I received a voicemail message recently from an Austin elder, complaining about a group of young men on a street corner harassing seniors. Specifically, she said she and other elders were basically being shaken down by these males for money. She said she contacted the alderman’s office, the 15th District police and even the mayor’s office to complain. I have no doubt she was telling the truth.

I’ve lived on the West Side my whole life and in Austin for a few years now. I know the corner she’s talking about, along Cicero near Madison. It’s often populated — morning, noon or night — by young men and a few girls, hustling and hanging out. Maybe not everyone is harassing elders.

But it’s a shame, an insult and a slap in their face to our elders to have to put up with such a mess. And it also sounds like the work, again, of those Black KKK members. They’re not an official gang or group. They are a name I and other folks have given to our neighborhood terrorists — mostly young black men killing, robbing and raping in the community.  

Unfortunately, our elders are often targeted.

A few years ago there was a group of folk running a street con on West Side elders. A man and a woman ran an old scam where they’d trick an elder into going into a bank to deposit a bogus cashier’s check in exchange for the elder’s cash. Again this came from a call from a daughter saying her mom was scammed.

One time a daughter called up saying someone was trying to steal her mother’s home, running one of those mortgage scams. Such housing scams are very prevalent in low-income communities.

The South Austin Coalition Community Council often contacts the paper about elders victimized by these scams. Whether violent or not, such crimes should be punished, and punished severely.

I don’t think folk should spend too much time trying to distinguish so-called white-collar crimes from other types of crimes, including violent ones. Financial crimes, typically white collar, cause a great deal of harm. And remember, not every crime that’s ever been committed by the white KKK is violent. Financial crimes have been committed against black folk since and before slavery.

The “poll tax” disenfranchising black voters after “emancipation” was a white-collar crime. It was a KKK crime. Having black families pay a higher price for land was a white-collar crime. Housing discrimination taking place in Chicago and other cities, from “emancipation” to the Civil Rights Movement, were white-collar crimes. Those, in fact, were some of the most sophisticated and systematic white-collar crimes ever committed on a race of people.

And don’t think that street hustlers aren’t slick to financial crimes.

A couple of years ago, the Chicago police, along with 15th District officers, uncovered a pretty sophisticated house-flipping scam taking place in Austin, orchestrated by a street gang. The Black KKK have learned well from their white counterparts. The KKK dress code isn’t only white hoods and robes. It’s also suits and ties — or gang colors.

You’d hope we’d have more black pride in our community. Of course, pride won’t stop crooked folk out there. But it’s just so disheartening to have our community under siege by these folk — black, white or whatever — and our children and our elders are the most vulnerable. Sadly, they are targeted by African-American hate mongers.

Just like when they were young, back in the days of Jim Crow and segregation, our elders can’t walk many neighborhood streets today in peace. Just as in the past, they’re preyed upon.

Let’s respect and protect our elders.

CONTACT: tdean@wjinc.com