Black Lives Matter. So do white lives, and every other color. Cops matter too. We all matter. But, with all this unrest among the black community and the police lately, it reminds me of what it was like for me, when I was a little punk growing up in Chicago. Yeah, I was bad. And I don’t mean that in the good way. And I’ve been harassed by cops more times than you would probably believe. But people who grew up in Chicago know I am telling the truth.
The way I see it, no one is addressing the real issue. And, by focusing on one race of people, we as a nation are heading down a path that cannot end well, for either side.
Did you ever wonder why you never see the Chicago Police on the TV show COPS? I’ll tell you why. Because they (the Chicago Police) don’t want you to see how it really is- the way cops beat the “truth” out of people, the way young people of EVERY color get the crap beat out of them, the way young people get stopped and searched for no apparent reason, the way they make money from ambulance chasers (or anyone else who wants a break.)
As far as I’m concerned, life isn’t fair. As soon as you get over that, nothing surprises you.
The good news is, the Chicago Police will often give people a break too. Many of them feel they have better things to do (and they do). But, more often than not they will let you go for something minor, especially (and this is key to survival in the city) if you are respectful to the cops and tell the truth.
OK, here’s my story…
It all started when I was about thirteen. I was a little juvenile delinquent. Once I got arrested a time or two, I was known by the cops in my neighborhood. Any time a crime was committed, they’d come around and ask me and my friends if we knew anything. Of course, we didn’t, even if we did. But they always thought we knew everything, or was the cause of it. And to be honest, most of the time we were the cause. But many times we weren’t, and got beat up because they thought we were.
Ask anyone who grew up in Chicago. That’s just the way it is, and it doesn’t matter what color you are. If you are hanging with the wrong crowd, or in the wrong neighborhood, or you fit the description, you are suspect. It’s that simple.
I’ve been pulled-over and searched just for being white in a Puerto-Rican neighborhood- more than once. They would ask me straight out too- what is a white guy doing around here at this time of night? And guess what I was doing? Buying drugs, and they knew it. Luckily for me, they stopped me before I bought any.
There were at least ten times that I got beat up by cops between the age of thirteen and about twenty. Most of the time I deserved it. But a few times I didn’t. In fact, of the five times I got locked up as a juvenile in Chicago’s infamous Audy Home, two of them were for crimes I did not commit.
When I was old enough to drive, I received tickets on several occasions for things I did not do- they would make something up if they wanted to. Any time I got stopped by the police they would search my car, and me. This went on until I was in my twenties and stopped frequenting the places where trouble happened.
In hindsight though, I deserved it all- every beating, every ticket, even the time I spent in Audy Home for made-up crimes. I deserved it because of all the other crimes that I got away with.
I was a bad boy.
As a juvenile, I was arrested more than thirty times. Most were minor offenses, like curfew or disorderly conduct. But I also committed a few car thefts, burglaries, and been involved in a few neighborhood rumbles. I was never in a gang, but in those days kids just fought each other. It didn’t matter if it was a group from a certain school, or the group that hung out at a certain park. They fought like gangs.
The good news is, as soon as I turned seventeen, I straightened right up. Cook County Jail scared me, but Audy Home didn’t- it was actually fun.
There were more than a few times that the cops took me for a ride. They question me all the way to the South-side, then tell me to get out. (I was a North-sider.)
I got breaks too- a lot of them.
To count them all, I’d need more fingers and toes. I’ve had weed taken from me several times, and the cops just poured it out and let me go. One time a narc actually gave me my joint back.
There were at least ten times I was given a break for minor traffic offenses too. Sometimes it would cost me a little money, but it was worth it.
The bottom line is this- there are good cops and bad cops, just like any walk of life. And as far as I’m concerned racial profiling is good police work. So is beating the crap out of thieves and punks.
As it is now, the police have their hands tied with so many laws and cameras everywhere. They risk their lives to keep us safe. So who cares if they make an extra fifty bucks for letting someone go who blew a red light? Not me. And who cares if a drug dealer got the crap beat out of him? Not me.
What can I say? That’s the way I was raised in Chicago.
I know, getting beat up by the police, or even falsely charged is not the same thing as getting killed. But it happens to white people too, and Hispanics, and everyone else. So let’s not make it a race issue.
Police are people too, and being in a life-threatening situation every day will sometimes lead to innocent people getting killed.
Innocent cops get killed too. Don’t forget that.
Disclaimer: This all happened between 1973 and 1980. Maybe things have changed by now.
Ken Skaggs is an author, educator, entrepreneur, radio announcer, web designer, web marketer, musician, trucking safety expert, SEO specialist, and business owner- in other words, a dreamer.