Pro Community and Black Consciousness talking about the urge to humbug with my neighbors and fight in the store for someone looking at me. Imagine what’s happening when these not so conscious cats get in the same situation. The fact is that you could put a gun on my lap right now and it would have the same amount of bullets in it forever no matter how mad I got at someone. Unless my family was in danger I am not using it. I’m not about that. There are thousands of us who are not. But what about the cat who wears that soldier status on his chest with pride? What about the folks from the Nine that don’t mind dying, or the Fisher fool, or the 8th Ward animal or the 7th Ward Hard Head, or the uptown soldier out the Wild Magnolia with no home training?
Look at the ten o’clock news most nights and you can find out for yourself. This attitude has cost us so much. If we don’t figure out a way to change this it won’t matter if we hire a thousand more policemen. Things will still be the same and the funeral t-shirt makers will keep getting rich.