At 7:47 on a beautiful Sunday morning I looked out on the scenic Lake St. Clair were it blends into the Detroit River. Looking up the river is a magnificent view from the twenty-third floor of my apartment. As a habit I looked down into the parking lot, saw my vehicle in the parking space on this harmonious morning. I was preparing to leave the city at 10:30 as I began to watch Meet the Press with Tim Russert. Receiving a phone call I was in my study when suddenly I heard this commotion, it seemed that it was coming from the front door. This building is well-kept, very quiet, and my neighbors are polite, with almost all of them retired at my end of the hall. The commotion was the building manager knocking at my door. She came to tell me that my automobile had been broken into; someone was attempting to steal it…it seemed surreal. Had I not just looked down there? Who would try to steal a car on Sunday, Sunday morning directly in front of the guard station?
Fortunately, the young doorman saw broken glass by my car. His alertness to duty foiled the thieves. Boldly they had entered the parking lot, stalking, hunting for vehicles with chrome rims. Now, my car is a Cadillac Escalade, it is identical to the mayor’s. Ironically, the mayor of Detroit lives less than half a block around the corner from my apartment. This incident brought the worst out of me, yes, for a few minutes it had me wanting my predatory invaders harmed, hurt. I wanted them to suffer, teach them a lesson. Shot? Death? Maimed? I must ask for forgiveness for thinking all of these horrible outcomes. Shameful, my mother is not smiling from up above, she detested liars, cheats, and thieves. Mae Taylor raised her boys in a Christian valued home. She was a definite pacifist, well, that was until she would apply her special Christian rod to our behinds for transgressions up to the age of twelve.
It has been forty years since I have known of a community in Detroit that knew how to work with young boys and girls. In the same breath it must have not been as successful in meeting the challenge of those so disconnected that they have become something that I don’t recognize or understand.
The two policemen were attentive, talked about how my type of car was getting hit everyday in that area. An expert showed upon my call for him to review the scene. Police felt it was some young men on crack. My expert, a denizen of the Third City knew better. Two-dee aka Mr. Johnson explained it was something else. “This is the mark of the New Jacks, this is their job. They’re not drug addicts, probably don’t even do dope, maybe weed. They couldâ€™ve shot that doorman, he’s lucky. These guys are working this area, itâ€™s about $1,500 for rims, wheels off these Caddie’s…its fast, easy money if it gets done like they usually do, hit and run.”
I thought about it, New Jacks? That is the name film maker Barry Michael Cooper anointed the music of Teddy Riley, with the title New Jack Swing. Barry and I have had many conversations about this term. I think at this moment, I will call this section of the coming essay, “New Jackals in the Urban Jungle of America.” Before anyone gets it all wrong, let me point out that this is my second incident in Detroit in the past five years. Also, my automobile was invaded once in Southfield, and once in Farmington Hills. So, while car theft is a major problem in Detroit, it is also a statewide problem. It would be less than honest if I didn’t admit that this Detroit incident is the worse, most egregious to date. Why? Because there was a time in Detroit that Sunday meant even thieves had respect for the Sabbath (so did society in general, no stores open or people working).
As an urban ecologist, sociologist, and criminologist this act means something within a sociological theory. In bias, relationship to this being my birthplace and native land, this situation is puzzling to me. Who are these young men? Where did they come from? Where is their upbringing from? Where/who are their parental units? Where is their humanity? Folks were going to church; it was a beautiful morning, early…who rises in the morning to launch their day with brutality? These are some of my questions. What is going on?