by Rahsaan Thomas 

“Ain’t nothing to talk about,” was the motto I grew up believing in.  I didn’t think there was anything to talk about when someone had wronged me.  Talking to someone who offended you was viewed as a sign of weakness.  Discussing peace at that point meant they would get the last laugh.  So I thought like the rapper Papoose said, “Peace makers sound funny like Heathcliff with that dead the beef (crap), why would I dead the beef when I can dead the (negro) I have the beef with.”

At the same time, I never wanted to hurt another human being.  It feels so wrong to shoot someone that has the same problems as me, who lives in the same neighborhood as me and who looks just like me.  It made me feel like a puppet being manipulated to serve someone else’s agenda.  Yet I did, because being viewed as weak seemed worse.

I never considered that the reason someone offended me wasn’t personal.  I never consider that they may be dealing with issues like not having a dad, having a drug addict mother, inferior school systems, going to bed hungry, violence in the home that may have manifested in trying to take it out on me.  Or it may have been an accident, or a misunderstanding.  If I’m not willing to have empathy towards people struggling like me, then I might as well root for cops who gunned down unarmed Black men without regard for mental health, understandings, or simply us reacting loudly from being tired of all the racial profiling.

“If you want to make peace, you don’t talk to your friends.  You talk to your enemies.”  Archbishop Desmond Tuto, the South African social rights activist, said.  What that means to me is that you talk to your enemies to get their side of the story and to get peace.

It also means that your friends might instigate instead of investigate.  Often we respond to provocation to earn the respect of losers and become losers doing so.  Most friends we think are cool at sixteen will become losers to murderers, wind up in prison or strung out on drugs years later.  They won’t pay for our lawyers, or send us money for canteen.  Some might even be the ones who turn you in to the cops. My friends would advise me to “ride on my enemies.”  They would encourage violence and at as my co-defendants, rather than talk me down off the ledge.

It actually takes more strength to talk to your enemies and it is the wiser course of action.  Often wars happen over misunderstanding everyone is too proud to discuss.  When there is no communication, lies and misconceptions fill the thoughts of rivals and unnecessary violence takes place.  In the name of revenge, we pay a higher cost than whatever loss the beef started over.  The last laugh often costs many more lives and life sentences than it is worth.

In a level four prison, being a hothead can get you killed by our own homies. No beef with another race or set happens in a vacuum.  It automatically involves everybody.  If you react without permission from your big homies, after the riot, your big homies will send your own homies to take your head off.  When another race or gang violates, it up to you to tell your big homies and for him to give the issue to their people who will deal with the offender. That’s how peace is maintained in California Level four prisons.

Personally, I believe you should always want peace because the price of war is far too much. Like Lyfe Jennings said “25 to life, he murdered his own dreams.”  Seek peace whenever possible.  Doing so means you are “MEEK” (power under control), not WEAK.  Seeking peace takes real courage and will yield the best results for your life.