Punished: Policing the Lives of Black and Latino Boys

Punished: Policing the Lives of Black and Latino Boys

Punished: Policing the Lives of Black and Latino Boys

Punished: Policing the Lives of Black and Latino Boys

Excerpt

A word of caution: our stories are not just for entertainment.

—Leslie Marmon Silko, Ceremony, 1977

You know nothing, and worse than nothing, about the work
ing class. Your sociology is as vicious and worthless as is your
method of thinking.

—Ernest Everhard in Jack London’s The Iron Heel, 1907

An old, rusty refrigerator had been knocked over on the side of Pelon’s garage. It was white and dented on the edges and looked like it had not been used in a decade. Its metal cooling rods faced the open sky. A twenty-four case of Corona beer filled with empty bottles sat on top of the rods. We had tagged the refrigerator at the height of our delinquent careers; finely scrawled on the side in black marker were nicknames for sixty-eight of our “homies.” I was with Pelon, a former fellow gang member. We turned the refrigerator over and read aloud to each other, “Dre, Moreno, Sleepy, Conejo,” each homey coming to life as we said his name. Eventually we couldn’t help but count. Out of sixtyeight members in the gang—we estimated, based on memory and after making a few phone calls—twelve were in prison serving three years to life, sixteen were in jail or prison serving sentences ranging from three months to three years, and the remaining forty had been incarcerated at one point in their lives. We knew this because we had spent years on the streets together, looking out for one another, protecting each other, and taking part of each other’s lives, like family. At this moment, on a cool spring evening in 2002, in front of this old refrigerator, it dawned on us . . .

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