The System And Lakeisha

By Jim Watkins

I have often said that in our so-called “free society” we are all slaves to the economy. Without money we are frozen individuals, we are inhibited from moving about freely. The issue of race conflict at its core is the reality that money – or the lack of it – is the great equalizer of all people. If you don’t have money, you are like a car without gas, you can’t move.

I would like to add a caveat to this paradigm, and addendum if you will, that we are all hampered by and sometimes caught into what we call “the system,” the legalities of a modern society, a landscape of rules and regulations that are meant to prevent harm and wrongdoing, but sometimes also act to exacerbate a single commission so that it snowballs into what we saw happen last Sunday night in Las Vegas when Lakeisha Holloway plowed her vehicle into a crowd, killing one, injuring 40 others.

The system broke Lakeisha – who had up until that point, managed to stay out of its reach.


Even felons know that once the system get’s you into its claws, it is like black hole, its gravity just keeps pulling you back in. Once you are “in the system” of criminal justice the chances of escaping it are diminished.

Lakeisha was a model student who also happened to be homeless when her drunk mother threw her out on the street when she was a teenager several years earlier.

Lakeisha persevered then and continued to finish high school, even receiving praise and awards from fellow students and administrators. Lakeisha not only got her self off the streets, but she got a decent job with the Oregon Forest Service. Shortly thereafter, she had little baby girl.

On one particular day while driving, she got pulled over and because she didn’t have insurance, she was cited. Then, a short time after, she was cited again, until she eventually had her licensed suspended, and that’s when the system kicked in.

She couldn’t drive, she couldn’t work. The money stopped and her life fell apart, little by little. Fines accrued and then one day, when she may have realized that Portland, Oregon was no longer a place she should be, she took off for Dallas, Texas, perhaps to reunite with the child’s father. Along the way, her mobility lessened. No money, no room, only a car, a three-year old girl and a system that was relentlessly chasing after her. She tried to sleep in her car long enough to continue her journey, with security guards shushing her away, because overnight sleeping in your car is illegal in Las Vegas. The system pushed her until she snapped. Perhaps from fatigue, from hopelessness, isolation in a city of lost souls, or a combination of all three, Lakeisha snapped and we all know about the subsequent tragedy.

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There is no denying Lakeisha is responsible for the tragedy that unfolded, but life is not lived in a vacuum, nor does a single act define a lifetime of who we are. But when things are bad “the system” works against us and pushes us to the edge. The steps leading up to the event of last Sunday shows how grave the consequences can be for a person when hope is lost.

Do you know someone like Lakeisha, caught up in a web of society’s guardrails, losing the ability to get ahead long enough to put things right? Being a single mother trying to do things right is almost impossible. I have seen far too many mothers lose the battle slowly, but sometimes it was that one voice, that one phone call, that one drop by and see if everything is okay that can change a life.

The system can be unforgiving, let us hope it doesn’t find its conclusion in the taking of everything that Lakeisha has left.

To be clear, the real victims are the ones who got maimed or killed when Ms. Holloway’s car plunged into them outside of the Bellagio Hotel on the Vegas strip. But a step back and a wider landscape shows that we all ultimately pay the price when a simple phone call from a friend or a caring voice and guidance from a stranger might have prevented all of this from happening.

Jim Watkins hosts Your Wake Up Call on AM 820 News. Follow him on Twitter @JimTheTalker.