• Black and White Drug Dealers in America

    Late last Saturday night, my husband and some friends were driving home when there was an accident a ways ahead of them. A piece of debris from the accident punctured the gas tank of our family’s only vehicle. Which, of course, we had used our last pennies to pay off the day before. Because, of course.

    On the upside, one of my husband’s friends has stepped up and is driving him to and from the bus stop while they work on replacing the damaged gas tank. He took my husband to buy the replacement, brought over the tools needed and has spent at least 6 hours so far on our cold, filthy garage floor helping my husband remove the damaged tank. Obviously, he’s a very good friend.

    However, about 15 years ago, he was our town drug dealer. He sold everything, but particularly cocaine and meth. And he had become a meth user himself. He says that the first time he tried meth, he felt so good that he thought, “this is what I want to do with the rest of my life.” Big ambitions.

    He was still in high school at the time and one day, just a few months short of his 18th birthday, he was caught on school grounds with a large quantity of drugs and cash in his car. At this point, his fate was in the hands of the county prosecutor.

    There were enough drugs and cash in the car that it was obvious he was the source of a lot of the drugs being used in the area. And he had been found with them on school property, during school hours. He was close enough to his 18th birthday to be charged as an adult with multiple felonies and sent away for a long time. In fact, the DA and the local police would be able to make some real political hay with the case. Plus could hold a press conference with the drugs and cash laid out on a table, announcing that they had just taken out a major player in the local drug trade. Continue reading

  • race

    The American Race and Race

    Gather ’round, folks. Auntie Becky is going to tell you a story. A metaphor really, about race in America. And about the American Dream.

    Imagine for a moment, a long relay race where for generations it has been considered acceptable and in some cases even required to break the limbs of a one group of people trying to run the race. The people thought this was OK. After all, it wasn’t long ago that this group of people had been used as horses to pull everyone else’s carts around the track. At least they were free of that back-breaking work. Now, they just had to contend with some needed cobbling. To keep the race running smoothly. Make sure the people who have been running the race so diligently for generations don’t lose any hard-earned ground. Anyone who resists the “in group’s” right to break bones is killed, so that keeps everything on an even keel. Not a bad system, really.

    Of course, people with broken bones do not do very well in the race. Pretty quickly there are people lying all over the place with broken bones and deformities from past breaks which were never set properly. Many people in that group will simply stop trying to participate in the race. Maybe even set up little shanty towns around the track to do the best that they can outside of the race. The more ambitious set up little lemonade stands along the track and play music for the people running by to keep themselves out of the darkest, scariest parts of the shanty towns. A few are fast enough to elude those who would break their bones, but these would be few and far between. The track is littered with those who tried to be one of the fastest few but got caught. Their broken bones and mutilated corpses remind the out group not to try to hard or rebel against the natural order of things.

    Now, let’s say that after a very long time, once most of the people who are able to run the race are pretty well ahead, that people start to come to their senses and decide that it is wrong to break the limbs of the out group. So they ban limb breaking. From that point forward, a person’s success or failure in the race will depend on their efforts and abilities. Continue reading

  • What a white girl knows about race

    Maybe they were right!

    I am the whitest of the white girls.  I just am.  I’m cool with that.  One of my black girlfriends told me that when she had moved to the Chicago area back in the 80′s my hometown was one of two places she was told by her mother to avoid ever being in.  Before going to high school, the only african american I had ever spoken to was working at a store.  But, one of the first people I met at the Catholic high school I attended was Elaine, an African American from Joliet, a small industrial city about 30 minutes from my home.  We were both in the honors program, so we had most of our classes together and we hit it off.  We shared a wicked sense of humor and spent inordinate amounts of class time writing long notes whose main purpose was to get the other person to laugh out loud while reading it.  I can’t believe we never got caught! 

    We never really talked about it, but there were differences.  We were BBFs (Best Buddies Forever), not BFFs.  Mostly she ate lunch with the other black kids and it never occurred to me that she would do otherwise.  It’s got to be hard spending all day surrounded by people who can’t really “get” you and may not even like you no matter how good or nice or cool or talented you are.  I’d want a break too. 

    Looking back, I realize that I was white-girl clueless in a way that a less tolerant and kind person might have been unwilling to deal with.  Continue reading

  • The American Race and Race

    Gather ’round, folks. Auntie Becky is going to tell you a story. A metaphor really, about race in America. And about the American Dream.

    Imagine for a moment, a long relay race where for generations it has been considered acceptable and in some cases even required to break the limbs of a one group of people trying to run the race. The people thought this was OK. After all, it wasn’t long ago that this group of people had been used as horses to pull everyone else’s carts around the track. At least they were free of that back-breaking work. Now, they just had to contend with some needed cobbling. Anyone who resists the “in group’s” right to break bones is killed, so that keeps everything on an even keel. Not a bad system, really.

    Of course, people with broken bones do not do very well in the race. Pretty quickly there are people lying all over the place with broken bones and deformities from past breaks which were never set properly. Many people in that group will simply stop trying to participate in the race. Maybe even set up little shanty towns around the track to do the best that they can outside of the race. A few will be fast enough to elude those who would break their bones, but these would be few and far between. The track is littered with those who tried to be one of the fastest few but got caught. Their broken bones and mutilated corpses remind the out group not to try to hard or rebel against the natural order of things.

    Now, let’s say that after a very long time, once most of the people who are able to run the race are pretty well ahead, that people start to come to their senses and decide that it is wrong to break the limbs of the out group. So they ban limb breaking. From that point forward, a person’s success or failure in the race will depend on their efforts and abilities. Except, many of the people from the out group still have broken arms or deformities from past injuries. Some of them were born after their forbearers gave up the race as a lost cause and have never run a day in their life. Many of them have never left their shanty towns to deal with the people in the race before.

    Instead of offering training and rehab and counseling and medical care, the people in the race resentfully offer a selected few a slight head start to make up for the fact that they haven’t been able to get a fair shake at competing. Some do-gooders head into the shanty town to paint the walls of the homes of those who are least prepared to compete in the race in order to make them a little more comfortable where they are. A few people who are willing to train people stuck in the shanties make timid efforts at offering their assistance, but the do gooders painting the walls come out and say nasty things to them. So the potential trainers go back to the race and content themselves with yelling out helpful advice about moral bravery and perseverance as they run past. Continue reading