The Straight Dope

Posted on May 14, 2012

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We usually act desperate in the face of Rock Bottom and as ambitious beings; we get the urge to find a way to make life better. Whether it is that you are a slacker or an overachiever, the route you take will ultimately reflect those traits and reflect your lifestyle. Tragically, it is the latter that is rare in most American children living in the inner city. It’s been embedded into the minds of our people (typically minorities) to take the easy route and the easy route usually helps them end up locked up or dead. This is particularly true for a teen drug dealer of whose name I will keep anonymous; but in this case, we’ll call him Mr. Smith.

Mr. Smith has been in and out of the justice system for as long has he could remember. Growing up in the rough yet diverse neighborhood of Uptown in 1980s Chicago, he picked up all his bad habits not from his family, but from the interesting characters who influenced him. His mother was absent most of his life, out drinking or gambling or lustfully pursuing men below the standards of a blind old man. Home alone with 2 other siblings, they were eventually taken by Child Protective Services and sent to live in group homes and foster homes.

Most of the time the system fails and these kids typically end up in the Criminal Justice System, the Welfare system, or the “Six Feet Deep” system. As of 2009, there are estimated to be nearly 500,000 children in foster care. About 20,000 young adults age out of the system annually (Fostercarealumni.org) . Fortunately, more than half of teens in foster care graduate high school while at the same time half of them are also unemployed. Twenty-Five percent of foster kids end up homeless and thirty-five percent were receiving public assistance.

Mr. Smith is a prime example of a failed system. At 18, he was kicked out of his foster home and living on the streets for selling drugs. Six years prior, he was taken from his mother at 12 and began to take note of the strange organisms that habitually roamed the streets of Uptown. For a young boy coming of age, they were definitely a bad influence for him to mimic at the same time a valuable life experience; he learned some better than average business and math skills as well as how to deal with customers. By selling these products, he was illuminated of the reality that drugs does to a human being . But in the eyes of Mr. Smith, he needed nothing more than fast money, fast women, and a fast high.

By 16, he developed an addiction to cocaine and heroin after trying his own product. At the prime of his business was his most depressing. With no one to share in his profit or to console his feelings, the boy fell into despair and turned to hardcore narcotics for comfort. His “paycheck” would then support his drug habit and nights with prostitutes. This lifestyle finally caught up to him when he got arrested for a DUI which escalated into possession of a concealed weapon and Class A narcotics. He was then charged and sent to a federal penitentiary for 8 years.

At first it didn’t faze him because all the older guys from the neighborhood who influenced him of course once again succeeded at feeding a naïve teenager lies, telling him how great and proud he should feel getting locked up; the amount of respect and street credit would be like being a celebrity. BULL! What kind of reality were these guys living in? Being so deluded and psychotic, and for what? The money? The Power? The Fear? The mind of a Drug Dealer is the mind of the American Way. So complex and out of whack that there’s really no way to fix it. It all revolves around money, power, and respect.

The modern concept of being American is to be selfish; to think only about your success and to forget about anyone who stands in your way. While this may sound ideal and subtle, it really isn’t. When you have competition in the job market, no one cares to help out one another. People go about their business and leave the loser in the gutter. Money is a struggle in this country. When you have hundreds of people applying for the same job, there’s bound to be a more than marginal percentage of unemployed citizens. That time of unemployment leads to poverty, poverty leads to bitterness, bitterness leads to malice, malice leads to prison or worse. It doesn’t stop at that but rather it continues in an endless cycle of dysfunctional families and broken dreams.

For Mr. Smith, this was especially true being a high school dropout, an orphan, and an African-American. Society treated him unfairly and in return he became a menace to society. A teenage menace: he habitually robbed and attacked people; he only acted out because of the injustices in his own life. That being the higher-ups robbing him of a good education and attacking him through spreading drugs out into the public, particularly in the high concentrated area of African-Americans and Latinos. Beyond education, they would be robbing him of a good job, a stable life, and possibly a family. One-quarter of teens are working as of 2011; the unemployment rate is at 24.2% for young adults aged 16-19 (BleakTeen). The rate among black teens is at a staggering 40.7%. Interestingly enough, the white teen unemployment rate hit an “all time high” in 2009 being 22.2%. (Washington Post, White Teen Unemployment). Now there are obviously more Caucasians living in America than any other race, more than half of the population compared to any other race; I’m not calling the race card, but it kind of makes you think how much progress the American society has made.

I can definitely say that one of the reasons teens and adults alike end up behind bars is because they are unemployed. Some people have it bad and it’s not just because they’re too lazy to find a job or because they have no respect for anyone or because they have no work ethic. Employers can be simply unfair and they have the freedom to do it. There’s a hidden agenda to keep minorities and the lower class well below the wealthy and people of high authority; and the only thing it’s doing is causing a cycle of violence and poverty. I may sound like a conspiracy theorist, but hear me out; why are Blacks and Hispanics the only races to almost always be on the low end of the stick? Well if I could guess, this agenda may be just as similar to the Nazi Regime; many of our leaders are involved in a specific group that I’m not inclined to talk about at the moment but I can tell you that these people consider non-whites “sub-human” and thus we are inferior and must be oppressed and in worse conditions than they are.

Honestly, I don’t know the true definitive answer, but I can tell you that the reasons I just mentioned are reason enough to know we have to make change. We shouldn’t have to turn to selling drugs to make some money. So what can we do about it? Well for one, let’s stop setting these high standards for employees and have entry-level jobs actually be entry-level. There aren’t enough of those anymore; we need to start hiring inexperienced teenagers if we want them to make the job market more efficient, which they will make if they gain experience through their first entry level job.

But of course there is no simple answer to fixing this problem. Money will be needed to create more jobs. So first, we’ll need to do small things to raise money such as fundraisers and selling certain items. The only thing is not many people care about the youth, so we’ll have to find some way to convince people why this is a good thing; get them involved. Perhaps we can start early in the school system teaching children how to be good parents and how to avoid dysfunction. Likewise, this may also be an issue as people hate being told what to do, especially when it comes to raising their child. At least teens aren’t that out of control yet, for the most part, many of them have jobs, attend and are graduating from high school, and maybe less than half don’t do anything involved with tobacco, marijuana, drugs, alcohol, and whatever else you consider “bad”.

We ought to somewhere. There are several trade schools available for teens to start learning at as soon as they obtain their GED. Maybe these trade schools need to be a little more informative or have more connections with the job market. A school should be able to find a student a job after completion. While helping teens and children improve themselves, we can also prevent them from having a stake in the black market. There have been plenty of drug awareness programs to inform teens of the dangers of being involved with illicit drugs. Most likely, these teens won’t listen or just straight up forget about everything they were told and go on living their lives of dissipation. One of the reasons is that honestly, the people telling teens about drugs and such aren’t doing such a good job at it. They use the scare tactic and focus primarily on how it can kill us or get us locked up. While this may be true, they don’t inform us of why people turn to drugs and gangs; they don’t give us the emotional perspective.

I remember back in 7th grade, there was a speaker who came to our class to steer us away from drugs and alcohol. She showed us live dead organs that deteriorated due to drug abuse, chain smoking, and alcoholism. Though it may have worked back when I was 12, I can look back at that moment now and say that it did not faze me what so ever. As we age we become less fearful of the world (this may not be true for certain individuals) and so little things like a rotting liver or a black lung won’t really be enough to keep us from indulging in the world. It is also dangerous for these speakers to be telling kids that marijuana and other drugs is just plain bad for you without giving a good explanation; again, they usually try to put you in fear by giving a negative connotation to the side effects and long term consequences of doing these drugs.

That was years ago though, so maybe the system has changed. Nonetheless, things always need improvement because when they re-introduce drug awareness in high school half of the kids are either already doing it, selling it, or too stubborn to listen; the program is even more inefficient as the grade school one. Mr. Smith never listened to anyone but of course there wasn’t really anyone to tell him otherwise except his boss. His “boss” and his “co-workers” were his family along with his daughter that he has to provide for. I guess there are some positives to selling drugs if it means it’s the only profit maker available. All the imagery in the media, how they portray young black men as angry, proud, illiterate, arrogant criminals; it brainwashes the minorities of society into thinking selling drugs or pimping women is the cool way of being successful.

A standard is set for an African American and if you act proper, intelligent, humble and caring; you’ll be accused of being an Uncle Tom. Ain’t nothin’ wrong with being an Uncle Tom. It is those uncle toms who know how to act and get somewhere in life. If our young Black and Latino youth keep the mindset of being a hardcore felon from a blighted area as being “real” then the cycle is going to keep rolling and rolling. The fact that gangs and crime (which I use interchangeably) can be so glamorous in the eyes of a person just means that somewhere in us there is a natural evil spirit which ultimately means we’re just inclined to be violent. We see it in the numerous of wars that have never took a break, and the add insult to injury, we pride ourselves on it. Remember, I’m not speaking for everyone when I say this, but I am pointing out all those crazy people who share this earth with us. It’s that natural joy from adrenaline and violence that keeps us in this cycle.

We as Americans need to make a real change and not stop half way through like some of the leaders of our country. That change is the way we think, the way we work, the way we act, and even the way we live. It’s going to be a long, tedious journey, but I believe we will persevere and make a better future for the upcoming generation. Challenging as it is, it will be worth while. Like Mr. Smith, many have chosen their fate and have accepted the risks and consequences. Unfortunately, they usually don’t make it out. Mr. Smith was just another statistic. It’s time to put these casual statistics to an end.
National Facts About Children in Foster Care. http://www.fostercarealumni.org/resources/foster_care_facts_and_statistics.htm
Bleak teen jobs outlook: 25 percent unemployment and stiff competition. http://www.csmonitor.com/Business/2011/0603/Bleak-teen-jobs-outlook-25-percent-unemployment-and-stiff-competition

White Teen Unemployment hits all-time highs. The Washington Post. http://voices.washingtonpost.com/economy-watch/2009/11/teen_unemployment_hits_all-tim.html

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Posted in: Jeremy B