'Inside the Crips' is such a difficult book to review because even as I start typing I still don't know if it deserves a 5 Star or a 3 Star. "Give it a 4 Star then," I hear you shout. No, I can't sit on the fence like that. It deserves a 5 Star because Colton Simpson has without a doubt written an engaging tale with complete candour and integrity.
After growing up on the streets of South-Central Los Angeles, being 'initiated' into the Crips at 10 years of age, shooting people, robbing jewellery stores, shooting more people, robbing more jewellery stores and spending more than a decade in some of the toughest prisons in America where war between Blacks, Mexicans, Whites, Bloods and even separate Crip sections is an ongoing source of violence and death he's come full circle. But - and this is a huge BUT - he's such a bloody racist, and I just can't offer a racist a 5 Star review.
I detest racism of any kind. I hate the ignorance of it. I've worked with tough Poles, lazy Somalians, hard-working Lithuanians and Bulgarians, friendly Romanians, fun-loving Sikhs and quiet Muslims. And I absolutely despise and abhor the kind of racism that Simpson, or Li'l Cee Loc, preaches so openly in this book.
"My people are still enslaved by the White race." No their not. They're enslaved by themselves. They chose to commit those crimes. And your people, my arse! What does that mean? In the book you claim it's the Black man. That would be the Black man that's spent decades shooting and killing other Black men, I suppose. Yeah right, your people.
And what is this White Race? Hungarian? Romanian? Italian? Lithuania? Scottish? Which race? White isn't a race, Colton Simpson, it's a colour. How can you apportion blame onto ALL people of a white colour? How is it the white man's fault?
"At last the system has turned me from a human being to just another number." Not really, Li'l Cee. Your own CHOICES turned you from a human being to just another number. Really, does society deserve to have to put up with the likes of Li'l Cee Loc?
"1.6 percent of White men between 20 and 34 are in prison (Simpson's figures not mine), 12 percent of Black men 20 to 34 are in prison. My people are still enslaved." They're your figures Simpson and they speak for themselves, don't they? I checked out some other stats. Black people make up about 30% of the population of the United States, and 60% of the prison population. Now regardless of whom you committed your crimes against society had decided that it had earned a well-deserved rest from your activities. It had absolutely nothing to do with the colour of anybody's skin.
"Judge Cecil J. Mills peers over his glasses and says, 'Well now Mr Simpson. Don't you dare look at me like that,'" and Li'l Cee honestly doesn't understand how the judge thinks he's being antagonistic. But I understand it. Li'l Cee's look is common to the streets of South-Central L.A., in particular the areas of Compton, Watts and Inglewood. And I know that because in the early eighties I worked that area as a White English cab driver. I possibly know more about those areas and the people who live in them than any other Englishman alive. I wrote about my experiences in one of my books.
And I'll tell you something for nothing. They were such a miserable crowd, not giving a toss about manners, respectability or even cleanliness. Their homes were greasy, foul and noxious, their personalities were out for the count, and they never, ever smiled. The only thing that came close to a smile would be a derisory snigger or a mocking catcall. And they had such a chip on their shoulders. Always bitching about how the white man had screwed them over.
And that may be true. Black people definitely had a raw deal in the old slavery days, but no small measure of irony creeps in here when we realize that the Moors - Muslims who eventually settled in North-West Africa - laid waste the coasts of Europe, taking slaves that were sold in the markets of Venice. In the early 9th century the Vikings took over the slave trade - the word commemorates the fate of the Slavic people - and sold them to rich Muslims in the Eastern Mediterranean. But Muslims were the world's first slave traders. I only speak the truth.
However, the way that Black people were treated in the south of America in the 50's and 60's was disgusting. But Native Americans and Jews have been treated far, far worse over the centuries, and you don't hear them whinging about it, do you?
Are white people to blame when we find a proportion of black neighbourhoods turned into trouble spots and danger areas? Of course not. For if that were the case then the Jewish sections in countries like Russia and Germany would also be 'no-go' areas where prostitution, drugs and homicide are a daily form of misery, fear and death.
When Pulitzer prize-winning writer, Edwin Way Teale, wrote in 1953 that, "It is not races but individuals that are noble and courageous or ignoble and craven or considerate or persistent or philosophical or reasonable," what he was really saying was that a whole race of otherwise well-adjusted, well-dressed and well-read people get the shit when a high percentage of their individuals are arseholes.
But why are a high percentage of their individuals arseholes? I don't know. It's just the way they are. Lack of effective role models as parents probably has a lot to do with it. But it's not my fault, is it?
As I said above I wrote about my own experiences. I was robbed, chased, had a gun shoved in my face and one of the other drivers was shot. But I got out of there alive. And I've learned that there are a group of people, those who are so racist, so bigoted, so locked inside their own tiny little box of hate that the only way to deal with it is to accuse OTHER people of being racist.
A small portion of the ethnic minorities living in England and the USA have such a narrow focus that, for whatever reason, they live in a permanent state of hostility towards the (quote) White race (unquote). They may well have suffered trauma and persecution, but this has warped their mind-set and psyche to such an extent that they now hold ALL White people accountable for ill treatment their ancestors may have previously suffered, ever on the look-out for any imagined sign of abuse.
The persecuted has become so twisted that he has swapped places and is now himself the persecutor, intolerant of all White members of the community. These people who habitually fill their own minds with the rank poisons of hatred, suspicion and jealousy can get very upset at those who refuse to do likewise, and they find a perverted relief in actually accusing THEM of being racist, when of course it is the reciprocal outlook that is the truth.
Interesting how the perspective changes with the point of view, isn't it?
So while this really is an excellent book and a fascinating read as we follow Simpson's spirited, brave and it has to said foolhardy journey from Colton-to-Li'l Cee-to-Cee Loc-to-Colton again as he comes full circle and shares his campaign with us I just can't give a racist a 5 Star.
This is one of the best books I've read about the Bloods and Crips, but with regret - for I believe Simpson to be, and to have always been, a very principled human being - I can only afford it a 3 Star.