Tuesday, May 10, 2016

50 People were Shot in Chicago Last Week: The Tribune's Profile of a Street Pirate

It was warm in Chicago last weekend. A nice day is an opportunity to catch up on one's "recreational" and "business" matters. To that end, 50 people were shot in gang related violence across the city.

The Chicago Tribune profiled one of the street pirates who was killed in that flurry of mayhem.

Criminals are someone's children. They usually have friends and other people who care about them. Criminals should be humanized even while their deeds are barbaric. To not understand them as 3 dimensional and full human beings risks our not being able to correct the circumstances--if possible--that spawned them.

The sociological imagination is the connection between individual experiences and wider society.

Reading the Tribune's profile of street pirate Pierre Loury is a tour de force of the ghetto underclass: a a full bibliography could easily be compiled annotating the downfall of this teenager.

For example:
Pierre Loury talked about going to college and becoming an engineer, yet he skipped classes for nearly a year in high school. 
He encouraged his little brother to stay in sports and out of gangs, yet he claimed to have joined the New Breeds around the age of 10. 
He spent hours recording rap music in a converted bedroom closet, but toward the end of his short life his Facebook postings show him posing with guns, cash and drugs and talking of chasing rival dealers off his block. 
Still, his family and friends never imagined he would die in an alley not far from his home at age 16, shot and killed by a Chicago police officer last month after allegedly threatening him with a gun.
They both worried as Loury started getting arrested, missing school and running away to a relative's or friend's house. He might have been on his own, but he still faced discipline at home, they said. 
"Even not being here, it didn't matter where we live, he's exposed to danger, period," Hudson said, pointing outside. "I did what I was supposed to do as a mother. When I got wind of the things he was doing." 
Hudson would tell her son, "No, we are not doing this. I didn't raise you like that, you're a leader, you're not going to follow. He would tell me, 'Mama, I'm a do better, I know. The words started matching his actions, and he started doing better." 
Frazier added, "We were hard on him. Pierre was still getting whoopings till he was like 15 with a belt. 
"We never knew he was doing all this stuff because we gave him his privacy," he continued. "He never brought a gun into this house. He has little brothers and sisters, and he's their role model." 
Gripping a tissue, Hudson described her boy as an up-and-coming rapper who liked to listen to Drake, Lil Wayne and Kendrick Lamar. She said a Facebook photo of her son holding a gun beside his face was taken while he was promoting a rap song, nothing more. 
However, both she and Frazier said they did not approve of the photo, which was widely circulated after he died. "The picture was surrounding a song, his finger's not even on the trigger, he just holding a gun," Hudson said. "I don't like the fact that he did the picture, but it's social media, it's a way of expressing yourself. I may have posted something on my Facebook that somebody might take wrong."
Consider me not moved by the "tragedy" of this life. Pierre Loury was a brigand, a public menace, and a plague on his community. Those words are harsh. They are politically incorrect. They may be upsetting to some people. 

Those thoughts are also an observation about how there are activists and others involved in social change work in poor black and brown communities who expend energy on the wrong fights, defend people whose behavior is indefensible, and thus lose moral authority and political capital when discussing serious and important matters of public concern.

Am I being too harsh? What are your thoughts on how Loury's life went wrong? How did his parents and family enable his behavior? Or is the life of a street pirate ultimately about the intersection of failed social structures and poor personal decisions?

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