By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
What troubled him was not so much the media's approach as his response. "I started to ask, Are these the right questions? And what gives me the authority to answer these questions? You know, a lot of people got exposure after the '92 rebellion, but it didn't lead to anything. It didn't change anything." He went over to a closet full of videotapes, pulled out a tape of his appearance on a TV news program in Los Angeles, Midday Sunday, and popped it into the VCR. The show, billed as the first time a Crip and a Blood had ever appeared together "in peace" on a news program, was something of a historic event by media lights, but the host, Tony Valdez, seemed intent not on peacemaking but on knocking down two gunslingers as social menaces. After detailing the bloody body count of this "war" in South-Central, Valdez turned on them: "I'm sure that there are people who are watching this morning who think that that's barbaric, savage. How can you justify it?" The two guests sat speechless before his tongue-lashing. "It's incredible! . . . Where are your morals?" Valdez closed by asking whether either of them would still pull a gun on a rival gang member. "Would you do it today?" he demanded. From his living room in the desert, Kershaun offered the reply he wished he had delivered: "Well, Tony, it wouldbe good for ratings, right?"
Kershaun couldn't imagine any way out of the role into which he had been cast -- and had cast himself -- short of total withdrawal. He saw how his brother shuttled in and out of jail, in and out of the media eye, and he wanted nothing to do with this crime drama anymore. "I can't understand for the life of me what he finds so interesting about being in jail," Kershaun said. After so many years of following worshipfully in Kody's path, he was coming to grips with some painful truths: His brother never was in a position to teach him, and underneath his fraternal devotion, he felt betrayed. Just about every time he had been arrested, Kershaun observed, it had involved a caper Kody had instigated. "Don't get me wrong," he said carefully, not wanting to be misunderstood. "I'm thrilled my brother wrote that book andthat it was a major success. Because it was the one moment in his life when he could say he had succeeded. A book, you have it for life. A book is knowledge." What bothered him was not his brother's authorship or the fame it had brought him, but the false image on which the fame was founded. "He wrote this book, and people everywhere read it and looked to him as someone who's been through the rough waters and succeeded. But in fact, it's quite the opposite. Because he's back in jail. He doesn't walk the walk. He's just let me down on too many things."
In the months to follow, Kershaun would find a part-time, minimum-wage position at a Blimpie down the street, but even in his desert town, where rents are rock bottom, the salary hardly covered the basics. He began working on the side on a book of his own, about the politics behind the riots and his own personal struggle to change his life. He was planning to call it Crossroads. His wife, Vanessa, would go through a difficult pregnancy that required her to stay in bed for months while Kershaun took care of her and the children and bicycled to his job at the fast-food outlet and back. For the time being, that was enough. "I used to think being a man is to be straight with your gun and to have sex with as many women as possible," he told me. "Now I'd say it's to take care of your family and make sure they are safe and have a roof over their heads. What makes a man is owning up to your responsibilities."
Moving to the desert was, of course, an extreme and shaky remedy for Kershaun Scott. It wasn't likely to be far enough away to flee the world that he was so much a part of, as the framed picture of his gang in the living room indicated -- or to escape the culture of celebrity. Even in the desert, after all, the TV's in the living room, the phone's ringing, and your toddler is pulling the legs off action figures.
From the bookStiffed: The Betrayal of the American Man, by Susan Faludi. Copyright ©1999 by Susan Faludi. Reprinted by permission of William Morrow & Co., Inc.