Recently, I’ve had the misfortune of dealing with a young man in my neighborhood who doesn’t have any respect for boundaries or for other people. Without going into too much detail, the police have been called twice. I now am forced to walk my dog with a leash in one hand and a can of pepper spray in the other while constantly looking over my shoulder.
When the police asked me to press charges, after the second incident, I did. Several people applauded me for taking a stand but I also got several responses that were unexpected and disheartening. I “shouldn’t be so eager to put another young black man into the system,” they said, as they sympathetically attempted to argue his side. Basically, since I wasn’t raped or beaten, I should cut him some slack. I don’t agree.
People should be accountable for their actions. The fact that there was a second incident more egregious than the first after the police had been called once already said it all to me. He has shown absolutely no remorse. In fact, he seems to think he’s entitled to trespass on my property and violate my personal boundaries.
I am not without compassion, but compassion shouldn’t be expected, it should be earned. What’s sad is that so many people assume that this boy can’t do any better and that he deserves a second, and a third and a fourth chance. I wonder what it would take for them to side with me? A severe beating? A rape? A murder?
You’ve heard it a thousand times, but it is true. No one rises to low expectations. I expect more from my neighbor. I expect him to act with courtesy and respect. I expect him not to engage in inappropriate behavior. I expect others to stand by me and demand more from this young man.
As a community, we have to demand more from ourselves and from each other. Life is hard. In some cases, it’s downright tragic but none of that gives people carte blache to act like a fool. It is not okay to violate another person. It is not okay to help yourself to someone else’s property. If we want more for ourselves, if we want more from our families, if we want more from our communities, we have to demand it and accept nothing less.
Young black men (or any men) don’t have to go to jail. It is not inevitable – neither is a life of crime or a life colored by poverty and despair.It’s not easy but we can overcome. As Obama would say, “Yes, we can!”
I hope my ordeal with this young man is over. I hope he learns several lessons from all of this. I hope he learns to have respect for other people. I hope he learns that there are consequences for every action – good and bad. I hope both he and his parents take this as a wake-up call and see this as an opportunity to do and be better. I hope this is the last time his name is uttered by the police.
I hope he sets his sights higher than the gutter and higher than curb level.