The Chasm That Divides The Two Americas…

Fourteen-year-old Jamar lives in a high rise ten­e­ment in the heart of the city. For blocks and blocks all around him, the only thing he sees is more build­ings like the fif­teen-floor low-income build­ing in which he, his moth­er, three broth­ers, and hun­dreds of peo­ple like him call home. Jamar’s father has been in and out of jail for as long as he has been alive, he hard­ly knows when he is out of jail any­more, he just assumes he is always locked up because he hard­ly sees him any­more.
Jamar is Black as you may have already guessed.
The play­ground is a sin­gle fenced-in area where groups of his con­tem­po­raries jos­tle for time on the bas­ket­ball court in the sum­mer­time. All around the com­mon areas, women with strollers lounge with lit­tle kids trail­ing behind them. On the many bench­es scat­tered around the court­yard sits oth­er peo­ple, men & women, junkies, and low-lev­el dope ped­dlers.
It is like a jun­gle made out of con­crete, life exists for him with­in the con­fines of a few hun­dred feet out­side of the build­ing in which he lives.

Drug deal­ing, gang activ­i­ties, pros­ti­tu­tion, are what he sees dai­ly.
His move­ments are restrict­ed, stray­ing too far away from his build­ing can mean sud­den death, even though he is not a mem­ber of any of the gangs that oper­ate in the vast com­plex of build­ings.
Just head­ing down­stairs from the small two-bed­room fifth-floor apart­ment he shares with his mom and broth­ers could mean get­ting roughed up by local bul­lies, or beat­en to a pulp by police offi­cers who see him only as a young black male, tall and gan­g­ly, 6 – 2 and there­fore a threat to be neu­tral­ized.
It is an exis­tence that shapes how he views the world, it shapes the way he speaks or even whether he speaks at all.
His only safe space is inside the small apart­ment amidst the noise of his younger sib­lings and the curs­ing and yelling his moth­er does seem­ing­ly all of the time.

Across town, just three wiles across the city line, and just where the sub­urbs begin, the dif­fer­ences in lifestyles are night and day, they are so dif­fer­ent than what hap­pens in the seem­ing­ly nev­er-end­ing ten­e­ments where Jamar lives, events may eas­i­ly be con­strued to be hap­pen­ing in two dif­fer­ent coun­tries.
Joey is 16 years old he lives with his old­er sis­ter who is a high school senior, she is get­ting ready for col­lege. Joey and Beth live with their par­ents Karen and Ken, in a four-bed­room bun­ga­low on a tree-lined boule­vard where he and his friends ride their bikes, roller­boards, smoke weed, and drink alco­hol. Joey is white.
When the police cruise by they wave to them and some­times stop to chat.
Neither Joey nor any of his friends have ever been stopped much less roughed up or arrest­ed by the police, even though they have done crazy things that could eas­i­ly have land­ed them in jail.
Unless there is a strange twist of fate that seri­ous­ly alters Joey’s life, he too will be attend­ing col­lege when the time comes, and he will grad­u­ate and live a life of pur­pose, all because of his envi­ron­ment and priv­i­lege.
Unless there are strange twists of fate that seri­ous­ly alters the tra­jec­to­ry of Jamar’s life,(a) inter­ac­tions with police who make it their busi­ness to ensure that he is arrest­ed for even look­ing at them, after they have assault­ed and abused him repeatedly,(b) the gen­er­al envi­ron­ment in which he lives, are all but cer­tain to ensure that he ends up in prison, like his dad before him, or worse, a sta­tis­tic of gun vio­lence, either by gang­sters or the police.
It is an inex­tri­ca­ble trap from which Jamar may nev­er be able to extri­cate him­self, all because of his envi­ron­ment and lack of priv­i­lege.

Mike Beckles is a for­mer police Detective cor­po­ral, busi­ness­man, free­lance writer, he is a black achiev­er hon­oree, and pub­lish­er of the blog mike​beck​les​.com. 
He’s also a con­trib­u­tor to sev­er­al web­sites.
You may sub­scribe to his blogs free of charge, or sub­scribe to his Youtube chan­nel @chatt-a-box, for the lat­est pod­cast all free to you of course.

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