Babies, Guns & DUIs
So I teach at a school we’ll call Ghetto Community College. I’m good at my job and I love doing it, but I fucking hate the field of education. It mostly does a disservice to the very people it says it wants to help, and the people in it are the biggest part of the problem. It’s filled with namby-pamby loser-ass middle class white people. Higher education is filled with even nambier-pambier middle class white people, who mistakenly think they’re smart. Put any one of these people on the street, expose them to the real thug life, and they wouldn’t last a second. Surviving the streets without resources and without hope is a skill that requires real intelligence. Passing classes at an Ivy League school or even a state school is not. It’s not hard. You just have to have a decent vocabulary and the skills to flatter the fuck out of narcissistic professors.
But Ghetto Community College (GCC) is not a real school, not in the sense that the schools that the people who run it and teach at it went to. It’s filled with lowlifes, rednecks and thugs. These are people who really need an education. And that’s why I’m there. I started as a lowlife at a community college, myself, so I understand it.
My students love me, because I tell ’em straight, and because I can write the fuck out of shit. That’s what I teach: college writing. I love everything to do with language. I tell them that they will be judged on the way they speak and how they write, and whether or not they can tell the difference between “there” and “their,” and even on the sorry-ass names their mommas’ gave ’em. They come to class faithfully for two reasons: they need the knowledge that I have, and because of the shit I say.
The other day we were having a conversation about the poor and working classes, not your typical fare for a college writing class. And some dude was talking about how he was going to write his narrative essay on his DUIs. So I’m like, “There’s an essay topic I’ve never encountered before, ” and rolled my eyes. He took it in stride, because these kids and adults are just waiting for the shit I’ll say next. So I explain that narrative essays on babies, guns, and DUIs don’t interest me because I get 20 of each every semester. And I go on to explain that there’s this saying about how to keep the lower classes down: Girls get babies, and boys get guns and DUIs. Get any one of those, and you’re stuck at the gate–opportunity is lost.
So this really pissed off a 19 year old single mother in my class. She has a 15 month old son. And she’s been fishing around since she found out the consequences of her actions for some saving grace. But I won’t give it to her. I tell baby mama/daddy jokes in class, and advise students to write process papers on how to break up with a thug or a crazy bitch. I am not going to give her an inch, because I want her to know that this is a mistake she cannot make again if she really wants to provide for her child, and because I want to discourage all the other young women in class from pursuing this route at all costs.
Because it’s true: Having a baby, getting caught with a gun, or driving under the influence are routine, stupid fucking mistakes that poor people make. And they can be avoided, but they often are not because poor people will deliberately make these choices. They aren’t stupid; they know exactly what they’re doing. There’s no need to feel sorry for them, or think they just don’t know; they know, they just don’t have options.
In the rough-and-tumble neighborhoods I grew up in, a baby was a pathway to independence, and to government funding. It still is. Guns are bought, stolen, or gifted for protection or to demonstrate bad-ass-ability. DUIs are risked because some drunk ass idiot has learned that a belligerent attitude is a lifesaver in whatever ghetto or trailer park he comes from. But it will get you nowhere outside that environment.
The only reason that girl is in my class today is because that baby bought her a ticket to financial aid. Her mom is probably working for an hourly wage, if she’s working at all, and our financial aid system is so fucked up that you can’t be considered independent until your 24 years old, no matter where you come from. Unless you’re married or have a dependent, that is. So there’s all these people who would very much like to go to college, but their parents either make just barely too much money, even though they’ve maybe kicked the kid out, or you have students who don’t get along with their parents well enough to even get the information for a FAFSA.
But there are real people who pay the consequences for these real choices. The kids born to young women who haven’t even really started in life, who don’t even have the skills to pick a good mate, will always suffer in some way. And the people shot by these guns will pay the price. The people hit by drunk drivers pay, as do the families of people in jail, with records that disallow the option to work. A whole lotta people pay for these stupid fucking choices. And while I didn’t go that far with my discussion in class, I certainly gave those folks some shit to think about. That’s why I’m there, and that’s why they keep coming back. They come hear the shit she says.