Bumped into a video in the NY Times that is part of a documentary by a college student about kids and adults in poverty-class Baltimore who ride their dirt bike motorcycles in the streets and do wheelies. I’m always nervous driving down a road when a biker is doing a wheelie in the oncoming lane…more likely to crash into me, I worry. But aside from the craft and skill, the story brings up major social issues, and the comments at the bottom of the article are worth reading too.
How do the kids find the money for such costly motorcycles? (Selling drugs and robbing homes is one answer given.)
Why do they do it? is what the filmmaker asked. They shouldn’t be allowed to endanger cars and pedestrians is another claim. And it’s illegal to even ride a dirt bike at all on Baltimore streets, so the cops are always after them.
One rider interviewed said the streets are full of drug dealers and shootings. “You will learn the right way to do all the wrong things in Baltimore City…I have a PhD in it…Yet riding is something the bikers really WANT to do.” A boy of 10-13? who’d broken his collarbone, fractured his face, lost his teeth promised to be riding again in two weeks. “I like the rush of it…I feel powerful…I am free…I can escape.”
The article and comments confront poverty, white privilege, naive liberal thinking, lack of government funds to improve poor minority living conditions and education. What do you think?
When you ride vertical on one wheel, your bike is like the hands of a clock at 12:00…so they call themselves the 12 O’Clock Boys.
Here are some provoking comments:
Michael Engel, Rockaway Park, NY
This film and the tolerant, even approving, reaction to it is a manifestation of the the type of liberal bias which says we shouldn’t expect more from these kids than their uncivilized, unlawful, aggressive, rat-pack behavior. What lives does this activity prepare these uneducated children for when they get older and try to integrate into the society at-large? Only more of the same poverty, anger, dependency and crime. Hmm, I wonder if President Obama spent his childhood having this type of “fun”. Characteristically, this is the type of item that the “Times” deems fit to print or broadcast.
Ann, Baltimore, MD
Like many of the Baltimore residents writing in, I find it hard to romanticize the riders. Yes, the subject is complex, and there is a kind of abstract beauty that the documentary may be able to communicate. But living the reality of watching these kids play out a death wish, and extend that risk to those around them on city streets, day and night? It takes your breath away to see and hear it, and inspires only dread for what could happen.
Burqueno, New Mexico
I lived in Bolton Hill for many years and remember these guys tearing down North Avenue. I also understand the terrible poverty these people endure. So you have to ask–where do they get the money for these bikes, and what if they used that money for something constructive instead? If it’s OK for the 12 O’Clock boys to ride illegally and create havoc for the thrill of it, it must have been OK for folks to break into our cars and homes, hold us up at gunpoint, shout racial slurs at us and vandalize our homes and vehicles. Instead of glorifying these idiots, how about glorifying the many people who work hard to get out of poverty in constructive ways? I know–it’s not cool enough. Way to go.