The ghetto subcultures are stereotypes of our own darkest sides

Chapter 59




In the same way the strong subculture in the black ghetto is a thorn in the side of better-off blacks who try to integrate themselves into white society, because the pathological picture of this subculture is constantly used against them by whites.



Sensitive to this aspect, the upper ghetto tends to view the lower ghetto with a sense of shame rather than as proof of their common oppression. So strong are tensions between the upper and the lower ghetto that I often had to choose sides, which was not difficult after all I had seen of the suffering in the lower ghetto and the resulting contempt from both the upper ghetto and from whites.



The more I began to understand the lower ghetto, the more I understood the very dynamics of oppression in our system. The lower ghetto is for many of us an incomprehensible world of criminals, pimps, prostitutes and addicts which frightens us. Since they live in a closed system, their acts are desperate and disclose a pattern of absolute contempt for the rest of society, of which they know they will never become a part.



But if we do not understand them we do not understand the oppressive and violent sides in ourselves, which we see reflected in every single picture in this online book. 



The pool rooms are their meeting place, the Cadillac their status symbol, the brotherly handshake and the sophisticated "jive" talk their communication. It is important to understand and respect this culture rather than send it to prison - imprisoned as it already is in a cruel and dehumanizing closed system.



"Backstabbing" may be as common as the brotherly handshake. But when you have learned these rules and a certain technique for survival in this culture you cannot help but get to love these people more than any others in society.



For to meet humaneness in the midst of brutal surroundings will always seem more overwhelming and encouraging than to meet it in more safe surroundings.



When this underworld is a source of irritation for society's better-off citizens, it is not least because it constitutes an enormously exaggerated and distorted mirror image of themselves.



This online presentation is not about blacks or "black culture". It is about our own state of mind in all its present brutality! Without will-power or help to heal our own human pain, we (oppressors) are constantly in our thoughts projecting it out on others - and are then paralyzed with guilt and fear, with which we hurt and further ghettoize our victims.

Here on the bottom of society we see ourselves blown up in a ghastly caricature: our competitive spirit, our race for status symbols, our backstabbing, our sexism and not to forget our master-slave relationship.



Wherever in the world the master-slave relationship exists there will be within the slave-culture further divisions into new master-slave relationships. Where any such relationship exists between people you will know that these people are not free, for such a relationship can only exist in a closed system. In the underclass such slavery is seen most clearly in the relationship between pimp and prostitute. The black prostitute is totally subjugated by the pimp and cringes mentally at his feet in deep veneration.



The pimp, however, is not only executioner, but also a victim in the greater system in which he becomes the new slave driver who sees to it that the merchandise is delivered to the slave master, - the white man. His tool is no longer the whip, but the pimp stick made from twisted coat hangers. Even though the pimps, like the capitalists in the larger society, can seem quite inhuman, it is important to remember that they, like the capitalists, do business according to well-defined rules and laws which are beyond their control.



These laws are laid down in "The Book," an unwritten "Adam Smith" or business manual which has been passed down from pimp to pimp for generations and which almost can be seen as an extension of such manuals as it describes the under system in the larger economic system. Woe to the pimp who doesn't follow the regulations! Just like the larger capitalists, they have their daily board meetings with the other pimps, where they not only discuss how to keep wages down, but also exchange technical details concerning the manipulation of their "ho's."



In the same way they establish their employees' working hours which they call "git down-time." You can usually tell which ho's belong to a "mack-man" and which are "outlaws" since all the organized ho's get out on the street at almost exactly the same time every night, while the independent "outlaws" come and leave as they feel like it. I always felt immensely close to these ultimate losers in the multiple layers of exploitation, the black prostitutes, who often in my journey gave me hospitality (although naturally they were only the "outlaws").



As I was one of the few men in their lives with whom they did not have either a sexual or business-type relationship, they could express towards me that humanity which had not yet been destroyed by their harsh exploitation. One reason we got along so well was no doubt that they were compelled to know every detail of "the system" in the lower ghetto in order to stay free of pimps, while I as an outlaw (or vagabond) in the greater society had gradually acquired a certain knowledge about it as well in order to survive in it. We had therefore in widely different ways arrived at a common outlook.



As the parallel between the super-structure and the substructure was so evident, it was usually easy for them to see the inner dynamics of the combined system which caused their double oppression: racism and sexism. For the relationship between pimp and prostitute is in many ways just a wildly exaggerated model of the relationship between man and woman in the lower-ghetto (or even in society at large) in which one of the man's many "hustles" consist of obtaining "broad money" from defenseless women in return for protection against her being "hit on" by other men's sexual aggression. In such a society a woman to a horrifying degree sees a man as at best a mere object for obtaining money and luxury. She is often very straight-forward about her desire to "marry a rich man."



This fast ghetto-escape to affluence and security was shocking for me as I had rarely seen such selfish traits in Danish women - perhaps because in a more egalitarian welfare state such exploitation between the sexes doesn't make sense. The prostitution involved in buying women with status and wealth shows especially clearly in the American upper-class and underclass. Within its closed system the underclass has been instilled. with the same admiration for "sharp" pimps and "righteous hustlers" in fine "threads" as people in the larger society are taught to have for successful maverick capitalists.



Such flashy pimps and hustlers apparently "making it" are dangerous role models for ghetto children attracting them to the street institution at the age of 8 or 9 years old, but, like the nouveau riche capitalist, they are also pitiful erratic figures continuously manipulating everyone with no time to become lax or their empire will collapse. I learned quite a bit about this side when I was working in a church helping to make a union for prostitutes, which would not only protect them from brutal police attacks, but also against pimps.
It is my hope that this chapter will inspire more support and understanding for the work of my dear friend,
Margo St. James, the national leader of the hooker's union COYOTE, with whom I later lived.



Among the prostitutes who made the strongest impression on me was Geegurtha who was in the midst of a struggle to get out of this slavery. When I first met her she had just been in prison and was almost totally destroyed by narcotics and violence.



Her daughter was born an addict, but was saved through blood transfusions. During the five years Geegurtha was a prostitute she saw nothing of her daughter. But through an enormous effort Geegurtha has become "uphabilitated."



The motherly love she has since given - expressed in this photo which I love so much - is so moving and miraculous for me, when I recall Geegurtha from those days when she was a wreck. She became manager of the clinic which once helped her, and majored in psychology in college.



I was deeply moved by this sunshine story with all the odds I had seen against black motherly love.



And fatherly love fares just as badly. This man, who let me share his bed in a one-room shack in Florida, was shooting up the first thing in the morning. Because he was unable to kick his habit, his family life had deteriorated and he was in deep pain from not being allowed to be with his child.



Another mother I lived with had also been an addict, but was now "clean" and put all her motherly love into giving her two children a good religious upbringing. But when I came back a year later, I was told she was sentenced to 25 years in prison for armed robbery.



Although the family always prayed together, it was not allowed to stay together. Such tragedies of people trying to take the fastest road out I experienced again and again in the ghetto.



Most people understand why a prisoner with seven years left of a sentence takes the chance and escapes instead of patiently waiting to get out of hell in a legal way. Not until I one day nearly became ghettoized myself instead of living the privileged vagabond life in ghettos, was I able to feel how the closed system functions exactly like a prison in which you have neither the psychic surplus nor the means to invest in a seven-year education which may bring you out of that stifling oppression in the conventional way.



All ghetto acts are therefore desperate and with short-term goals determined by the fact that you already live in a prison. For such people no prison or any kind of punishment will be a sufficient deterrent.