It was hardly the most memorable aspect of last spring's thank-God-no-one-was-rendered-impotent Palestra shooting, but a man was killed. He was young and fearless and so enamored of the thug life that a brazen bust of Tupac Shakur spanned his shoulderblades. In fact, if you were from North Philly and you weren't his mother, you called him "Tupac." Anthony Davis himself was relatively insignificant. Forgettable. But I knew there was something familiar about the name when I saw it on the front page of Monday's Washington Post: Anthony Davis, a young drug-pushing inner-city victim of black-on-black homicide. This Anthony Davis, however, went by the alias "Ant" and hailed from a neighborhood in Northeast D.C. they called Little Vietnam. He also died in Little Vietnam, a few years ago. This Davis's death didn't make the papers. When he first died, at least. But almost randomly, the Post in one of those perennial explorations of urban violence, had picked up the death of Anthony Davis and chronicled the complex chain of events that led up to his slaying. They looked up the crime records for the neighborhood and talked to his killer in jail, and talked to his mother and traced their family histories. Anthony Davis, in two cities, was ghetto Everyman. They are predictable stories: single unwed mothers who'd shacked up with abusive, alcoholic boyfriends who when crack hit in the mid-'80s became a crack addicts. And just when they were realizing that all of their dreams of moving out had pretty much dried up like a raisin in the sun, they was going to the police station to pick up their sons. Every ghetto, every city. · We, at Penn, border on a ghetto. The administration and the revisionists have been known to suffer bouts with denial over this, but these days we're in a stage of acceptance. They even sent my parents literature about the urban blight that surrounds campus. When it suits them, students use it as small talk, as a perpetual joke. Say you live in "West Philadelphia" (forgetting we live in the most densely policed slice of Philly) and it's instant street cred to the high-school posse back home. Drink Olde English on the weekends, do 3 a.m. stints at Billybob's and shop at "Theftway" and -- nevermind the Diesel jeans and Polo sweater Dad's credit card furnished for you to do it all in -- you're eminently "down." But there is, doubtless, a point of diminishing marginal utility to the inner-city cache. When a gangfight spills into our campus. When a tough kid out on bail sneaks into Steiny-D with a knife. When your frat brother gets shot on the way home from Smoke's. What is this, Lebanon? Where are the Penn Police, shutting down parties or something? Where is our $30,000? Warnell Owens was young and drinking 40s -- and Jagermeister and margaritas and other things -- the night late last fall when the Penn Police decided to bust him. He was loud and unruly and a little imposing. But when a Penn cop decided to arrest him on a summary disorderly conduct charge, the Harvard-educated Owens apparently thought he had license to just retire back into the FIJI house where he'd been chilling with a friend from Penn. That, unfortunately for Owens, is not the way it works when you're being arrested. To resist arrest is a crime in itself; to merely strike a cop is considered aggravated assault -- a very serious crime punishable by up to 20 years in jail. But when the cops pursued Owens, he beat two of them unconscious. He reached for one cop's gun. Another two cops ended up in the hospital from his beatings. It was so audacious, so surreal that 60 cops showed up. The police were restrained; they never drew their guns. Less than a year later, Owens got a plea bargain: no agg assault on the record, no jail time. Nothing that could jeopardize his future, hurt his employment. Just a charge of simple assault and a lot of community service. No need to wreck such a promising future. Never mind the severe facial injuries he inflicted, the collective months off the police beat, the weeks the Division of Public Safety spent trying to determine whether the police had been too surly toward Owens' host at Penn, who also fled inside the FIJI house. Give him community service, he was drunk. Earlier in the year, the Tabard Society was congregating with Zeta Beta Tau to dispense alcohol and entertainment to the masses on a night when Theta happened to be doing the same the same thing. In a classic solution to a classic turf war, Tabard allegedly alerted the state's Liquor Control Enforcement agency to the Theta party. The party was busted. The LCE handed out citations for underage drinking to the tune of a few hundred bucks. Fortunately for Theta, none of the members were depending on liquor revenue the way drug dealers rely on their earnings. Not one sister risked going to jail for her activities. None of them, to my knowledge, were carrying semiautomatic weapons. The stakes just weren't that high. Look, the criminal justice system is here to protect you. Of course, there's a lot more to lose when you're an Ivy League student. And the cops, the courts -- they'll take that into consideration if you screw up.Comments powered by Disqus
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