In “Finding Hell on Wheels” (9/29), Paul Ruffins doesn’t offer any solutions to the danger and fear he faced at the hands of “our scary young men,” but at least he confronts the danger and his fear publicly and forthrightly. The fear he writes about rings true, as does his observation that his particular confrontation and many others are not all about money.
Surely, such honesty will have to be part of any possible solution. Still, I found his honest warning to the homeboys at the end to be poignant, but out of place:”Homeboys,” he wrote, “you’ve had fair warning. Your brothers and sisters don’t know what to do with you, but many of us are now unable, and unwilling, to keep trying to protect you from other people (including black folks) who don’t consider you part of the family. They think they do know what to do, and they are building cages as fast as they can.”
True enough. Maybe some version of that honesty could be printed up to look like hiphop posters and plastered around the city where the homeboys might see. (I doubt too many are reading the Washington City Paper.) That might shock a couple of them into a different consciousness in an unguarded moment.
But, of course, the posters would not address the underlying sources of the scary young men themselves. In case City Paper readers are too young to remember, these are: poverty, racism (in multiple directions), misogyny, un- and underemployment, the completely counterproductive “war on drugs,” dehumanizingly inadequate housing, lack of adequate nutrition, homelessness, untreated addiction, untreated mental disease, an underfunctioning public-education system, police brutality, an overly materialistic society, violence on TV and in music and filmjust to name a few. So maybe we need a couple more postersand we surely need quite a few more honest articles on these subjects as a prelude to the serious societal investment and action called for by this horrendous situation.
16th Street Heights