Maybe I grew up in a mostly Latino and African American neighborhood because that was where my parents could pay rent.
Maybe they could only pay rent there because my parents immigrated to this country with only a bag of clothes. Maybe they worked 16 hours a day, 7 days a week in ranches cutting cabbage. Maybe they worked 2 or 3 jobs, and yet it was barely enough to get by.
Maybe there was a crack house on the corner that not only served the junkies within the blocks, but the people who came in from surrounding suburbs to get their fix. Maybe the cops harassed the lady selling tamales and elotes outside the grocery store to feed her family, but never once pulled over the white gentleman who came to pick up his drugs in his Cadillac. Maybe that made me question the police and their morals.
Maybe my father would get pulled over walking home after work at night because he looked suspicious. Maybe there were gangs on the blocks I lived on. Maybe I had to throw gang signs every time I walked past the corner, as I walked to my cousin’s house down the block, just to make sure I was clear to pass. Maybe I had to choose one of the gangs on my block, because I felt the need to feel safe when I walked my neighborhood. Maybe that was a bad decision.
Maybe that wasn’t true. Maybe when my friend got shot and killed while he played basketball, the police never came. Maybe when my father was mugged at gunpoint, the police never came. Maybe when the gentleman who worked the grocery store night shift threw the garbage out and got shot in the head, the police never came. Maybe this made me feel like we weren’t worth their time. Maybe this made me feel worthless. Maybe this made me question the police.
Maybe at 18 I smoked a joint. Maybe I had been asked to smoke hundreds of times before, and I had always turned it away. Maybe I finally made a decision as an 18 year old that I wanted to try it. Maybe that isn’t true. Maybe I have photos of me smoking a joint with a friend. Maybe I have a picture of me and my friend throwing a gang sign. Maybe that isn’t true. Maybe that was the reality I lived in.
Maybe I knew there was more to the world, but at this moment I had to live in this environment. Maybe we did get out of this neighborhood eventually. Maybe my dad had a better job. Maybe I graduated high school. Maybe I graduated college with a BA and planned to go back for my masters.
Maybe a policeman talked down to me as I walked down the street with a friend. Maybe after all of the years of seeing the injustice going on in my neighborhood, I talked back to the cop. Maybe he didn’t like me talking back to him. Maybe there was an altercation. Maybe he shot me once. Maybe I ran. Maybe he kept shooting. Maybe I turned around and ran back because I figured this cop doesn’t stop shooting me, and from most of the experiences I’ve had, I’m really not worth much to him. Maybe let me fight with everything I have at least.
Maybe this isn’t true. Maybe he shot me once, I ran away, then when he continued shooting, I turned around, fell to my knees with my hands up. Maybe this isn’t true. Maybe I died on the street. This is true. Maybe the cop hasn’t been questioned or detained. Maybe I didn’t ask for people to protest my death. Maybe you’ll call me a thug. Maybe you’ll forget I was human.
Maybe we shook hands before. Maybe we talked and laughed before. Maybe you thought I was a good person. Maybe you didn’t know much about my past. Maybe I was left dead on the street. Maybe you’ll base all of your opinions on the pictures you saw of my past on TV. Maybe you’ll forget I was human?
The one thing I know for sure, is what side you will be on before a trial is even underway. You will be on your computer, calling me a gang banger, a thug and using every racist undertone that exists in your mind, but are too scared to let out on a daily basis.
Thanks for letting me know where you will stand, if I were ever killed, shot 6 times in the middle of the street.
Republished with the permission of Navarro, the hip hop artist formerly known as Scheme.