Growing up in the housing projects and ghettos of Atlanta, I saw my share of gamblers, hustlers, pickpockets, peddlers and panhandlers. When I moved to Tallahassee, I saw a lot of things but a lot of things I didn’t see.
Let me explain. Growing up on the streets, so to speak, I learned to recognize the different positions on the hustler totem pole. I knew where they sold drugs, somewhere, not too far away, was a drug house or drug dealer. When I saw some whores, I knew if I sat around long enough I would see a pimp.
I’ve spent some time in many different parts of Tallahassee, both uptown and downtown. My eyes were wide open and I thought I was being somewhat observant. However, I didn’t find out until recently that I was blind to an activity that may have taken place in Tallahassee and could take place anywhere in the world.
I saw whores in Tallahassee. I knew where they walked. I knew where they worked and played.
But, guess what? I have never, ever, seen a pimp in Florida’s capital city.
I wondered to myself how could this be. Not one single “Tallahasee Slim,” “Big Bend Ice,” “Southside Superfly” or “Dynamite Leon” could be found.
Then it was explained to me and the answer became very clear.
In some places, the police are the pimps. The governments are the gangsters and the banks are the hustlers.
In some places, the whores pay the police to stay out of jail and they pay the judges to get lenient sentences.
Back in the day, gangsters controlled the ’hood just as they did in the 1950s and 1960s in Atlanta and many other metropolitan communities. At a certain point, the gangsters went “corporate” and people like J. Edgar Hoover, Lester Maddox and Bull Connor took over control of the streets.
The mob went corporate and got into casinos and organized labor.
So-called legitimate companies started hiring lawyers and lobbyists to figure out ways to change laws so that robbing and stealing would be legal.
But somebody had to run the street. Someone had to control the whores, the dope dealers, the numbers runners and the burglars.
Don’t act like I’m crazy. Everybody has heard the story, true or false, about the CIA moving cocaine, mostly crack, on the West Coast not too long ago.
In today’s news, we read and hear about politicians with strippers, escorts and other sordid characters. Elected officials have laundered money and even hid a few dollars in their ice box freezer.
Boy, wouldn’t it be something if the new police were the new pimps?
There is no moral story to this column. The contents were just part of discussions I heard in the ’hood recently about the changing roles of organized criminals and those who took an oath to fight the criminals.
Lucius Gantt is a consultant based in Tallahassee and author of the book Beast Too: Dead Man Writing. He may be reached at www.allworldconsultants.net
Photo: Lucius Gantt