A Salisbury, N.C., police officer had not asked my name or my business before grabbing my wrists, jerking my hands high behind my back, and slamming my head into the hood of his cruiser, says New York Times reporter Solomon Moore. “This is a high-crime area,” said the officer as he handcuffed me. “You were loitering. We have ordinances against loitering.” While talking to a group of young black men standing on a sidewalk 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. I had gone to find someone who had firsthand experience with North Carolina's tough antigang stance, and I had found that someone: me.
Except that I didn't quite fit the type of person I was seeking. I am African-American, but I'm not really cut out for the thug life. At 37, I'm beyond the street-tough years. I suppose I could be taken for an “O.G.,” or “original gangster,” except that I don't roll like that – I drive a Volvo station wagon and have two young homeys enrolled in youth soccer leagues. As Patrick McCrory, Charlotte mayor of Charlotte and an advocate of tougher antigang measures, told me before my Salisbury encounter: “This ganglike culture is tough to separate out. Whether that's fair or not, that's the truth.”