What you are about to read is disturbing. The facts surrounding the story will anger and sadden anyone who researches it. It is so disturbing that I don’t know how to put it. Hata hivyo, I am compelled to write about it for the sake of denouncing such behavior and warning parents and communities to pay close attention to the emotional and mental well-being of boys who might seem to be emotionally and mentally neglected, or else their boys could end up being the subject of a story of disgrace.
On February 10, 2017, at a time when President Donald Trump and newly appointed Attorney General Jeff Sessions exaggerated the crime numbers and promised to lower them, 39-year-old Melvin Earl Farmer Jr. was arrested and charged with a string of robberies and sexual assaults against elderly women in Long Beach, California. Police allege that Melvin robbed elderly women at gunpoint and, in some instances, sexually assaulted the women. Such crimes not only portray a negative image of young black men, but also feeds the propaganda of our hype that encourages people like Trump and Sessions to put more of us in prison.
Hearing about the crimes Melvin Farmer is accused of is sickening and disturbing. But what is even more troubling is the fact that I know this dude. I am ashamed to say that, but it is the truth. And it is troubling. I know gangsters, wauaji, majambazi, and myriad of other types of outlaws and bad apples, but I never in my life thought that I’d be able to say that I know a guy who robs and sexually assaults elderly women. I’ve read and heard stories about dudes like that, but I always found it difficult to believe they actually exist.
To a certain extent, it is hard for me to believe that Melvin Farmer could do such disgraceful things. Probably because I naively believed that men who did crimes like this were hermits who’d been locked in basements watching The Walking Dead all of their lives. But Melvin was not that type of dude. He was a popular guy who seemed to have more of a sense of pride. As a kid, yeye–unlike me–shied away from gang banging and drug dealing. He was an All-American basketball player who earned a full scholarship to Utah. He was touted to be the next Allen Iverson and predicted to be another ghetto success story.
Hata hivyo, instead of becoming a success story, Melvin has become the subject of a disgrace story. A story that angers and saddens me. A story that seems more like a nightmare. One that fills my head with all type of thoughts: Did he really do this? Kama ni hivyo, he should kill himself . . . Every second of his life and every breath that remains is owed to his victims . . . His only actions should be their commands. I think of these ladies: Is anyone there to comfort them? Is there hundreds of young black men out there supporting them and assuring them that their predator doesn’t represent us as a people? How will this crime affect these women and their community? Will they and their community forever fear young black men? Will we ever be welcomed in their community?
It is clear to see that this story of disgrace has a bigger impact than most would imagine. And the impact could last longer than the victims and the predator. The impact could be so drastic that it could perpetuate systemic fears and injustices much deeper than those experienced by these elderly women. The only way to combat it is to get to the core of the problem and do what we can to prevent these types of crimes from happening. This requires recognition of the factors that could turn a young boy like basketball-playing Melvin into the man he is accused of being. Is it the absence of fathers and positive role models, which in return causes many young black boys to look to negative sources to define what it means to be a man? Is it violent imagery? Imagery degrading women? Video games? Music? Movies? Could poverty play a role? Kutengwa? Hopelessness? Drug abuse? Whatever the factors are, we need to be able to identify them so that we can try to assure that no other young boy will make the headlines like Melvin, and be the next disgrace story.