by Zappa Montag
The acquittal of George Zimmerman for the murder of Trayvon Martin in Florida, while hardly surprising, has understandably provoked lot of outrage, protest, soul-searching, and may in fact turn out to be a catalyzing moment for a new round of heightened social activism, and upheaval. I certainly hope so. Oakland is a place that is an epicenter of forces of social liberation, and repression, and a mass of contradictions that reflect these confused and difficult times we live in. There are many angles from which to write about this place, and these times, but I like to keep it pretty personal most of the time, so in that spirit, here is a little slice of the personal and political as it manifested amidst the recent street protests in reaction to the verdict here in Oakland.
July 16, 2013
As the protest march last night headed around Lake Merritt, after the stand-off at the 580 (i think we should have gone up Macarthur along the freeway personally, but anyhow..), my friend and I left the march and headed back along the lake. After walking for a few minutes we hear a commotion behind us and turn to see a group of 4 young brothas running/jogging..as they get closer, I can hear them kind of laughing, and telling eachother ..”run n@#$a, run”…not sure what’s up, we keep walking as they pass us on the opposite side of the street heading towards Lakeshore… and then soon hear another commotion behind us, and we turn to see two folks, white male and female, running and yelling..”call the police…call 9-1-1″…”they took our stuff, ….thieves…..”….aaahh…scenario explained….now the weird or funny thing was that we had just come from the Trayvon Martin protest, and it kind of seemed like both the robbers, and the robbed were also at the march…the yells to call the cops, kind of confused and amused us, as 1) the cops were all down the street at the protest and they don’t show up much even when they aren’t tied up at demo..2) where we all had been giving them hell and telling the fuck off…and I was of no mind, and really never am, to call the police and have them hunt down, arrest, and possibly maim or kill some black kids over some dumb stuff..and it is ironic that it at least appeared that protesters were calling for the cops to help when their stuff got jacked…I had already heard of a similar incident that took place at yesterday’s protest…Protesters calling cops for help is not a good look…
BUT…Had they yelled “help, stop those guys, they took our stuff”, I probably would have gone after them..probably could have helped get their stuff back too..them yelling to “call the cops” confused and deactivated me.I generally don’t like bullyish, rudeboy type behavior, and have, and am willing to, confront some kids even if I understand the anger or resentment that leads to such behavior…I have worked in many schools where I had to de escalate rowdy youth behavior, without using or gun, and rarely ever having to hurt anyone…I actually believe that wise adults, who can read social cues, and have methods and knowledge, can and should be the peace keepers, instead of armed outsiders of low intelligence (cops)..
….and the main reason that I intervene when I see kids, especially black kids, act out, is not because I am just worried for the victim, but because adults need to let these kids know that we have higher expectations out of them.. I know they might actually, and sometimes do, listen to me, partially due to my blackness and maleness. And what I try to convey is that, attacking some white person because you have the numbers, or stealing some shit, and running off laughing about it, etc…is not acceptable, and expected, and it is nothing to be proud of, and it is not revolutionary…I can respect some righteous, and brave resistance, even if it is foolish, or ineffective…You want to be tough, go use that anger against the real enemy..
Lately I hear about muggings, and strong armed robberies happening all over Oakland..It seems like it is getting even more common…I feel lucky to have never been mugged, or been the target of a violent crime (except at the hands of the police), and despite my strong feeling regarding gentrification, and institutionalized racism, and despite the fact that part of me feels like folks get what’s coming when they move into an area that is essentially a battleground in the war of containment that is being waged against black people, I do not feel that petty crime, and individual acts of anti social retaliation against white people, or attacks against people who you perceive to vulnerable or weak is something that should be ignored or encouraged. Generally obnoxious, and somewhat cowardly, behavior that goes unchecked can lead to worse actions down the road imo..Nor do I think that getting the criminal justice system involved helps either..So my questions..Can we fight loutish behavior, gentrification, racism, the prison industrial complex, and teach righteous resistance and respectful behavior all at once?, or do we continue to compartmentalize all of the issues?