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When Your Mother Is Only 15 & Your Grandmother 32
Once is awhile I take a break from "serious" reading and relax with an Elmore Leonard or Robert B. Parker crime novel. This time, reading in Parker's Small Vices, I came across the following insightful passages which, more than many, seem to capsulize the trap of the ghetto. Here, private detective Spenser is speaking with a grizzled and wise black cop.
"Ellis got the same story most of the kids you can see got," Jackson said. He made a graceful inclusive gesture with his right hand.
"His mother's about fifteen years older than he is. She and him live with her mother, his grandmother. Nobody's working. Don't know who the father is. Mother does some dope 'cause she got nothing else that she knows how to do. Grandmother does what she can. Which ain't much. She's got no education. She's got no money. She don't know who fathered her daughter. When Ellis was born., his grandmother was about thirty-two. Ellis don't go to school much. Nobody at his house seems able to get up early enough in the morning to get him there. He's a gang banger soon as they'll have him. Ran for a while with The Hobarts. By the time he's a grown-up he got his career mapped out. He does strong arm, dope dealing, small-time theft. For recreation he molests women. Anybody he seen in his whole life, that he actually knows, who's a success, that's what they do. Michael Jordan may as well be from Mars."......
I watched the kids walking past us on the sidewalk. They looked pretty much like any other kids. They were dressed for each other. Oversized clothes, sneakers, hats on backwards, or sideways. Most of them tried to look confident. Most of them were full of pretense. All of them were a little over matched by the speed at which the world came at them. But these kids weren't like other kids, and I knew it. These kids were doomed. And they knew it.......
......"So I say, you people have simply got to stop talking 'bout fucking 'inner city' when you mean black. And you really got to stop taking about fucking 'parents'. Kids in the 'inner city' got the usual biological folks. But mostly they ain't got no fucking 'parents'. Mostly the only family they got is the gang, and the only thing that they can insist on is respect. And the only things they got to insist on it with is balls and a gun."