It can and should be argued that when laws are unjust, the morally righteous man is an outlaw. Therefore, it would be downright loony to consider Harriet Tubman a criminal because she stole people’s property and set it free, or to call Rosa Parks a criminal because equal fare paid should always mean equal privileges, or to call Muhammad Ali a criminal because he refused induction into the US Army to fight in a war that he religiously opposed.
It would be loony, but it’s also true. All three were criminals. All three broke the law.
But let’s say that the moral terrain isn’t so rocky and we’re dealing with more conventional criminals. And not the Oskar Shindler types that might have occasionally stretched a truth here or there to help people, but, you know, hustlers and the like. Are they heroes too?
The popular Balzac paraphrase holds that “Behind every great fortune there is a great crime” and if we consider that illegal bootlegging afforded the money necessary for Joseph Kennedy to make one of his sons a US President, one a US Attorney General, and another a longtime Senator, we’d have to admit that Balzac wasn’t lying.
Still, I must admit that I do find it a little disheartening that until the ascension of Drake, the only possible way to have been considered a credible MC was to have had as a past an equally credible run as a crack dealer.
Seriously, even if we Blacks do tend to idolize our criminals, are we any different than any other people? Sure, a lot of white folks seem pissed about Bernie Madoff, but right after a criticism, you’ll see them shaking their heads and hear them whistling to themselves almost worshipfully about the splendor of a con that brought in 65 billion dollars.
The most interesting irony, I think, about the whole criminal thing is that when notorious mob rat Sammy “The Bull” Gravano “turned” on his boss, John Gotti and gave him up in order to get a lighter sentence and enter the witness protection program, all the New York papers roasted Gravano. After The Godfather, I guess that the media was expecting a little integrity from its gangsters. Meanwhile, that same media seems to expect Blacks to snitch, as if we have no such integrity to be concerned about.
Larry Davis (pictured above) was a criminal. Click on his name and read his Wikipedia profile and tell me whether or not he was a hero.