I flip the page of the newspaper, “High School students set fire to apartment building.” I turn the page again. “Twenty-two year old caught fleeing the scene of a burglary.” The facebook news feed of the local newspapers updates my phone on the latest news and crime in the area. “Teens face drug charges.” It’s an aspect of life we can’t escape.
Yet, what annoys me most about these horrible headlines, isn’t the criminal acts per se, it’s the criminals. In many of these instances, the criminals are teens and twenty-something local suburbanites.
I recently read an article about a high speed chase involving a twenty-something couple. The article even listed the names of the perpetrators. As I read, I thought back to my time in law school when I clerked for a judge. I remember the topic of facebook becoming a norm in criminal investigations. The investigators often found incriminating information posted by the criminals themselves on their facebook walls. For whatever reason, this flashed through my mind…so, I decided to drop the names from the article into the facebook search engine.
Low and behold their profiles popped up. The two people were listed as “in a relationship” on facebook allowing their profiles to link to one another… confirming that I had found the right people.
The man’s profile boasted that he was released from prison a few months prior. His pictures were of him in a wife-beater t-shirt lifting weights. He also posted a picture of an engagement ring with a link to the girls profile stating that he had to “figure out a way to get this for his boo.”
I clicked on her profile. She talked about how in love with him she was and how she couldn’t wait to get “this” over with so they could start their lives together. I assume “this” was the crime they had unsuccessfully committed together.
These people were from middle class neighborhoods in the county! I cringed as I read this.
Why do people from middle-class society put on the façade that they grew up “on the streets” and had to turn to crime? I will never understand why someone would want to portray themselves as struggling through poverty when they actually never did.
You see in addition to being a writer, I teach English at a local Community College. The area is only about 10-15 miles from the city of Philadelphia. I have had some students who are legitimate inner-city kids. They come from neighborhoods that most of us would be afraid to drive through during the morning hours, let alone the evening. Places like Southwest Philadelphia, Kensington or North Philly… places where crime and poverty are the norm.
Many of their families are on welfare and yet, many of them are in school on scholarships. They strive to be the first in their family to obtain a college degree. These students have all seen the harsh realities of “growing up on the streets.” However, they refuse to be defined by their demographics.
Many don’t have cars, so they take two or three buses to get to the campus. Nevertheless, they time it so they often arrive early, despite the unreliability of public transportation. They come to class, punctual, prepared, papers in hand, dressed for success, and ready to learn. If they arrive late they apologize and are respectful of their classmates and professor. Like a sponge they just want to soak it all in and learn to be the best they can be.
Instead, it’s some of the students from the upper or middle-class neighborhoods that slink into the room 15 minutes late. Their car keys jingling in their pocket as they walk through the door, indicating that they have their own vehicle. No apology for interrupting the flow of class. These are the ones who hide their fire-red eyes with the flat brim of a baseball hat. They keep their head down and think I won’t notice the smell of marijuana as they slide into their desks.
Socio-economic standing indicates that the “inner-city” kids should be the “problem students.” Statistics say they are exposed to more drugs, poverty, violence and crime. Therefore, they should be the ones who struggle to focus and stay on the “straight and narrow.” Yet, I have found the opposite to be true.
The ones with the tattoos on their arms using the street slang like; “Yo, Naw, Aight, and Ain’t, are actually coming from the middle class students. They are the ones who have glorified the image of what is called “gangster.”
They walk, talk, and dress with a certain flare depicting this hyped image. Their pants sit too low, their hat is turned ever-so slightly to the side and they enter the room with a “Wassup.” Their gait almost has a certain limp to it as they saunter over to their desk. Lil Waye, Growing Up Gotti and The Sopranos are text-book bovarisms emulated by the teens and twenty-something’s.
I just don’t get it…
You’re not from the streets if your parents gave you a car at 16, or you have a personal computer, newest smart phone or gadget. You’re not from the streets if you shop at Trader Joes, have a favorite regular at Starbucks or you can freely walk outside of your house without worrying about stray bullets or drive by gunshots.
Compton, Detroit, Harlem, Anacostia… these are places with historic crime and poverty. People from these places work their whole lives to better themselves. Yet, these spoiled middle class kids pretend they’ve endured a similar struggle. It’s insulting and ludicrous. Total misrepresentation of a reality that is endured every day by some people.
Maybe it’s because we’re so close to a major city that this fad is popular? Maybe it’s just that all the “Suburbanites” are “Wanna-be Philadelphians? Even if this is true… Crime, Incarceration, Poverty, Violence and Theft, are not “cool.” Inner-city despair is not to be made popular. Despite the most glamorous hip-hop music videos and Italian mobsters show du jour; these middle class teens and twenty-something’s should be thankful they haven’t experienced what the inner-city stigma really is.
People from these places refuse to be limited by their culture and their neighborhoods. They want more for themselves and self-confidence is what keeps them motivated; that is something the suburbanite wannabes should try to emulate. If people just worked toward being a better version of themselves, maybe it would cut down on the petty crimes and frivolous headlines that mar the pages of the newspaper.
SHORT AND SWEET…AKA…MORAL OF THE BLOG
Our lack of self-confidence mostly comes from trying to be someone we aren’t. No wonder we do not feel or act confidently when we are living a lie. When we realize that the best we have to bring to any situation is being just who we are, we can begin to live better lives. People who are cocky often show an alarming lack of self-confidence. They have no idea who they really are or what they have to offer. When we realize what we have to offer and we bring it to each situation in life, that’s all we need to do to begin bettering ourselves.
Class is an aura of confidence that is being sure without being cocky. Class has nothing to do with money or from where we come. Class never runs scared. It is self-discipline and self-knowledge. It’s the sure-footedness that comes with having proved you can meet life. ~Ann Landers
This post originally appeared on http://lanamorelli.com/. Check out her site for more great writing.