Here’s the (hypothetical) story :
Emmett Till was just born in a hospital somewhere in The Field. His mother passed away during birth and he is being raised by a single father. His father did not graduate high school because he had to drop out to support his new family. He is now employed in an upper-low level job just making enough to support them. Emmett is now in elementary school and his test scores are below average, however his father doesn’t find out until the end of the year when his son is facing retention in the 3rd grade.
We now skip to high school and Emmett is a low C-average student, unable to recover from the elementary and middle school “teachers” who neglected to nurture his stellar potential. His father was just laid off due to the recession turmoil and his 9th and 10th grade marks are not conducive to attending a 4-year college. College is even less of a primary objective since his family doesn’t know if they’ll make it the 4 years needed to reap the benefits of the investment they can’t afford (and scholarship is a foreign word to young Till). Emmett has already begun to feel neglected by the outside world and to protect himself and his family, he lives for the day. The one person who listened to him is his friend whose mentor gave him a couple grams of herb to move so the two split it and Till pays the light bill his father couldn’t (maybe now he could’ve gotten his homework project done for the AP History class he could’ve taken if he went to the school a couple hours from home).
What has he just learned? He did the math that no teacher had ever taken the time to actually teach him:
- Emmett + Father – Mother = Need
- Need + Tough Job Market + Bills + School = Struggle
- Weed Sale – Struggle = Life…
It finally makes sense: If he buys an OZ from his boy’s “mentor” for a discount and moves it in 8ths & grams for street value, he can pay the bills… whoa… and get those Jordans his father could never afford. They won’t make fun of him for wearin’ New Balances in PE that he no longer attends because in the time he’s wasting listening to a robot put hieroglyphs on a white-board, he could have moved another couple OZ’s. Math is his best and favorite subject, no thanks to his “school.”
He drops out… Skip a couple years and Emmett till’s father was taken by the cancer or diabetes that he couldn’t afford proper medication for. To make matters worse he couldn’t even afford the gas money needed to get to the specialist to get proper medical attention because there isn’t one anywhere near his home. So now Emmett is alone and uh oh, while he’s walking down the street with his newly pregnant girlfriend on the phone, he J-walks and gets stopped by a police officer who searches his bag and finds the green supa-dupa skunk and an excuse, hand-cuffs him, and sends him to join the other 4,347 inmates per 100,000 Black U.S. residents incarcerated in 2010. Or maybe he’ll be one of the 1 in 86 Louisiana adults who are in the prison system (of which 76% of all those incarcerated are Black). More math:
- That’s one more victim of circumstance taking the wrong road.
- One more Black child growing up without a father.
- One more Black woman losing faith in Black men.
- One more time she’ll tell her son he’s just like his drug-dealin locked-up father…
- …Before he starts listening and becomes one more desk recycled to make a dozen more prison bars…
- To house the thousands of others who wouldn’t be there if that one teacher in their lives took those extra 30 minutes after class to help him understand that Student + Teacher = Success.
Now Emmett Till’s son, Trayvon grows up without a father… that one teacher that could’ve showed him how to be a man and if I may alter a quote from Kendrick Lamar’s “Poe Man’s Dreams”: “Since my father was institutionalized, his intuition has said he was suited for family ties.”
And he was… but whose fault was it?
*Based on a true story… somewhere in The Field*