thug life

Thug Love Explained

There is a house in Chattanooga, Tennessee that is unfit to live in, unless you are a possum.  The foundation of the house has sunken, leaving the frame lopsided and contorted.  Passersby see the decrepit building and relish when the eyesore will be torn down and replaced with something more aesthetically pleasing.

But when I lean on my car, cross my arms, and stare at the old house, I see something quite different.  I see a place where a family gathered, gifts were shared, and love crowded the walls.  A place where sharecroppers saved every penny and celebrated the day the house became their home.  This was my great-grandparents’ home.

I can still smell the aroma of granny’s lemon cake in the oven, mixed with the smokiness of the coal oven, that kept none of us warm unless you stood right in front of it.  I can still hear the laughs, and I remember the tears as well.  This place may be an eyesore today, but no matter what it looks like, I have love and affection for it.  My affection will forever blind me to its exterior conditions.

Facebook and the newswires are in a buzz because there’s yet another Chicago massacre.  People say something has to be done.  But something is being done.  There are countless programs, foundations, grants, clubs and camps dedicated to steering the inner-city child in the right direction.   So why is it not working?  There is a myriad of reasons, but one almost never mentioned is the cultural affection, even the love, the youth have for the destructive hood life.

Just like my great grandparents’ house, the hood is not aesthetically pleasing.  In fact, we can all smell the stench of sex, drugs, despair, abuse, and violence carried out by unvalidated boys trying to men, and girls looking for love and security.  The black community has always had these things, but since the 1980’s the thug culture has been codified and celebrated.  Unlike previous generations, the current generation of thugs and thugettes saw their parents model the same behavior.   They witnessed their mothers accepting physical and verbal abuse.  They went on ride alongs as their fathers dealt drugs, got high and had secret sexual liaisons.

So today, we are stuck in an old antiquated speech to the youth.  We tell them “Stay away from the negative people”.  “Do something positive with your life”.  But that is like someone telling you to forsake your grandparent’s old dilapidated house and go up the street to a beautiful restaurant.  No matter how pretty the building, or what’s on the menu, you won’t budge.  Why?  You have a love for this house. It is your cultural norm.  This world of violence and chaos is their normal.  They have a deep affection for it.  It’s not negative, it is positive.  You are insulting them by suggesting otherwise.

Those wanting to help must first accept their world as a reality, while not condoning it. A relationship or at least rapport must be established with these young people.  Once it is, you can expose them to alternative realities and worldviews.  Show them a different world, and allow them to self-discover the dilapidation of the current lives.  I applaud the people out there doing the hard work, I’m just offering a bit of advice.  Money, time, and love are being spent to change the minds of the youth, but it is the exposure to God’s word, his people, and his way of life that will ultimately change the hearts of a generation.

Tim Lollis is Executive Director of Destiny Institute, community relations specialist, and freelance writer. See more articles at

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