The Guardian Angels are men and women in red barred who patrol New York City subways looking to help civilians against muggers, drug dealers, and other good-for-nothings’.
Coming off the heels of recent police killings of African Americans without any accountability, and seeing the all-to-familiar and counterproductive responses of police officers and media pundits, I wondered, “can African Americans erect something similar to the Guardian Angels?”
The Guardian Angels were founded in 1979 by Curtis Sliwa (the photo above), who, in early January of 2016, and after seeing the staggering rise of homicide rates in New York City without anything being done about it, decided to resurrect the organization.
During the Crack Cocain epidemic, “we would do drug raids,” Curtis said to a Vice News reporter. “I would load up forty Guardian Angels in a van and we would hit the crack houses. And we would rob crack dealers in front of everybody.” After the ambush of the crack dealers, “we would steal their money and bring it to the local soup kitchens. And then we would destroy the drugs right out in the streets. People thought that was crazy.”
Are these men and women “crazy” for wanting to protect their communities from muggers, drug dealers and good-for-nothings’? Surely, they must understand how dangerous their line of work can be—not only to their safety but to the safety of the people that they are trying to protect?
Besides the sheer courage of what they are doing, and whether you agree or disagree with their methods, what struck me the most about the Guardian Angels, was the complete breakdown of police confidence in the city and how that drove them to create such an organization. Not only that, but the great responsibility they felt that they had towards their city. Rather than waiting for someone else to clean up, organize, and improve the safety and productivity of their communities, they took matters into their own hands.
“We believe that if there’s a problem in the neighborhood, we can find people within that neighborhood—and the surrounding neighborhoods—to join together without any weapons or special powers or privileges….and make a difference,” Curtis said.
Seeing that there are incalculable numbers of young, old, and courageous African Americans who are desperately ready to take back their communities in a progressive way—as opposed to the conventional ways that brought more suffering and regressions—then perhaps, this is what the African American communities really need—seeing that they, too, are suffering from a total breakdown of police confidence and accountability?
Conversely, and although people might think that what they are doing is “crazy,” the longer they wait for someone else to take care of their communities, the more cooperating, fleeing, unarmed, or innocent black lives will be taken from them.