In his monumental autobiography, Dr. Huey P. Newton ponders a burning question. He tries to discover what is the proper path for young black men to take toward a fulfilling life. Newton’s choices were reduced to 2 options: The Thug or The Scholar. He had as astounding examples, brothers from both sides of the track. His brother Melvin was a scholar. Young Huey was in awe of the respect that many showed to his brother as a scholar. It was this adulation that awakened in Young Huey the desire for learning. It was Melvin that introduced him to Plato’s Republic. And it was Melvin who paid him to read it.

Then there was Walter Jr.(Sunnyman) Walter Jr taught him to fight. Walter Jr lived the life of a hustler. He had women. He didn’t work a 9 to 5. Yet, he always had money.Newton stated that he believed that Walter Jr and his friends were defying the system. He later discovered that this was not the case. He stated that his brother and his brother’s friends on the block didn’t defy the system as much as they had compromised with it. The same conclusion had been reached by another hustler in Harlem who went by the name of Detroit Red. Red in his later reincarnation as Malcolm X, vehemently stated that the cops were in cahoots with the criminal.

So what was Newton and Malcolm really saying? Black criminality is dependent on white acquiescence. In other words, the police must look the other way for him to succeed. But for the police to look the other way, he must be enticed to do so. He (The Police) holds the threat of death or imprisonment over him by the hand of the state. The hustler, by comparison, can only offer exponentially increasing short term bribes that are extorted from him during his shelf life in the game. But when that shelf life expires, he will find himself like all the rest, incarcerated with football numbered sentences. What is even more insulting is that every score he makes only seals his fate. If he remains a criminal, he risks a lifetime in the state penitentiary or an even longer sentence as a hump in the ground. Meanwhile the poverty that he sought to avoid never seems to dissipate. It only multiplies and spreads over generations.

In his interviews in later years, the Great Iceberg Slim said that he sought to humanize the people in the street game. He wanted to show that they were real people and not just animals as they were frequently depicted in the mainstream. Intellectuals and popular culture in the 1990s and early 21st century attempted to achieve the same objective. Prestigious professors and a whole host of Ivory Tower intellectuals explained ad naseum the causes and origins of black criminality. What they did not discuss was the role played by the black community in the creation of black criminality. In particular, the inability of the community to create an independent economic infrastructure to employ these future criminal statistics; the inability of the community to create lasting institutions from the fruits of all the criminal activity taking place within its borders; and the inability to reign in these illegitimate capitalists when their businesses began to have too deleterious of an effect on our neighborhoods. In short, I have met the enemy and he is me! If white society is the author of black misery, then who will be the writers of black redemption? White society?

Our inability to create an economic framework has, in effect, doomed many of our young people to the twin guillotines of mass incarceration and generational poverty. Thus, collective black lethargy and inertia is just as culpable as “white supremacy” in creating a decadent sub-culture that devours the souls of far too many black folk. What is even more nauseating is that many in the black community have began to see this tenuous culture as the ultimate symbol of black masculinity.  This again is an attempt to humanize those faceless millions that have fallen into the abyss of a dark citadel of the free market that appears to have an insatiable appetite for black flesh. For every success story that are 1,000s more with families left in abject ruin and irreparable decay that regenerates with each new generation.

While many will correctly make a comparison between black criminality and the broader business practices of predatory capitalism in a global economy, this miss the very point of their argument. Predatory transnational corporations own the congressmen, governors, senators and representatives. They purchase the very legislation that legalizes their criminal conduct not only before the fact, but after and during as well. Take for example, the world re-known Koch Brothers. They were under investigation for nearly 400 violations of federal law. Did they shudder at the thought of a federal indictment? No! They simply lobbied congress to change the law and made it retroactive so that it covered all of their past violations. The black hustler has no such protection because black politicians don’t carry the weight of the majority politician in electoral politics. Also, the black electorate has been hamstrung from presenting a viable agenda due to its childish unconditional support for the Democratic Party. And finally, the lack of financial support of the black community for its’ own representatives render it ineffective at controlling the politicians that allegedly represent its interests. Funny how it always comes down to the money isn’t it?

Therefore the black hustler has NO protection. He is a stranger in the desert of the prison industrial complex. He is often marooned on an island where he lives rich only to die broke. He is prey in a system where everyone takes a piece of his ass on the road to oblivion. The lawyers soak him dry with exorbitant retainers fees, the commissary and phone systems which he needs to communicate when arrested, charge 30% on the dollar to receive goods and services. The poor healthcare and substandard food is charged against his time his prison. The clothes that he wears are also charged to him not in payments, but amass to ensure his servitude. Sentencing disparities ensure that he will rack up enough debt to keep him paying the system for all of his remaining days. And when, or if he is released, recidivism will ensure his return to the same cycle, or he will have to swallow his pride and do the very thing he sought to avoid by hustling: a minimum wage paying JOB. So he will inevitably work “for the white man,” it will just take him a little longer to fill out a job application.

Those who survive their stint in thug life, will end up in this position or some variation thereof. They will become urban legends that are destined to be forgotten and disrespected by future generations who believe that they’re too smart to make the mistakes that were made by the OG’s. At the risk of sounding like an after-school special, the black criminal is not the ultimate expression of black masculinity. Street life is black impotence in the face of white omnipotence. The black gangster is a gangster. Nothing more. Nothing less.

TONY MACEO is a senior blogger at the Negromanosphere and the Chief Blogger at Power & Like, Share and Subscribe the articles. Become a patron at powerofstrategies @ Chess Players, check out our chess supplies at our online store. Till next time, I’ll Holla!

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