Luke Bergmann, in Getting Ghost: Two Young Lives and the Struggle for the Soul of an American City, presents the lives of two African American former convicts. They trade on illegal drugs in order to make ends meet. In Detroit, it seems that the drug menace has affected many of the young Black young men who join gangs in order to have a means of livelihood. The War on Drugs is a major component of the U.S. criminal justice because of its harmful effect in the country. For a long time, the fight against drugs has taken a racial twist, affecting the African American men who most of the time in selling of drugs. Most of these men get arrested over drug trade and spend many years behind bars; however, upon their release, they face discriminations that affect them for the rest of their lives. In Bergmann’s book, it seems that Rodney Phelps and Dude Freeman are victims of a system that forces them to sell drugs in the streets and ‘spots’.
From Detroit Juvenile Detention Facility, Bergmann follows a number of Black boys in order to study their lives after their terms. He narrows down on Rodney Phelps and Dude Freeman because of their willingness to share their life experiences and activities. He observes that the two boys get involved in juvenile gang life because it is a way of escaping the harsh Detroit life where many industries have closed as entrepreneurs opt for other cities (Bergmann 67). Most of the disadvantaged young boys join the gang life in order to find belonging. According to Bergmann, most of these African American boys have higher goals in life. Given a chance, most of them want to be engineers, lawyers, architects, and other professionals. Therefore, gang life is a way of finding comfort and belonging. Some of them sell drugs in order to find money that can help them ‘get ghost’ into normal better lives.
African American boys have been pushed into a situation that exposes them to the police radar because of the justice system and the dimmed prospects for future advancement. For instance, he notes that 60% of the people who buy drugs such as heroin from Rodney Phelps and Dude Freeman are Whites from suburbs. The remaining 40% are the poor Blacks from the city (Bergmann 102). Bergmann is White and he confesses of meeting many of his former schoolmates on their way to buying the heroin. Such a scenario paints the picture of the Blacks who pay the price of the drug trade while the Whites escape. The Detroit drug problem is contributed by the majority of the rich White while the poor young Blacks pay the price for the crime.
The economic hardship has condemned most of the boys like Rodney Phelps and Dude Freeman back to the streets as the only way to survive. After the juvenile experience, they desire to lead a different life (get ghost) and achieve more in their future; however, the family economic hardships force them to get back to the drug trade. Therefore, other than the tough War on Drugs, the government should also put in place measures to reintegrate the Detroit African Americans into society by empowering them. All of the boys in the gang life desire a better life through education in order to acquire knowledge for the growth of the economy.
Bergmann, Luke. Getting Ghost: Two Young Lives and the Struggle for the Soul of an American
City, New Press, 2009.