There is a quote attributed to the American Transcendentalist and reforming minister of the Unitarian church, Theodore Parker that inspired Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and former president Barack Obama. Paraphrased, it states “The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice.” This idea undergirds a lot of modern thinking among reasonable people generating a sense of optimism in a conviction that right will inevitably win out over wrong. Those who believe that “what goes around comes around” can certainly get with this notion. Lately, however, many in the Black community seem to be losing sight of this idea, beaten down by oppression into a sense of hopelessness and losing faith that right will win out.
Recently, in Chicago, a large truck was parked in a low-income Black community loaded with Nike gym shoes. It became apparent to observers that this was probably a “sting” operation, and that young Blacks would be tempted to steal the merchandise and ultimately end up being arrested. A large outcry arose from community advocates complaining that these tactics target poor individuals with limited options for success in acquiring these items legitimately. They are upset with the mayor and the Chicago Police Department who they believe sanction entrapment scenarios. Actually, railroad security officials, who claim they have lost merchandise previously, orchestrated the entrapment scenario, and requested the aid of the Chicago Police Department, according to some reports.
Activists far and wide feel that it is unfair to tempt people to steal and then arrest them when they take the bait. Some have even concluded that it is alright for would-be thieves to take what they cannot get because of a long history of deprivation experienced by oppressed communities. Black people who disagree with this stance are being called sell-outs, enemies of the Black community, and more. It is true that entrapment should not be sanctioned, BUT the message regarding this should not provide excuses for criminal behavior, no matter what the circumstance. We should not make excuses for those who, because of alleged deprivation, respond to their lower, theft-based nature. This is especially true when considering that the entrapment device is overpriced gym shoes that celebrate capitalistic excess. Nike shoes are NOT necessities, they are luxuries. Based on the high rates of incarceration in Black communities, leaders should spend time helping people to understand what NOT to do in order to avoid incarceration. They should educate them about the idea of entrapment with focus placed on how to ACHIEVE without thievery. If what goes around does actually come back around, then our youth should understand this and be provided with alternative scenarios of achieving the things that they desire.
There are probably youth who have witnessed the outcry by activists regarding the entrapment scenario and are smiling because they have been protected and inadvertently supported for potential bad behavior by community advocates who say they should not be tempted to do wrong. The same activists would no doubt be outraged if these individuals took advantage of items stolen from them that were left compromised by carelessness. The real message that should be sent, therefore, is that it is wrong to steal no matter the circumstances. Instead, they are hearing that entrapment is unfair, NOT thievery!
People have complained for some time that railway cars loaded with firearms have been left as bait for community residents to steal and ultimately use against the community. This is the other side of entrapment that says “let’s use the lack of discernment among Black people to target their larcenous tendencies to steal weapons that will wreak havoc among them.” If it is true that weapons have come into the hands of Black residents in this manner, it is especially important that the ramifications of bad behavior are understood. Activists, therefore, should re-focus and target harmful behaviors, not just make excuses for why it happens. And regarding the behavior of oppressors, take comfort in the notion that what goes around will ultimately come back around to them, too! A Luta Continua.