Last month, while talking to a group of young black men standing on a sidewalk in Salisbury, N.C., about harsh antigang law enforcement tactics some states are using, I had discovered the main challenge to such measures: the police have great difficulty determining who is, and who is not, a gangster.
My reporting, however, was going well. I had gone to Salisbury to find someone who had firsthand experience with North Carolinaâ€™s tough antigang stance, and I had found that someone: me.
Except that I didnâ€™t quite fit the type of person I was seeking. I am African-American, like the subjects of my reporting, but Iâ€™m not really cut out for the thug life. At 37 years old, Iâ€™m beyond the street-tough years. I suppose I could be taken for an â€œO.G.,â€ or â€œoriginal gangster,â€ except that I donâ€™t roll like that â€” I drive a Volvo station wagon and have two young homeys enrolled in youth soccer leagues.