Study Guide

Writing My Wrongs: Life, Death, and Redemption in an American Prison Chapter 7

By Shaka Senghor

Chapter 7

  • Chapter 7 starts out with a bang, literally. The police are hammering on the front door of the crack house where Shaka works in East Side Detroit. That's right, we're back to Shaka's teenage days as a drug dealer.
  • As you may recall, Miko's drug business has recently leveled up to a much fancier house, courtesy of a guy named John. In exchange for a supply of crack, John lets them use the nice house he bought back when he was living a steady middle class lifestyle, before he became a drug addict.
  • Anyway, the police are trying to knock down the door of the house, so Shaka rushes to hide all the crack.
  • Then John opens the door and eight police officers hurry in with drawn guns.
  • The officers don't have a warrant, and Shaka isn't sure whether they asked John's permission to come in. They say one of the neighbors saw a shooting in the backyard.
  • John tells them that no one has been shot or killed there that evening. This is true. But the police search the house anyway.
  • Unfortunately for Shaka and the other drug dealers, it's pretty clear to the officers that they're running a crack house.
  • Maybe it's the leftover food and booze that give it away, or the way the door is set up with equipment that most drug dealers were using at the time.
  • Or maybe it's all the customers in the basement high on drugs.
  • Anyway, the police figure it out. They aren't too happy about this. Surprise, surprise.
  • The police officers start beating the customers and searching the house and the drug dealers. One of them takes all the money in Lee's pocket, but gives it back when Lee shows him his check stub.
  • As a young white officer searches the drug dealers, he randomly punches Shaka in the nuts with no provocation, then takes all the money out of Shaka's pocket.
  • An older black officer demands to know where the dope is.
  • Shaka, who's on the floor in pain at this point, doesn't really manage to respond aloud.
  • But he tells the reader that this is the moment when he lost his small remaining respect for the police. He's only fourteen, and he says the police had no right to beat up a kid, even if what he was doing was wrong.
  • The police change tactics and ask Shaka where he got the money.
  • He says his uncle gave it to him.
  • The police say he's lying, haul him off the floor, and slam his face into the wall. Then they handcuff Shaka and take him down to the station.
  • No charges result, but the police department does keep the confiscated money as evidence. Shaka's not saying not all police officers are corrupt, but he implies that this event was a pretty unfortunate example of police corruption.
  • He says too many of the police officers he knew as a drug dealer were opportunists looking for an advantage, much like the drug dealers. It's not a great moment for Shaka's trust in authority.
  • The police raid doesn't seem to hurt business at Miko's drug house. The whole drug sales crew is making money.
  • They're addicted to the life of drug dealing, with all the money and excitement. The "excitement" includes lots of alcohol and pot, not the greatest life choices.
  • But it all gets worse when the dealers start lacing the pot with crack.
  • An older guy named Lee gets Shaka started on this, in spite of the fact that Miko has warned Shaka not to smoke crack himself. Shaka may have sold crack before this, but he didn't do it. This is one more step in his downward spiral.
  • Within about a week, Shaka's regularly smoking the crack-laced weed. Pretty soon he's spending more than he's making on his own drug habit. And he's still just fourteen.
  • Things go really bad not long after when Shaka and a pal try to set up on their own selling crack. They steal one of Miko's bags of crack, worth a thousand dollars.
  • But the business end of the plan goes awry when they smoke the crack instead of selling it. Shaka doesn't have anywhere else to go, so he's in his usual neighborhood when Miko comes looking for him.
  • Miko's pretty shocked when he finds out Shaka has been smoking crack. Guess even drug dealers can be surprised by what drugs do to people.
  • But Miko's hired muscle, two guys who are there to intimidate people, aren't surprised.
  • The two guys want to beat Shaka up, and Miko knows he'll lose his street cred if he doesn't let them do it.
  • As the dudes are hauling Shaka into a house to beat him, he begs Miko to relent and promises to work off the money he's just cost Miko.
  • Miko says, "How you gonna work off a sack when you a crackhead?"(7.26)
  • This is kind of the moment when it all sinks in for Shaka. He's even more upset about being called a crackhead than he is about the imminent beating. But he has to admit to himself that he's now an addict.
  • Miko punches Shaka in the face and his hired guys beat Shaka till he's literally lying in a pool of blood.
  • Miko does stop them, but not till Shaka's in pretty bad shape. Miko tells Shaka to stand up and clean himself off, and to wait at the house until they return.
  • Shaka considers trying to shoot them with a rifle he knows is in the house, but he doesn't have the heart to shoot anyone even if he could get to the gun.
  • Shaka decides that it's all his own fault. He knows that he betrayed Miko, and that Miko actually stopped the beating a little sooner than he usually would have. But Shaka also feels betrayed, because he thought of Miko as a big brother, and now Shaka realizes that he's basically just hired help to Miko.
  • This is a pretty tough moment, because Shaka feels like he can't trust anyone. Shaka promises himself that he will kill the next person who physically attacks him.
  • Shaka lurches to the bathroom and inspects the damage. He's worried that Miko and the muscle will come back and kill him, but he hears them leave the house.
  • Shaka thinks about his parents and their belief in God (specifically in Christianity). He wonders how God could let this happen to him, and he curses the blond-haired, blue-eyed version of Jesus he learned about in church. He wonders where his parents are, too.
  • Eventually a woman named Sharon who lives upstairs comes down and finds Shaka. Sharon clearly feels sorry for Shaka. She asks if he's okay, then washes his face with cold water.
  • She also tells him to get out of the drug game and stay away from Miko.
  • Shaka feels ashamed and resentful, but he knows Sharon is 100% right about that.
  • The next day Shaka goes to his sister's house. Her name is Tamica, and she starts to cry when she sees Shaka's injuries. Shaka and Tamica have fought for each other over the years, and she says Shaka can stay with her as long as he needs to.
  • He tells her most of the story, but leaves out the fact that he's been smoking crack-laced marijuana.
  • The ominous just keeps coming. Shaka says this was a chance for him to walk away from drugs, but unfortunately the pathological behavior of drug dealing had gotten into him already.
  • He says it was just days until he headed back to it.