My son was fine in April, and by that, I mean he didn't freak me out or anyone else with another suicide attempt when he couldn't get his way.
One of his friends, a very nice young man, showed up at my door, complaining that Xavier had stiffed him for quite a bit of money. We had a nice, long chat and it didn't take long to discover he'd gotten into the moonshine business, or in today's language, dealing weed to keep from being flat-azzed broke.
I asked him how they began doing this. The kid had a friggin' business plan, and is awesome in math. I couldn't keep up with him.
The interesting thing about him is that he doesn't fit the stereotypical profile who deals cannabis. Like his father, he's bright enough to get college degree. He had, in fact, made it to the 11th grade with A's and B's. His life hit a major bump in the road at age 17, when his racist and abusive gym teacher cursed him one time too many, and he cursed him back.
"I told him what I really thought of him," he explained. "I said he was a mean, redneck son of bitch and he could go fuck himself."
The teacher jacked him up in the gym in front of another teacher and student. By jacking him up, I mean this literally. The guy grabbed him by the neck and slammed him against the wall. It was even caught on film. But you know how it is with these videos. Folks cover their azzes and say, "you can't see the part where he swung on me while I had my hands around his shoulders - not neck - to keep him under control."
The young man's mother saw marks around his neck and the video on the afternoon of the incident when she went to the school to pick him up. That was the last time she saw what happened, too, because the video was mysteriously lost.
Teachers get cussed out from time to time, but they aren't supposed to put their hands on the kids. As for the other teacher who witnessed it, she wasn't going to allow some lil' darkie to get rich suing the school system, even if he was assaulted. I haven't a shred of doubt that if the races were reversed, a black teacher would have had his black azz fired and his white victim would have enough money to attend whatever university he desired.
And the other student witness?
She's black. She called him at home and apologized for being unable to help. She said she'd been warned that if she opened her mouth, she could kiss any scholarship recommendations goodbye.
The problem wasn't only that this young man had been bullied for the school year and assaulted by the bully teacher, but that he had to be expelled so the school could justify the teacher putting his hands on him.
"What happened after you were kicked out?", I asked.
He looked really sad.
"I was depressed for a long time, two or three years. My parents were depressed too. They felt as victimized as I did."
I thought about how psychologically hard it is for black folks to sue white folks. Been there myself and know how horrible it feels when they gang up on you with one lie after another to conceal what they did. This is true even when everyone is black, but it's a little different when the aggressors are white, because you have all the historical baggage and know that shit hasn't changed that much.
You know that the system leans heavily in siding with authority and whoever has the most social status. The stress is incredible, and you know that fighting a legal battle will be expensive and the outcome uncertain. This adds to your worry, and if you lose, not only will that re-open the pain from the original wound, but you will have lost money you really can't afford to lose.
Our conversation was an unexpected therapy session in disguise. I explored his hopes and dreams. The kid is intelligent, the real thing, and has always reminded me of someone who could be a math or science teacher, as opposed to a C student jock who was lucky to become a coach in a school. I pointed this out. He smiled.
"People say that all the time," he replied. "I liked school. I did well there. I recently took the ASVAB (the military vocational exam) and they said my scores were great and they wanted me, but I had to get my GED before I could enlist."
"I started an online program for this two weeks ago. It's easy."
"Think you'll follow through with it?"
"Oh yes," he said, nodding. "I researched all the branches of the military, and something about the Coast Guard is appealing. By the end of the summer, I should be in."
I thought of long, hot summers, and how shit has a way of happening.
I asked, "What will happen if you get busted between now and then?"
"I'm too careful for that."
I looked him dead in the eye and said, "Not if you're hanging with my son. He'll fuck you over and fuck you up. It won't even be intentional, 'cause shit just happens with people like him."
I said, "When someone's mother tells you this, you should listen. Walk away. Forget about ideas of him being your partner. He can't add, subtract, and he smokes up the inventory. As for the $200 bucks he owes you, think of it as tuition for a class in life."
"That's a lot of money," he said haltingly.
"Cheaper than a felony or paying a lawyer. You do the math."
"Actually," he said, "I have. You're right, but I've thought that I could keep doing this for only another two or three months. I already saved up almost $2,000."
"Remarkable," I replied. "A racist white teacher set a trap for you and other black boys to fail. You were an unknowing child and fell into that trap. This led you to the trap you're dangerously close to now, but this one is filled with money. In the last one, your anger caught you. This one is different. You got some cheeze without being caught. If you can walk away now by not being greedy, you'll avoid getting caught in a bigger trap, one that will hurt you far more."
Kids don't always listen, but this one, not really a kid anymore and now 22 years old, seemed to be.
"I never thought of it like that," he said finally. "I have one, no, two friends, who just when they were ready to quit the game but were going to do it one last time, they got caught. They're in jail."
"There ya go! Greed gets ya every time."
I prayed for that child. I know the odds of my son surviving well in this tough world are thin, because he has significant mental health issues and learning disabilities, but this one can make it.
The next few days I noticed Xavier was a little more irritable than usual. One guess: no weed. A few days after that, I asked him if he paid back his friend.
"That mah'fucka can kiss my azz," he yelled. "How's he think I'm going to get money to pay him? I don't have a job!"
"He said you was his partner."
Xavier's eyes shifted away, knowing instantly that I had once again talked one of his friends out of their secrets about him.
I asked sarcastically, "Did he fire you?"
"Fuck him! I hate him! He quit!"