Recently, in a South Carolina classroom, Officer Ben Fields flipped and dragged a teenage girl from her desk. Fortunately, he has been fired, unfortunately, his dismissal does little to soothe wounds left behind by the proliferation of videos showing officers assaulting women, namely black women, with little recourse. Even more troubling, the women in these videos are getting younger.
And you know what’s infuriating? Reading or hearing comments from people who have taken it upon themselves to label these teenage girls, none of whom appear on camera assaulting anyone, as “thugs.” If you recall, one of the first “thugs” appeared in a bathing suit, because nothing says “thug life” like a pool party.
Actually, all of this “thug” talk makes me wonder how many people would also consider me one. After all, I too, was once a teenager with a chip on my shoulder.
I was in high school when my grandmother realized I was serious about making something of myself, and she made it her life’s goal to get me a solid education. By the grace of God, and her undeniable hustle, I ended up at St. Philip Catholic Central High School in the middle of my sophomore year. Unfortunately, I took my chip with me.
One of the first things I learned, as a Catholic school kid, was that I’d have to attend Mass every day. Naturally, my chip and I chose our first day to act a complete ass. You should’ve seen me during service! I was talking to everybody, cracking jokes, snacking on candy and I even gave an Oscar worthy performance of chewing on the straw I’d brought in my pocket. Basically, I’d taken it upon myself to let everyone know “the ghetto” had come to Mass.
It was embarrassing, and utterly, unnecessarily disrespectful.
Let me tell you about the power of compassion though. Our principal, Mr. Lowe, allowed me to finish the service before pulling me into his office. And then, instead of chewing me out (like I deserved) and threatening to kick me out of school, he TALKED to me. He told me that I KNEW better and then he informed me that I WAS better. He didn’t judge me, but he also didn’t allow me to make excuses. Just as he emphasized that I needed to clean up my act, he also let me know I was deserving of a second chance.
And through it all, what he NEVER DID, was make me feel like I was less than a person, even though I acted like a total douchebag. When Mr. Lowe finished speaking to me with a firm, yet compassionate tone, I felt silly. I knew I was wrong, and because he didn’t make me out to be some “thug” I was able to process my own behavior. I was given a choice to do better and when I left his office, give or take a few typical teenage moments, I did just that.
So what is a “thug” exactly? Well, if your definition of one is a non-violent teenage girl with a chip on her shoulder, then I was once a thug. Yet, somehow, I still managed to become a law abiding, taxpaying citizen. Heck, I even recycle! And, lo and behold, all of this happened without me having to be dragged across a floor for my insolence.
It’s too bad this young lady didn’t have a Principal like Mr. Lowe. One that surely would have known that she was possibly emotional given the recent trauma. Often, teenagers have a chip for a reason. I know I did.
So again, what is a “thug” exactly? Seems to me like, a thug is someone who bullies people and hurts others. A person with a history of doing so. A man like Officer Ben Fields.
But hey, maybe he recycles too.