Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Dope Boyz versus Stock Boys

What's the first thing that comes to your mind when you picture a dope boy?

For me is slightly unkempt dreadlocks, baggy blue jeans, a white t-shirt and black lips. It's a permanent sneer only broken by calculating grin. I see loud music, frequent curse words and the ever present aroma of marijuana.

Yep, that's what dope looks like to me.

Now, depending on your locale, your own internal image may be different. And some of y'all, striving to be truly conscious, might even claim to picture CIA suits dutifully allowing cocaine and heroin to flood inner city communities when you think about dope boyz. More power to you. While I know that white folks deal and use far more drugs than black people, my image of a dope boy remains the same. Blame it on subtle marketing, or blatant racism, but that's who I see when somebody mentions a "D-Boy."

On the surface, that image is about as far away from the standard image of a "stock boy" as Michael Jackson is away from normal.

When I say stock boy, I mean the cats who work on Wall Street, not the cats who work in the backrooms of Winn Dixie. I'm talking about the slick brokers in the Armani suits who drive the Ferrari's, Beamers and Benzs. The fellows who view a $500,000 salary cap as an undue hardship, and who pay less in taxes than their secretaries. Those are stock boys.

Like I said, there doesn't seem to be much in common between Dope Boyz and Stock Boys.

But, strangely enough, my pops and I were discussing the similarities between the two jobs just the other day. The conversation began as a normal rehashing of the actions of President Obama. My father has been converted into a news junkie by Obama's presidential bid, so he's always up-to-date on what's going on in the political world. We were discussing the opposition by several Republican governors to accepting stimulus money, and the mostly favorable response they were receiving from the Republican base.

Both of us were somewhat perturbed that these people didn't see how the absence of stimulus money was going to affect their lives. I mean, some folks were practically cheering for the governors who refused the money, and they were certain that a hardline stance was the correct way to get those "welfare recipients" off the public tit.

That just tickled me.

I explained to my pops that the source of most people's opposition was their erroneous assumptions about exactly who would benefit from public assistance. They were convinced that Obama's package would only benefit the same undesirables they'd moved to the suburbs to avoid, and that it provided nothing of value to them. Of course, a critical analysis of the plan shows that's baloney, but the truth has never had much of an effect on longstanding racial prejudices.

To illustrate my thesis, I pointed to the different way Americans view dope boyz and stock boys.

See, dope boyz are seen as the dregs of society. They prey on the weak, and use intimidation and violence to advance their ideals. They destroy neighborhood security and undermine the social fabric of this country. Nothing good can come from a dope boy.

On the other hand, stock boys are captains of industry. Using ingenuity and hard work, they artfully manage large sums of money to benefit us all. They are true businessmen, living on the strength of their innovation and guile. While they may have temporary periods of indolence, they are valuable and favored members of our society.

As I explained to my pops, both of these descriptions have some granules of truth, but they are also corrupted by a lot of mythology. Sure, dope boyz are criminals and they are effing up many communities. But, as recent events have shown, a whole bunch of stock boys aren't much better than criminals themselves.

Dope Boyz and Stock Boys share some common traits, at least the successful ones do. To be successful in either field, you need to have generous helpings of intelligence, courage and ruthlessness. It also helps if you understand numbers and also do a good job of convincing customers that your products and services are much better than the competition's.

The simple truth is that most of the massive economic downturns in American history have been driven by the irresponsible actions of folks working on Wall Street. And most of the terrible moral ills in this country have been abetted by folks peddling illegal narcotics, whether that be crack cocaine in the 80s, or whiskey during Prohibition. Both activities have threatened the fabric of America in their own ways.

Some would argue that Stock Boys differ from Dope Boyz because the denizens of Wall Street are ultimately working for the betterment of everyone. I'm going to have to call bullshit on that one. From what I've seen, folks on Wall Street are working to enrich themselves and any ancillary benefits to the general public are strictly coincidental. They are kind of like the dope boyz who buy the local basketball teams uniforms and sneakers in an effort to recruit new customers and workers. Sure, it looks like something positive is happening on the surface, but the core is rotten.

Yet, many Americans refuse to see the connections and similarities between "the block" and the boardroom. We refuse to acknowledge the fact that dope boyz are just practicing capitalism at its most basic level, and that they have many of the same talents as corporate raiders, only less refined.

I think it's important to realize the similarities between the two professions because we need to decide what's the best method for solving the problems they create. Right now, we seem to be using the law and order method to deal with dope boyz; lock them up, throw away the key and let someone else deal with the repercussions. Although the law and order method has yet to succeed, we stubbornly cling to it and denigrate all other options.

With the stock boys, the general consensus seems to be to let them do what they do with a minimum of interference, and then let somebody else clean up the mess they make. Sure, this may lead to a predictable cycle of booms and busts, but we've been told that the alternative is much too dire to contemplate.

From my vantage point, it seems like neither approach is working and both systems are crying out for a major overhaul. In addition, it seems unfair to apply two different standards of correction to two very similar professions. Maybe it's just my need for balance, but I think there needs to be a reckoning.

What about you?



Anonymous said...

I'm only on my first cup of coffee, but this is a brilliant piece. Indeed the stock boys and the dope boys share far more similarities than either side would care to admit. In the 80's the dope boys and their product decimated communities now we have the stock boys who are helping to decimate the US economy.

ch555x said...

Makes sense! I suppose the only difference is in appearance, unless you decided not to "skip class that day"! The suit-wearing criminal (may not apply to current standards!) can easily stroll through a Winn-Dixie w/o attracting too much attention unlike the "thuggish"-looking dude w/ the bulge in his/her pants.

Anonymous said...

AMEN!!! I have been saying the same thing for years. There is very little difference between the two groups and I have always thought that if you had taken those exact same guys who are the drug kingpins and many of their captains who come out of the ghetto into middle to upper middle class white America when they were babies many of they would have grown up to be CEOs and big players in the stock market, etc and if you put those CEO's and big players on Wall Street and had put them into the heart of the ghetto they would be big time drug dealers, numbers runners, gang bangers etc. Thugs, although I would argue that the "stock boys: as you call them, even if they are pretty much on the up and up would no doubt be criminals in the hood but some of those "dope boys" might actually just be succesful non thug types in a more positive environment. Anyway in both the end result it these folks are thugs and take advantage of the weak but society views both very differently. Also if you look at lots of the old money rich families often the first one to make serious money to set up the empire was involved in something nefarious often involving vice, class but no one talks about that. Look at Joe Kennedy, Sr, patriarch of the Kennedy clan, he was raised some what upper middle b/c his Mama was frugal and opened her own store after being a maid and was an astute business woman and made some cashish, but boyfriend became RICH by being a bootlegger during prohibition. Unfortunately for lots of reasons, including racism, many of the drug lords have not had the opportunity to do the same thing. You and I are eye to eye 150% on this one, Big Man.

Anonymous said...

Meant to say, "...in both cases, the end result is" not "both the end result it" mid paragraph. I also didn't mean to put a colon at the end of my attempt to put quotation marks around stock boys and didn't mean to have the superflous word "class" after saying "involving vice." Finally, I meant to say Joe Kennedy was raised upper middle class. I need to edit this stuff before I hit send.

Anonymous said...

That piece was a Grand-Slam followed by another by Lisa J.
Excellent Analogy.

Anonymous said...

Good piece, Big Man. You didn't really bring race into this much, and you didn't really need to, but I'm gonna.

The difference here mainly is class, obviously. But...

The dope boys on the street, many of them minorities, get the full force of law thrown at them. Not so with some kid (esp. if white) in college who's selling drugs to friends, who might get far more lenient treatment (at least they did in my day; I presume they still do). I think that a black or hispanic dope boy would get far harsher treatment even if he never sold a single thing to a kid and only focused on adults like a college dealer would.

So, one wonders what would happen if a financial scandal among the stock boys was perpetrated by some financial folks who were mostly NOT white? Would the govt. be quicker to throw the book at them and make them an example? Maybe not so much right now because it might look bad with Obama in office, but historically, I suspect they wouldn't get as much slack. Just my opinion.

So, it's mostly class, but with several dashes of race tossed into the recipe, methinks.

In any case, I think we need less criminalization of drug-related stuff (like possession and pot dealing) and more community awareness and rebuilding of neighborhoods.

As for Wall St., the law needs to be in force there WAY more often, and folks need to go to jail more. Too often, crimes there are simply written off a bad judgment or over zealousness and not as the crimes they truly are.

Big Man said...


That's an interesting idea about a stock market scandal involving non-white folks. I imagine that people would use those folks as justification for keeping even more black folks away from certain jobs, the same way white folks in the media used Jayson Blair to attack diversity programs.

The funny thing, and not "ha-ha" funny, is that you never hear white people questioning the hiring of white males as a whole when a group of white males effs up. You here about new guidelines and tighter regulations on teh market, but nobody wonders if things would be better if companies stopped hiring white cats.

Anonymous said...

More women, more color...it wouldn't solve the problems, but I suspect it would mitigate them at least a little, if for no other reason than a greater diversity of approaches and attitudes.

Untouched Jewel said...

You are truly right about this subject, once a person sits down and thinks about it. Like you said, dope boys are just at the basic ladder of Economics. One thing I can say is there are some dope boys who do get hip to the game on a larger scale (like the stock boys). Prime example: New Jack City. He may have operated like a dope boy in the beginning, but once his empire in the crack game took off, he was thinking and dressing like a stock boy. It took the cops forever to build a strong case against. Sure I know Nino Brown is only a fictional character, but he's a good example though. Another one is the movie Trading Places. Eddie Murphy's character Billy Ray Valentine was only a lil two- bit hustler trying to make it. Sure enough he wasn't a dope boy, but to white America, they would have thought he was one. Anyway, when the Duke brothers did the experiment on him without him knowing, it showed he just as easily could have been one of them stock boys getting his hustle on in a much larger arena. See where I'm going with this?!

Anyway, the only difference to me between dope boys and stock boys is dope boys are more obvious about what they are doing, stock boys are secretive and hidden behind walls.

RiPPa said...

Well, a bargain is what's perceived.

uglyblackjohn said...

Nice post.
Perception is the key to the SB success.. in a kind of Eddie Haskill kind of way.
Those in Madoff's and Stanford's families are the same as the momma who pretends that her son bought her the Benz and 64" flat panel working at Mickie D's.

Raving Black Lunatic