I’ve been pretty quiet about all that has been going on over the last few weeks or so across the country. I’ll admit, it hasn’t been easy to keep quiet when I know that with each passing day I could be the next victim.
In this day and age too many of us have allowed Facebook or social media to be our source of news. I’ve always felt that we need to be looking at a local and a national news outlet on occasion to ind our what’s going on in our city as well as around the world. Now, I will admit that since I’ve been home on medical leave I’ve been a bit lazy in staying updated on the news. Most of the recent events I’ve learned up through Facebook first. But I didn’t allow that to be the end all be all for me. I’ve checked out CNN, Fox 6 Milwaukee, WISN 12. I’ve read articles on Huffington Post and The New York Times before forming my thoughts on the situation.
There are a lot of things that I could talk about in this post. However, I am going only focus on what’s going on right now in my city, Milwaukee. This week a group of people came together to protest a BP gas station in the Sherman Park Neighborhood. At first glance, I thought “oh someone got killed over there.” I quickly learned that although that could have happened, it didn’t. There were shots fired but no one was hit. At first, I was all for the protest. But then, I continued to read what was being said on Facebook. I checked out the broadcast on WISN and Fox 6. Then I discovered that there was a first hand account of what happened posted on Facebook by someone that was in the store at the time. Many of his friends spoke of his credibility and how they’ve never known this person to be a liar.
After hearing what the protesters had to say, what was aired on the news, and this first hand account, I formed my own opinion. A LOT of people do not and will not like my take on things and I can understand and respect that. However, I’m going to continue to say how I feel about this situation.
Apparently, there was a cookout in the park across the street. Just after dark many of the kids or teens that was at this event walked over to the store to grab some junk food or whatever. One account says that the clerk recognized one of the kids that had stolen some kids or candy or something a few days before and he locked the door and that sent everyone into a fit. All the majority of the other accounts (including the first hand account on Facebook) say that the kids were beating on the windows and kicking the doors and the clerk decided to lock the door. According to the guy that was in the store at the time, he wanted to get out but the clerk wouldn’t allow him to leave out of the front door. He asked him to come with him to the back door and he would let him out. Once the guy was let out, the clerk pulled his gun and let off two rounds into the air. Meanwhile, on the other side of the building the kids were still doing damage until the shots rang out. Apparently, the shots caused the kids to take off running and many of them ran into the streets where they could’ve been hit by oncoming traffic. According to one protester, some of them fell in the street. This is what sent these community leaders into protest mode.
Now, let me first address the clerk. The clerks actions, according to Fox 6, were a result of the recent vandalism to the property and he therefore thought (assuming) that if he didn’t act quick, these kids may pull a Charlie Young Jr mob beating on him. Locking the door was a good first course of action. His next move to fire off one round, let a lone two rounds, into the air was carelessness regardless of what was going on on the other side of the building. As a responsible businessman of the Sherman Park Community, he should have locked the door and called the police and let the chips fall from there. People often let off warning shots in the air forgetting the laws of physics that say what goes up must come down. Either of those bullets could have come down and hit someone that wasn’t involved or even on that block.
However, the clerk is not the only one that made a grave mistake in this situation. Milwaukee has made national news on multiple occasions for the violence that mobs (usually composed of groups of children or teens) have brought about in the city. Most notable is the case mentioned above, the 2002 beating death of Charlie Young Jr, which took place within 3 miles of this same situation. Click the link for more information on that case.
This group of kids and teens are reported to have been as large as 20 – 50. Whether someone in the crowd stole something that night or days before is beside the point, although I think that person has consequences to face for their crime. The issue that I have a problem with is their behavior on this night in question. That many kids or teens beating on windows and kicking doors is unacceptable. A few accounts did say that there was looting that night and that’s what caused the clerk to lock the door. That’s not acceptable either.
For every action there is an equal or opposite reaction. We all learned that in school. The same is true in this case. I think that if the clerk would not have lock the doors he could have been the next Charlie Young Jr. So, the issue of these kids behavior needs to be addressed as well.
Since the protest have begun, the clerk that fired the shots has reportly lost his job. And according to Fox 6 he will be facing charges as well. But what about these kids? Where is their punishment for their part in the situation?
Now before the radicals jump on my back, trust me I get it. I am a 35 year old black man that has lived most of my life in neighborhoods like Sherman Park. In fact, I’m a former resident of the community. Proud alumni of Washington High School right down the street. I know how the Indian, Asia, and Arab business owners of the area treat us as customers. I’ve been followed. I’ve been told I was taking too long to purchase something. I hate that after dark, the gas station will not allow us into and we have to talk through three sheets of bullet proof glass and have them bring us back the wrong items. I understand the point that the protesters are trying to get across.
The lesson in all of this for the clerk and the owner of this BP gas station is that they need to have a better appreciation for us as customers. We are their livelihood. And the way that they have been treating us for years is no longer acceptable. I’ve been feeling that way for years. That’s why I’m that dude that will drive 30 minutes out of my way instead of simply making a stop in the community. If I don’t like how you treating me, I will walk right out of your establishment and leave your product there. There is always another store, restaurant, barbershop, electronics store, or whatever I can go to and receive better service. And you are dealing with someone that has been in the customer service industry for over 20 years. I can spot poor customer service before you give it. It’s in your body language, you eyes, whether or not you speak when I walk in and what the tone of your voice was if you did.
I get that the leaders of this protest want the African American community to get behind them on this protest because until we show up in numbers things will not change. If we begin to hit these people where it hurts, in their pockets, things will remain status quo. However, the actions that I witnessed today in the Facebook videos posted in the group the WHOLE Milwaukee was crossing the line which is why I’m against this protest. In many of the videos protesters where block peoples path and arguing with them about were they chose to spent their dollar. You CAN NOT force you views and opinions on anyone else. As a protester, enlighten the people on what is going on and why you are encouraging them to take their business elsewhere. But to block them to a point where there is nearly a fight ensued is out of line. At the end of the day we all have to do what is best for ourselves. That person could’ve been running late for work and didn’t have time to stop at another gas station. Who knows what their situation was. But they chose to cross the picket lines and spend their money there.
Now, with that said, what is the lesson in this protest for those kids? Right now, the only lesson that I’m seeing is that they can destroy the property of others and if the property owner or attendant comes after they can run to hood celebrities or former public office candidates to back them up. Having that kind of backing when you didn’t do anything wrong is one thing and I can get with that. However, that’s not the case here. So their backing is currently telling them “its okay to do what you did. That clerk is the only one that is wrong.” That cant be the message that we sent these kids because its telling them that when they grow up they can continue to do those things and their will be no consequences. However, we all know that as these kids get older their crimes will be bigger. And let me tell ya! If one of the Matrix Room or Club 618 bathroom babies come through my window they just might catch some heat to they chest.
I delivered mail for a while in neighborhoods much like this one. And often times, I’d have to ask these kids several times to allow me pass to get to the mailbox or even to walk down the sidewalk. They disrespectful and rude. I got stories for another day. More of the parents need to be on the blocks parenting these kids and not trying to be their friends. Many of those same parents know that if they pulled those stunts, myself included, when we was that age, the gas station clerk wouldn’t have had to let off rounds. Our parents would’ve beat the police to the gas station and got us in check. My mother would’ve beat me senseless all the way home. Until something is done about these kids, these protesters need to move on.
Continue to boycott the gas station for all the reasons I mentioned before. Spend your money where you feel comfortable. I am all for recycling the black dollar. I’m an entrepreneur myself, so we need to support each other more often. But let us be smart about how we go about bringing action to achieve a result. One of my Facebook friends asked today that we boycott all gas stations that are not black owned in an effort to either hurt the pockets of these Indian and Arab owners or they understand that they need to treat their customers with more dignity and respect. Either way, I’m down!
I’m sure this won’t go away for a while. In the mid 90’s, Mike McGee pulled together the protest of Beauty Island on Fond Du Lac Avenue just north of Capital Drive. That protest lasted years. They didn’t achiever their result of having the place shut down but they got their point across and last I heard it was under new ownership. I’ll sit back and wait to see what happens on Sherman & Burleigh. Until next time…