last night was the finale of the mtv reality show "from gs to gents," and congratulations goes to the man known as creepa for making the successful transition from a gooon to a gentleman. normally i am opposed to reality but i stuck this show out for many reasons. i noticed that mr. bentley was sincere in his mission of helping people change their lives. the show contained many "character" who would have insure for drama and high rating but those characters were QUICKLY eliminated so that the men who most needed the opportunities were allowed to have them. for those that may be unaware of the shows premise. it took young men who consider themselves "gs" of some kind and tried to help them transform into gentleman. when i say g i mean, thug, wiseguy, gangster, goon, criminal, womanizer, etc. i enjoyed watching the show because of seeing the transformation that the men, especially creepa were making. he came into the house a proclaimed goon from florida with braids, "hater blocker" shades, a gold grill and so much aggression that he scared off anybody who attempted to oppose him. as the show progressed he revealed his sincere desire to change because of his awareness of the desolate conditions of his environment and ultimately made the successful change from a goon to a gentleman.
hearing creepa talk, i was reminded of a lot of the young men i grew up around who were forced to be men long before their childhood was over in order to support their families. i was in class last week and we were discussing the treatment of race verses the treatment of gender in the law. a classmate mentioned how a scholar we were reading catherine mackinnon asserted how the justice system should recognize that many women (white women) who become prostitutes are forced into their situations by povery that leaves them in dire economic circumstances and with limited to no educational opportunities. i brought up the idea that many young blacks who sell drugs (not the images of drug moguls we see in *coughs* bullshit rap videos) but real drug dealers, are pushed into the criminal underground for the very same reasons, but the law punishes them more harshly than any other drug offenders.
i think that is because society does not acknowledge that these young men are people. we assume they are heartless monsters who push destruction through their communities through drugs and violence with no regard for human lives; of others or themselves. watching creepa allowed people to see that although the man had most likely done viscous things, he felt they were necessary for survival AND he did not want to continue living that life, but did not see any other options and he expressed how, when he tried to make changes, circumstances pulled him back into the ways of a goon. in this country, we are so quick to separate people from ourselves and judge what we see of them without acknowledging that there is a complicated story. we do not acknowledge the horatio alger stories as myths so we believe that everyone can be a self made success and we condemn those who are not able to pull themselves up by the bootstraps and overcome all the obstacles they face.
we completely ignore that there are forces committed to keeping people from succeeding. call me a conspiracy theorist if you want but in this case it is the TRUTH. we cannot ignore the history of exclusion in this country. it was not even 50 years ago that blacks were not even LEGALLY viewed as equally, it was not even 100 years ago when women were not allowed to vote. our laws have succeeded in dehumanizing whole groups of people and the maintaining of those laws and the belief in the premise on which they were founded insures that they will never gain their humanity.
seeing transformations like creepa's show us many things, if we are willing to look:
1. creepa expressed to mr. bentley that all of his gooning was done to support his mother and his younger sibblings. he explained how he was in technical school but had to drop out to support them. a lot of the young men we criminalize and dehumanize do not want to be in the situations where they find themselves due to the forces of their environments but do not see any other way to take care of their responsibilities.
2. creepa divulged that, while on the show, 3 of his friends in his neighborhood were killed. considering the urgent situations of his environment, it may seem trivial for him to be "taking a vacation" when people are dying. he's losing friends and losing money. it is difficult to leave the only lifestyle you know to take a chance on being something else without being sure that it will be able to insure that you take care of the responsibilities that you have.
3. creepa was sent to the hospital because of the pressures of knowing what what going on back home and trying to continue his quest to be a gentleman; the man is in his early 20s and already has been diagnosed with high blood pressure. these young men are living in highly stressful situations, their health, physically but moreso mentally and psychologically is often not in good standing.
4. creepa transformed in a supportive environment, free of distractions over a 10 week period of time. if we invest the time and attention into developing these young men, they can become what we like to call "productive members of society"
all the while watching creepa and often when i think about my friends living similar lifestyles i am reminded of tis song "doin my job," especially the lyrics:
we got lives we wanna live nice too
we got moms dads wives kids just like you
but our options is few and its hell in high school
when you helpin with the rent lights and the gas bill too
so, before you go judgin us lovin us wont hurt
if you under 25 stayin alive is hard work
id like to congratulate creepa and the rest of the young men on the show who transformed their lives, and everyone out there who is doing the same.