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Growing up friends and i formed an informal gang. Rather than attack our peers, we focused on dismantling and challenging systems of oppression – albeit in very immature and at times irrational ways. Some of the activities we performed included (all occurred in the middle of the night from ages 13-18):

A. Piling an entire neighborhood’s lawn furniture onto a single property.

B. Egging police cars.

C. Trapping police cars in makeshift roadblocks.

D. Shooting paintballl guns at said trapped police officers from hills, woods and rooftops.

E. Joy riding in stolen cars, regularly.

F. Stealing weapons from homes (guns, tear gas & ammunition) and throwing these items into the local river.

G. Selling marijuana to peers, co-workers and teachers.

H. Buying alcohol as minors and distributing it to classmates.

I. Burning down a track and field.

J. Breaking into and vandalizing educational facilities run by the state.

K. Driving over 150MPH on a pubic highway with a speed limit of 55.

L. Throwing moltov cocktails in roads and fields.

M. Organizing parties with underage drinking, drugging and sex.

N. Prank calls.

O. Pool Hopping.

P. Not perpetually protesting our government from invading Iraq.

Q. Not organizing enough people to acutely challenge our government’s actions regarding drone killings and unjust warfare.

R. Driving without a license or insurance.

S. (This is probably the most serious) As a group, impersonating homeland security agents, flagging down three cars of our peers and forcing them to kneel in wet rain as we “waited for confirmation” from base. What is so strange about this is that our peers were overwhelmingly complacent – too fearful to challenge the oppressive force.

Now well over a decade later I can examine how our lives were effected/affected by these actions:

One of us was arrested for stealing guns from a police officer’s home. He was given three years probation and a few hours of community service. The entire groups attributes this to the individual’s class background (upper-middle) and complexion (white).

One of us who sold marijuana was arrested twice. He is currently on perpetual probation – the next offense he commits will land him in prison for an extended period. This individual is also of an upper-middle class background, but his complexion is mocha and is thus considered black.

One of us was arrested for credit card fraud and given 20 hours of community service. This individual is of an upper-middle class background and has a white complexion.

As for me… Although I was arrested numerous time, I wasn’t incarcerated for more than a day at a time. I have been in front of judges throughout my life (public defenders) – yet am always met with a probationary period and a subsequent expungement of the charge(s). I am of an upper-middle class background, have a white complexion and understand the cultural accouterments, such as language, body and verbal, which allow me to traverse the legal system with greater ease.
As I grew, undoubtedly a result of all of the above, I was able to come to terms with my own oppression and that of others. Although graduated high school with barley a D average, I was given a scholarship to a city-community college where I excelled via a liberatory pedagogy. Now I am a full-time student at an ivy league school on a full academic scholarship which is supplemented by extensive grants from the state and federal government. In short, I am able to work part-time, attend school and maintain a low-cost living.

So I am at a strange moment here: I was able to grow and mature as a result of the crimes I committed. Had I never committed these crimes I may not have opened myself up to the overwhelming empathy I now feel which fuels my drive to complete a PHD, on my own terms via a liberatory pedagogy. Yet had I not been offered diversion programs for these crimes my chances to utilize my inherent capacity to learn and teach may have been stifled – and I may have never known my true potential.