Who Is Anthony Stephens?

The Life and Death of a College Grad

120. Interview with Jesus Hernandez: Part 3

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12 July 2011

– I didn’t think too much about Bishop after he split.

– Every month or so I’d get an email from my supervisor telling me to update a bunch of my files and his would be one of them, so I’d pull up his folder and put a note that the warrant’s still out for his arrest.

– While I’m in there though, occasionally I’ll look through his credentials, the degree and the résumé and all that and just wonder how somebody—how a minority in today’s America—could have come so far from the hood he grew up in and then turn around and fall right back into that lifestyle, all in like a split second.

– It makes me hate some things about this society when I see these guys. They’re all brainwashed by the entertainment industry.

– Pisses me off, the general attitude. Like how hip hop stars and gang members and anybody else who’s been raised in the hood love to call the ghetto a trap.

– I remember this parolee a couple years back, actually. Armed robbery felon. He comes in and sits right where you are and I asked him if he’d learned anything from his time in prison, and he fed me the same cock-and-bull story they all do.

– They all say yeah, they learned, but their eyes and the tone of their voice say they haven’t gotten shit from their time in prison but an amplified attitude problem.

– So I ask the armed robbery felon why he did what he did, and he tells me because he needed to survive.

– Survive what, I asked. The streets, he said.

– Which street, I asked. Myrtle ave? Lexington? 151st? Fucking Queensbridge?

– He got all testy with that. Says, “it’s every street when you in the hood, son.” Love to call people their quote unquote son.

– So I asked him why he didn’t just leave then. And he gave me this dead cold stare. Said, “listen, son, they don’t call it the trap for no reason.”

– I wanted to laugh at him but his file said he had violent tendencies and I don’t like scenes in my office. If he snaps, I gotta call security, deal with paperwork, arrests, missing my next appointment and all that. Too much of a hassle.

– But I wanted to call him on his bullshit. I wanted to point out to him that the ghetto, the place he’s calling a “trap,” is a neighborhood like any other. No difference between Manhattan or Queens or Decatur or fucking Beverly Hills. I wanted to point out to him that I was born and raised in Marcy Projects, came from there to where I’m at now. And sure I’m not a senator or a movie star, but I’m living in a pretty decent house in a pretty decent neighborhood in Jersey now. Crime free and comfortable.

– I wanted to point out to him that my father, he escaped both the Dominican Republic and Trujillo—El Jefe himself—at the age of ten. You want to talk about a trap, brother. [Mr. Hernandez chuckles contemptuously]

– I wanted to show this little hoodrat nimrod the scar below my rib cage, [Mr. Hernandez erratically stands and pulls his shirt up and there is a half-inch wide gunshot wound on his right flank] from my own delinquent days, and the police badge with my late father’s name on it that I keep in my desk at home, to remind me that he died in the line of duty, trying to clean up the same traps these little bastards help keep dirty.

– The ghetto is what you make it, and people who use it as an excuse to choose to trap themselves in a comfortable, lazy situation are nothing but cowards to me.

– People like Bishop though, people who came out and then willfully go back, well—they’re another deal. Worse off, you ask me. Worthless, period.

– Because I don’t acknowledge that high a level of ignorance. I say good riddance. One less brother like that in New York is a good thing.

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