The answer is so simple. How could the intellectual elites have missed it? The Media? Every suburbanite knows the answer. Every parental couple knows the answer. The cops probably know the answer but aren’t allowed to say it. It came to me watching Baltimore Mama slap her teenager around for trying to participate in the riots. Go, Baltimore Mama!
Watching yet another American city – this time, Baltimore, Md. – erupt in flames brought me back to my childhood and the specter of the Newark riots. That summer, San Francisco and Los Angeles burnt, too. So did Chicago, if I remember rightly. But Newark was riot here in New Jersey. We saw the grim carnage as we took to the Garden State Parkway to head down to Seaside Heights for a day at the beach.
You want to save Black lives? Stay home. There used to be a public service message on one of our local New York City stations: “It’s 10 p.m. Do you know where your children are?”
We only got to hear that message on the weekends because we were darned well in bed long before 10 p.m. on a school night. Wandering the streets, especially after 10 o’clock at night, would never have occurred to us and if it had, after our parents got through with us, it would never have occurred to us again.
Suburban developments are often thought of as “suburban paradises” thanks to their low crime rates. People who do go out at night use their automobiles to travel; no one walks after dusk (evening). The town in which I live, as well as the one in which I grew up, are as quiet as any towns could be. You don’t see much of anyone walking around after dark.
Our police officers are first-rate guys and gals. But the main reason our crime rate is so low is because we suburbanites don’t offer ourselves up as bait for criminals. When the sun goes down, we go home. Or perhaps shopping at a mall or to some function where there are other people. Even so, by 10 p.m., we’re all home again. Not only is tomorrow another day, it’s usually a work day.
Pompton Lakes is as nice a town as you could want, but I wouldn’t give a nickel for my life even here if I decided to go for a stroll at two in the morning. Living in the shadow of New York City, we hear now and then of a couple that goes “clubbing” in Greenwich Village and are shocked when they’re held up at gunpoint at 3 in the morning.
One of the immutable facts of life is that criminals find that darkness is an advantage in their activities. One time, I went to a speechwriting conference in Philadelphia. Because I’d registered late, I was unable to book a room at the hotel where the conference was being held.
Instead, I wound up at a hotel in an extremely questionable neighborhood near Philly’s Terminal Market – a sort of Food Mall where you could either buy the goods to make your dinner or get some take-out. The sun was setting fast. In order to get to the Terminal Market, I had to run a gauntlet of grungy bums hanging out in front of the welfare office.
This was not a good scene. But it was the only way to get something to eat. I knew I had to get there fast and come back fast. I brought with me my trusty photographer’s monopod, a lethal-enough looking weapon with jagged metal parts at the top where the camera attached to the pod.
Up ahead of me, a young lady (wearing a dress) had the same fears. As she passed the gaggle of men, they started harassing her. She screamed and ran for it. Now it was my turn. I stopped a moment, took stock of myself, and displayed my monopod. The men on either side did an about-face, so that their backs were to me, and I passed by unscathed.
The return trip was more disconcerting. Now it was totally dark. The street I had come down was now deserted and I could see someone – a young man – peeping out of the shadows. A patrol car happened by and the cop stopped to ask if anything was wrong. I told him someone was up there in the shadows and that I was going to find some other way back to my hotel. He agreed that that was the best route. I went back in the Terminal Market and made my way up through the Mall to the street my hotel was on. Still, some bypassing thug made some remark to me, but shut his mouth with a squawk when I displayed my monopod.
Much as we would like to “Take Back the Night”, as the National Police Night Out attempts to prove every August, the truth is, decent people have never, ever “owned” the night. Whether you live in Manhattan, or Baltimore, or Philadelphia, or Chicago, or Los Angeles, or you live in a quiet northern New Jersey suburb, or even some place in Middle America, night is a dangerous time.
If it’s any comfort to city-dwellers, nights in Suburbia are not so quiet as you might think. We don’t have bullets, but we do have bats. You won’t hear the screams of women being mugged, but you might very well hear the screams of possums copulating or foxes dragging off a rabbit or some other unfortunate creature. We might not have to listen to the honking of trucks and taxis, but we do have Canadian geese that make their own trumpeting clamor. They also are apt to try and drown one another if one goose invades another goose’s patch of suburban lawn.
Here in Suburbia, we know the night belongs to the animals, both two-legged and four-legged; we have no illusions about what lurks in the night and we schedule our time accordingly. Nighttime is for staying home and watching television (or rehearsing in a band or joining some other community group), reading, playing games with your kids, and just generally being grateful for having a roof over your head. We leave the dark to its denizens.
If black people want to save black lives, they should stay home at night. Keep your kids at home. Sit on them, if you have to. Watch television. Read. Play a game on your Ipad. Go to Facebook. Talk on the phone with a friend. Do your homework, if you’re a kid or a teen. Whatever you do, do it at home.
Anyone who walks the streets at night, whether in a city or a suburb, especially after ten, is either looking for trouble or looking to cause it.