Inner City Diary
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Crack dealers as businessmen
September 2, 2001
It was about 11pm, and I was on my way home from playing basketball at a local gym. I stopped at a filling station to check my oil, and noticed the van full of people pull in behind me.

I recognized the guy in the passenger seat as a local crack dealer. He stared at me for a bit and then said, "Hey, you're that stupid priest!" Too tired to quibble over semantics, I responded, “I guess so.”

He got out of the van as his friends watched and walked up to me. “You’ve been getting too many of my houses closed down. Leave my houses alone or somebody will do you in.”

I figured, first off, this guy is giving me way too much credit. It’s the cops and health department that have been shutting down his places, and usually only after the crack dealing and prostitution, filth and noise are so obvious that city departments are fielding complaints from many angry residents.

Nevertheless, I responded, “Your houses are crying out to get shut down. You’re so arrogant, so blatant, and everyone in the neighbourhood knows you’ve been poisoning and pimping young kids.”

His response startled me. “Listen, just stay the f--- away from my houses. It’s just business. Somebody’s gonna waste you if you mess with them again.”

He provoked the preacher in me. I let him know that given a choice between what he wants and what I figure God wants, I have no trouble making a decision, no matter what it costs me. I told him I know my day is coming sometime like everyone else’s and I’ve made my choice to go out doing good. I reminded him that, in his line of work, his day could come even sooner than mine, and he had more to worry about from the Creator than all the cops and courts in Canada.

Obviously not in the mood for a sermon, he got real close and said, “You’re f----- crazy. What’s that got to with anything?! It’s just business and you should keep the f--- away from it…” To the smirks of his friends he sauntered back to his car and they drove away, him leaning out the window and pretending to shoot me with the “finger pistol.”

As I waved goodbye, I considered how he justifies all the havoc he causes in the neighbourhood.

Maybe, in his mind, the “business” of drug dealing is like selling tires or ice cream cones. He buys and sells only to satisfy a demand. Like many businessmen, he’s worked his way up the ladder, and learned to defer the gratification of consuming his product to achieve a higher profit in selling it.

He probably tinkers with job descriptions for distributors, sets sales targets, markets based on the quality of his product and customer service. He’s developed a salesman’s demeanor. He provides incentives for workers and holds special sales to attract new customers. He monitors the competition to stay on top of trends and tricks of the trade.

Maybe this “business” mentality and the profit motive is part of what’s made him successful. Maybe the line, “it’s just business,” helps him distance himself from the human costs of poisoning and pimping. Maybe it’s just a defense mechanism.

The fact remains, however, that the violence, crime, and mortality associated with the drug trade makes this quite different from selling tires or ice cream.

Whatever he meant by “it’s just business,” I won’t buy that defense any more than I’ll buy the drug itself.
Copyright 2001
Rev. Harry Lehotsky
Rev. Harry Lehotsky is Director of New Life Ministries, a community ministry in the inner-city of Winnipeg, Manitoba.
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Contact info:
New Life Ministries
514 Maryland Street
Winnipeg, Mb R3G 1M5
(204) 775-4929
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