Friday, June 13, 2008


We've had a number of hop and grabs lately in Oak Park (otherwise known as bike robberies). Our local police force has been working overtime to catch the young whippersnappers who are victimizing other young whippersnappers. Apparently, most of the criminal whippersnappers are from over the border in Chicago.

One of the Chicago teens approached an Oak Park rider, grabbed her bike and said, "I need this more than you." I was really struck by this sentence, and haven't been able to get it out of my head all day.

I found myself tossing various scenarios around all day long, trying to explain why the thief said this. Why did he bother to say anything, other than an expletive deleted?
Did he fancy himself striking a blow for poor everywhere, doing a Robin Hood redistribution kind of act? Was he so demoralized by his plight of poverty that he struck out without caring for the consequences to the girl who was, in all likelihood, scared stiff? Was he no more than a garden-variety budding criminal, stealing what he could where he could because he could?

I noticed that I assumed he was poor, since he said he "needed" the bike. Are the poor truly more often criminals than the rich? Are they caught more often? Do we assume that the poor have less moral compunction when opportunity comes their way?

I noticed that my image of him was a young man of color. Beyond the obvious, which is that Austin--our border Chicago area--is 90% African American, does this mean I assume criminals are more likely to be black? Do I assume a lack of values that is somehow transmuted with skin color?

It's 9:30p now, and my mind has grown tired of the tossing. Somehow, hearing this one sentence fleshed out a character for me. In the end, the character I grew to know better was my own.



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