Many nights, Mike [now out of prison] and Steve drove around looking for the shooter, the guys who were part of his crew, or women connected to them who might be able to provide a good lead. On a few of these nights, Mike had nobody to ride along with him, so I volunteered. We started out around 3:00 a.m., with Mike in the passenger seat, his hand on his Glock as he directed me around the area. We peered into dark houses and looked at license plates and car models as Mike spoke on the phone with others who had information about the 4th Street Boys’ whereabouts.
One night Mike thought he saw a 4th Street guy walk into a Chinese restaurant. He tucked his gun in his jeans, got out of the car, and hid in the adjacent alleyway. I waited in the car with the engine running, ready to speed off as soon as Mike ran back and got inside. But when the man came out with his food, Mike seemed to think this man wasn’t the man he’d thought it was. He walked back to the car and we drove on.
First, let me say as plainly as possible: at no time did I intend to engage in any criminal conduct in the wake of Chuck’s death. … Most important, I had good reason to believe that this night would not end in violence or injury. …
After Chuck was shot and killed, people in the neighborhood were putting a lot of pressure on Mike and on Chuck’s other friends to avenge his murder. It seemed that Chuck’s friends were expected to fulfill the neighborhood’s collective desire for retribution. Many of the residents in the neighborhood were emphatic that justice should be served, and the man who killed Chuck must pay. But they weren’t actually doing anything.
Talk of retribution was just that: talk.
In the weeks following Chuck’s death, his friends occasionally drove around, ostensibly looking for Chuck’s killer. But these drives, like the talk of the residents, also came to nothing. This was so because it was common knowledge that Chuck’s killer had fled right after the shooting. These drives seemed to satisfy the feelings of anger and pain; they were a way to mourn a dear friend, and showed people in the neighborhood that Chuck’s friends were doing something.
One night, when Mike could not find anybody else to go with him, I agreed to drive. I felt ambivalent, but I went because I knew these drives were about expressing anger and about grieving, not about doing actual violence. I had talked Mike down from violence in the past, as did many other women in his and his friends’ lives.
These accounts are clearly contradictory. If version 1 is correct, then version 2 is an attempt at making it seem like the ethnographer did not commit a criminal act. If version 2 is correct, then the ethnographer wrote up her story in a misleading way. If it was common knowledge that the shooter was not in town, then why did Mike bring a gun to the Chinese restaurant and almost shoot someone?
If black lives matter, why did no one care that Goffman may have come close to participating in the murder of a young black man? Why was someone who recounted driving a would-be getaway car rewarded with a big book contract and a TED talk that has been viewed almost one million times?