WELCOME HOME: “CAN I TRUST YOU?”

Can I trust you? You may not have said that lately, but you thought it. You thought it about another person, a family member, a cop, your PO.

Can I trust you? Besides having the most carefully pronounced name in academics, Francis Fukuyama weighed in on this question in a 1995 book called Trust: The Social Virtues and the Creation of Prosperity. I think of Fukuyama’s book a lot, because he has a whole chapter in it on Blacks and Asians, where he looks at how “trust” supports community economic development. Short version, he says that Blacks don’t trust each other much, mainly because the history of slavery and discrimination in America. He cites how Blacks have to be admonished to buy from each other. That’s why it was big news when hip hop heeded the call of the #BankBlack Challenge. Atlanta rapper/activist Killer Mike generated $800,000 for Citizens Trust Bank when he challenged folks to open accounts ($100 a piece) and 8,000 responded. Slim Thug, Paul Wall, Willie D, and Trae The Truth led Houston rap artists to open accounts at Unity National Bank, the only Black owned bank in Texas.

Can I trust you? That’s what we have in the back of our minds when we come home from a bid, and somebody wants to “help.” Because not everyone who wants to help is someone I can trust. Some people are in it for themselves, whether they want something from you in return, or whether they’re just doing something “good” to feel good about themselves. Then they get played and the game is on.

Can I trust you? Having someone in your life that you trust is a critical factor in successful reentry. Someone who has your best interest at heart. It’s not necessarily someone you trusted before the bid (look where that got you) and repeating the same patterns will have the same result. You need someone that supports you in making the positive changes necessary to be productive. That’s why Fukuyama (say it slowly) ties it to community development. When we build relationships of trust, we can work together, support each other, even bank together. Yeah, that’s in that chapter on Blacks and Asians too, cause that’s how Asians buy up all the stores, through banking together and sharing resources.

Can I trust you? That’s not just a personal question now. It’s a social question, too. Trust in law enforcement is at an all-time low. I can’t even trust a cop when my hands are up, whether I’m a young boy on the street in Ferguson or a behavioral therapist rescuing an autistic client from playing in the street. In his book Don’t Shoot: One Man, A Street Fellowship and the End of Violence in Inner City America, David Kennedy talks about his twenty years of working with police departments, gangs and poor neighborhoods, and he’s clear that none of those three trust each other. Even the good folks in all three operate out of fear..and fear grows where there is no trust.

Can I trust you? That question framed the Facebook posting of Baton Rouge police officer Montrell Jackson. He expressed the insecurity several days before he was killed when he wrote: “I’ve experienced so much in my short life and the past 3 days have tested me to the core. I swear to God I love this city but I wonder if this city loves me. In uniform I get nasty hateful looks and out of uniform some consider me a threat.”

Could Officer Jackson trust you? Could Montrell Jackson trust you? Was Officer Jackson trusted? Was Montrell Jackson trusted when he was out of uniform? In the end, neither of Montrell Jackson’s two sides had enough trust to save his life. But he wanted that trust, and he wanted to offer it to others: “Please don’t let hate infect your heart. This city MUST and WILL get better. I’m working in these streets so any protesters, officers, friends, family, or whoever, if you see me and need a hug or want to say a prayer I got you.”

Can I trust you?

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