Monday, May 30, 2016

The Next Mayor III - A Woman's Touch

     "He has no soul," she said, explaining why she had no misgivings about wanting the black man who had robbed her incarcerated.  As she recounted the horrifying story, my mind flashed to a recent conversation with a cab driver, whose seventy years on the planet made him remark: "the black community has lost its soul."  And with the community's future at stake with the upcoming mayoral election, the thought then came that maybe only a black woman could restore it.

     "It was late evening, and I had just gotten off the Metro," she said, her voice shaking in recalling the incident.  "I called myself being cautious, going home before it got dark, and walking in a lighted area after I got off the train."

     "I know I maybe sound like an old fool," he said, "but back when all you heard on the radio was songs with love lyrics - like Stevie Wonder - instead of this cussin' and fighting and fuckin' you hear today, black folks weren't shootin' and killin' each other."

     "Before I knew it, from out of nowhere, he was walking beside me," she continued, "saying 'Hey sista, you sho' looking good.'  Next thing I know a gun is pressing against my stomach."

     St. Louis has never had a woman as its mayor, and the only woman in recent history to vie for the position was a black woman, Irene Smith, who was soundly beaten by the incumbent mayor.

     "I heard him click the gun chamber," she went on, and I could only imagine her fear, which vividly showed when she recalled his words: "Bitch, don't look at me!  Get on the ground!  Gimme every fuckin' thing you got - your purse, your cell phone, and whatever you got in that damn bag!" 

     "You can have everything, please don't shoot me, I ain't got nothing but three dollars on me, I swear," she pleaded, lying face down on the grass, the gun against the back of her head.  "In the bag," she said to me in detailing the terror, "I had some construction paper for the children I tutor to write on."

     "Remember when black people used to call each other "soul brother" and "soul sister?" he asked me while steering through the streets.  "Well, soul ain't just about being black. It's about the conscience inside you that makes you respect and care about other folks.  These young folks have lost they soul."

     Irene Smith had grown up hard, a product of the projects.  She had gone on to become the first black woman to graduate from the law school of the University of Missouri.  Having meager funds, her run for mayor was a bridge too far.  Undaunted, she sought to give the black majority populace power, describing her campaign as a mission.

     "It was only by God's grace that I lived, and that they caught him," she said, while showing me on her phone a Facebook posting.  "You see these four young and beautiful black women, they were all murdered in the past month.  At first I thought about not trying to come down hard on this brother because I know how black men are mistreated by the system.  But then I thought about what he had done to me, had done to women before me, and what he would do if he was set free." 

     Maybe this kind of attitude is how our crime crisis should be dealt with, I thought.  And maybe, I thought, no person could better have this attitude as mayor than a black woman.

Eric E. Vickers, Attorney and Activist.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

The Next Mayor II - Reconstruction

      With St. Louis being in the funnel of the black tornado that upended Ferguson and swept across America, the upcoming mayor's race is probably the most significant in the city's history.  All the combustible elements that combined to ignite Ferguson - principally poverty, race, and an oppressive legal apparatus - exist undeniably in the Gateway City.  And undeniably, the next mayor will have to offer solutions to this urban explosiveness.     Equally important, the next mayor will have to re-instill in the black community the brotherly and sisterly love that once made a black harming another black person an intolerable act and an unspeakable shame.     
The usual campaign rhetoric of "bridging the racial divide," or "healing" the racial strife, will not suffice.  For the African-American community - an essential organ of the entire community - faces in the Ferguson era an evil equal to the evil of racism.  Namely, inner destruction.
     It is virtually impossible for black leaders, particularly the millennial leaders, to openly discuss the terror and horror blacks are subjected to from their own because it distracts from addressing the horror and terror whites inflict with racism, both overtly and systemically.  In fact, the first wall of defense whites erect when confronted with white police violence against blacks is the "black-on-black crime" argument.     Thus, whenever a black is shot down by a white cop, whites almost instinctively turn a blind eye to that as a crime and reflexively focus on the statistics of blacks killing other blacks.  And whenever a black shoots an innocent black mother or child, their response - and even that of some blacks - is to ask why there are no protests of that kind of killing.     Although the only logical connection between a white police officer shooting an unarmed black and a black shooting an innocent black is violence, the fact that the problem of one is not the same as or even tied to the other does not alleviate our imperative to solve both.
     Due to protest actions, the next mayor will have at his or her disposal all the post-Ferguson implemented or suggested tools to solve the problem of police excessiveness, such as body cameras, civilian review, and increased and independent prosecutorial scrutiny.  The tools to eradicate the violence that blacks wreak on themselves, however, have yet to be forged.  And protests will not form them.
     A protest against blacks killing blacks is impractical, if not irrational.  Because unlike a protest against a cop shooting, in which a demand is being made on the authorities to bring him to justice, a protest against a murder in a carjacking crime, for example, has no effect on such perpetrators.  The only protest that would make sense in that situation would be one against the police, demanding that they more effectively perform their obligation to protect the public from criminals.
     The next mayor will have to turn instead to social engineering and cultural tools to end the destructiveness blacks perpetrate on the black community.  He or she will have to construct a livable environment and an economic foundation that provides more than the subsistence survival that engenders crime in a society where wealth abounds.

Eric E. Vickers, Attorney and Activist.