Although it turned into a visceral exploration of my own prejudices, my trip to Gary was motivated by a desire to understand more completely the kids that wind up in LCJC.
We see them come in—handcuffed, police escort, trapped—and we brand them DELINQUENT, TRUANT, RUNAWAY, MENACE. We see them first for the choices they’ve made, but not so much for the apartment they woke up in that morning, for the streets they walk everyday, for people that make up their neighborhood. All of these things shape who I think I am, and there have been times in my life when some may have branded me DELINQUENT, TRUANT, MENACE and I was living the good life in the California hills. Things are more complicated than they appear on the surface.
I wanted to know. When the Gary police bring in the next kid from Gary—and he will arrive—I don’t want to imagine the world he’s coming from, I want to recall it. Somehow that will help me when I have to sit down to probe him with interview questions.
And I share this exploration, and my wily thoughts, because I DO NOT advocate that anyone inspired to know more, to do more, get in their car and drive to the closest desperate neighborhood. That would be bad…
You hear people say that the wonderful thing about this country is that EVERYONE HAS THE SAME OPPORTUNITIES available to them. But when a young woman from the South Side makes it to an Olympic podium we say she has OVERCOME INSURMOUNTABLE ODDS.
Both statements are true, but can we not agree that when you come from Gary, Indiana the odds are stacked against you?