Crime Story

My 18-yr-old nephew was walking north on Fairwood Avenue heading to Broad Street to catch a bus to his job at a Loews in a shopping center.

It was approximately 2:00 pm and the day was sunny and bright.

He passed an alley when a young Black male (I and my nephew are both Black) confronted him and told him to lie face down on the ground and give him his money or he’d blow his bleeping head off.  He pointed a gun at him.

My nephew quickly complied and his wallet, cell phone, keys, watch and a i.d. bracelet were stolen from him and the punk ran off.  Shaken, but unhurt, my nephew proceeded to work and called the police and his mother.  Later that day his father called me and gave me the shocking news.

I went to his house and hugged him and told him I would drive him to work if necessary.  i told him not to walk that route again (which was the same way he walked for years to get to East High school).

It shakes me to my soul to think we came this close to losing a good kid who has never been in trouble, has a job and is attending school at Columbus State trying to better himself and shape a life for himself.  ALL of it could have been snatched away had that punk decided he didn’t want to leave any witnesses or just was a complete sadist.

My nephew is a tall. skinny kid and not at all street-smart.  He’s a easy target for two-legged predators.   I thought immediately about my own son who is also 18, even taller, if not skinny, but equally green as grass when it comes to knowing his way around the streets.

Maybe it was the combination of being in the military and several trips to Times Square and 42nd Street before Rudy Giuliani hosed it down and cleaned it up, but you can’t walk around looking lost in your thoughts and whistling in a happy tune.  The idiots with more bullets than brains see that a sign of weakness and pounce.  You have to navigate the streets with what I call my “city face.”  My city face is  a head-up, eyes-front, neck on a swivel surveying the street and my surroundings.  One hand is partially in a pocket while the other one swings freely as I stride purposely.   My expression is a mean “don’t ask me for shit” face.   I try to carry myself with confidence.

I never had a problem bopping around New York or any other big city I’ve walked around because I tried to look like I belonged.   Not as a potential victim waiting to be hit.

Nothing can stop you from being a victim of crime if someone determines they are going to take from you something they want.   A “city face” only goes so far.  So does a can of Mace or a big dog or a concealed gun.

My nephew is alive partially of what his assailant didn’t do, but mostly what he did do.  He didn’t try to be macho.  He didn’t give the guy any lip and make a nervous idiot a trigger-happy nervous idiot.  He gave up the goods without a struggle.

There is nothing he lost that can’t be replaced.  His life cannot be replaced.

The only thing I can say my nephew did wrong was taking a longer route for a shorter bus ride where he wouldn’t have to transfer.   The safer way would have been to walk a block south of his home and to catch a bus on a busy main street that would have forced him to go downtown and transferred to another bus that would have taken him to work.  But I would rather leave 30 or 45 minutes earlier than expose myself to a similar experience again.

We’re all potential victims of crime.  Don’t live in dread or fear.  Don’t view every young male walking toward you on the sidewalk as a potential threat.  Be smart and be aware of where you are and how vulnerable you may be.

i know the cops won’t find the bastard.   If one Black kid rips off another Black kid, who cares?   If one Black kid kills another Black kid, that’s no big deal either.  Except for the survivors who have to put their lives back together without a piece of their heart.

While African Americans comprise 12% of the U.S. population, 45% of all murder victims in 2002 were African American, 91% of whom were killed by African Americans. Nationally, homicide is the leading cause of death for black men and second leading cause of death for black women ages 15-24.

It’s one thing to read those numbers.   It’s another thing entirely to know someone  you love came this close to being a statistic.

I don’t have the solution for Black-on-Black crime.  Neither does Barack Obama,   John McCain or even Jesus Christ himself.  Somehow too many young brothers and sisters got it in their heads that since it didn’t matter if they lived or died, why should it matter about anybody else living or dying, even when that other person looked the same as you?

Maybe someday when people can love and value themselves, they can find love for and the value of others too.

But that day is not today.

The worst thing to do is surrender to fear.  A certain amount of fear is fine because it can keep you safe.  Too much of it and you’ll never leave the house.

It’s just like the sage advice of the precinct sergeant from Hill Street Blues, “Let’s be careful out there.”