Survival Mode is a Death Sentence

I’ve lived in Baltimore my entire life. That’s almost 45 years. I’ve been a driver for two plus decades. For as long as I can remember, squeegee boys (edit: workers) have always been around. My experiences with these youth have always been positive, whether I had money to give them or not. I remember driving westbound from Harbor East and about three young men were weaving in and out of traffic at the intersection of President & Lombard on foot with the youngest of them appearing to be about 7-years-old. It was a weeknight. All the boys were school-aged or appeared to be. It was just after dark outside. I rolled down my window. I don’t remember now if I had money to give them. “It’s dark out here. Your family know you out here this late?” Looking at the littlest one who was basically shadowing a young man who looked about 13-years-old. “Y’all related?” The older one said that was his little brother. I wondered where the parents were. I was concerned for their safety. I’m always concerned about their safety. Unlike some of the comments from others who consider them a nuisance to the city amongst other things, I see children. I speculate that most aren’t out there as a hobby or pastime but out of necessity. I’d rather not see children at any intersection risking their safety, dodging cars in motion, weaving in and out of traffic in an attempt to make money. I do wonder if these same individuals hold the same opinion of panhandlers or The Girl Scouts or the Santa soliciting donations for the Salvation Army. What about the people selling flowers at some of these same intersections? What about the white, opioid-addicted beggars in Black neighborhoods? Are they also a nuisance to these same people?

This past summer, a fatal incident in Baltimore involving squeegee workers and a 48-year-old male made headlines. A 15-year-old boy has been charged as an adult for the alleged shooting of the motorist, who approached the group of boys with a bat. The 15-year-old, who was 14-years-old at the time of the encounter, was initially offered 60 years. The child’s defense team rejected the offer (thankfully) and understandably so. What would cause a grown ass man to get out of his vehicle, cross several lanes of traffic to approach a group of teenagers with a bat? What would have happened if he was able to strike one of those boys?

My biggest issue with this situation is that the child in question is being charged, held and tried as an adult. The problem with holding a child to the same standard as an adult is just that. This boy is not an adult. He doesn’t have the capacity to think as an adult nor should there be any expectation of him to think nor behave as such. There are many books, scholastic articles and other resource materials that would indeed support that fact. To have the expectation that a child of any age should have the same impulse control of a fully-developed adult is entirely unrealistic and unjust. Unfortunately, this is a societal and systemic trend as it relates to Black children, especially. Holding children to standards that (too many) adults aren’t being held accountable to maintain is problematic and dangerous. I mean, the young man responsible for the massacre in Charleston got a police escort to a burger joint afterwards.

The way I see it: poverty is the culprit as violence thrives amongst the impoverished. As long as poverty is allowed to ravish communities, nobody’s safety can be guaranteed.

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