Hey, Brother, What Do You Want With My Car?

by Kenneth Cooper

I could shoot him in the back of the head if I wanted to. One shot. That’s all. And Bam! Next thing you know, his brains are splattered all over the front seat of my car. When the police arrive, the neighbors will say it served his ass right. But as the handcuffs are placed around my wrists, one thing will become clear: I was not justified.

We’ve all seen him before. He comes in many shapes, but usually the same form: young, black,  male. In waves, he terrorizes our neighborhoods. One week it’s mine, the next week it’s yours. Then there’s a lull before the cycle resumes. It’s always the same MO — the jiggling on the handles of car doors, busting out windows, leaving whatever he doesn’t take thrown all over the seats and floor. It is indiscriminate.  

He targets Keisha with the same disregard as Karen. We are left unified in outrage. Bad enough you gotta worry about electric bills going up, and  streets spontaneously flooding. Now topping the list is some kid running through your car hoping to find what? A gun? Loose change? A credit card?

If I shoot him, there will be praise from neighbors yet outrage from some activists and analysts.

He was a victim, they’ll say. Not just a victim of my gunshot but a victim of the system. Stuck trying to make money in a pandemic ridden city that never fully invested in him or his neighborhood.  He turned out to be just another casualty of the American dream gone wrong.


 Disillusioned is the most appropriate word. How can you value hard work, when there are only a few decent paying  jobs in this town? Can you take pride in where you live when it’s surrounded by broken-down houses, raggedy streets. Living in a food desert with only corner stores that don’t even sell fresh fruit? In this city, black kids are nurtured in a rotten womb. Where are the black success stories? Not on the news. Their coverage is short on positivity but saturated in crime. The message is clear: stay black, stay poor, stay patient and grind out a living while your plight goes ignored.

I look both ways before walking to my car these days. My head is on a swivel, even in my own backyard. The NOPD can’t protect me. If he wants what I have, there is no black solidarity. Just be the two of us in a stand-off, unified by skin color, but segregated by conditions. I have a job that pays well. He has the potential come-up of my wallet and car. Any confliction I have over his plight will be over-ridden by the gall. It’s a strange place to be as black men. This predicament is degrading to both of us.

Real Problem

On the news we watched a white lady hang onto the door of her SUV as a black kid pulled away in it. It was broad daylight. He just jumped right out of one car and into hers. In the video, she hangs onto the door with tenacity. Looked like she had the strength to rip it off the hinges. You could say she was trying to hang onto more than just a door. Maybe something bigger. Probably it was the idea of  civility being pulled away from her. It appeared to have left him long ago. He likely would’ve dragged her if she didn’t let go. Eventually she did. And he just sped off, with no hesitation at all, quickly disappearing out of the frame. A problem we can neither leave untended nor ignored.

Jobs stop car break ins.

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