Washington is also quoted as saying: “I grew up with guys who did decades [in prison], and it had as much to do with their fathers not being in their lives as it did to do with any system.”
No doubt. And like I said above, it causes a lot of friction between a husband and wife when a man loses a job and can’t find another one. And that is far more likely to happen to an African American man than a white man. And African American men are also far more likely to go to jail for the same crime for which a white man would go free. So, yeah, the system is among the top reasons that African American kids grow up without a father.
Denzel went on: “Now I was doing just as much [crime] as they were, but they went further. I just didn’t get caught, but they kept going down that road and then they were in the hands of the system.”
In other words, Mr. Washington was lucky. And he was smart. People who escape from dangerous childhoods often tend to feel that they escaped on their own. But often, as Denzel admits to be the case with him, there was luck involved. And often there was someone–a teacher, a clergyman, a therapist, a neighbor, a coach–who was there for the kid and that made all of the difference.
On this point, the two of us agree: “But it’s about the formative years. You’re not born a criminal.”
And, yes, I realize I’m just another cracker who’s claiming to know how it was when the reality is I don’t. Not from my own experience, at least. I only know it through the experience of the students I taught on Rikers Island, incarcerated 16 to 18 year olds. They told me a lot of stories and they wrote a lot of personal narrative essays about the way they came up. But, I have to admit, that’s not the same as living it the way they did and the way Denzel did.