Life in the ‘War Zone’ Gives A Different Perspective By PATRICK K. McCULLOUGH, Commentary

Friday April 01, 2005

The commentary by Bill Hamilton (“Disarming Violence: Three Choices,” March 29-31) presents a nice convenient package for commenting, but fails to accurately portray important aspects of the situation. It is but the latest from among the people who pontificate between lattes, cop-bashing, and massage appointments. Far from being illuminating, it muddles the controversy by framing incongruous circumstances as the same. It also shows a bit too much of the self-righteousness hypocrisy the Bay Area is renowned for. Much like other cases of officious largesse, the choices proffered don’t fit the actual situation. I’m getting used to people who, by age alone, should know better. More than one professional writer, among them inappropriately anointed and self-appointed spokespersons for the Black community, have wrongly referred to my act of self-defense as vigilantism, in spite of the fact that the word choice is obviously incorrect and that I have publicly criticized vigilante acts. 

We needn’t spend much time analyzing his unexplained conclusion that everyone is very lucky Ms. Smith did not try to use a gun. Apparently under the circumstances reported in the press, she had no opportunity or need to defend herself with physical force. Indeed she was literally at the mercy of her remorseful assailant, who, luckily, was amenable to her merciful plea. 

My family has never felt we were held hostage, but presumptuous Bill feels comfortable making his statement for us. To the contrary, I feel free as a bird and have always been bemused by those whom presume I haven’t taken the Emancipation Proclamation to heart. I feel so free that I look with disdain upon those who would so forsake their responsibilities to the law-abiding neighbors of his workplace who live in—rather than visit—“war zones,” that rather than report the malignant criminal behavior of drug dealers, they would unashamedly say about their relationship: “We made a deal.” 

Unlike some visitors, it didn’t take a period “over time” for me to recognize the plight of my brothers and sisters in the streets, for I was born among them. A neighbor and I have talked with many of the youth and offered help over the years. We’ve met with youth organizers and have offered to teach electrical, carpentry, and other building trades at the recreation center from which drugs were sold. I have helped several youngsters repair their vehicles and even given some of them my home number to call if they need legal help. I haven’t been a visitor or interloper, but someone whose life has been formed in the black community. I know all about the pathos and aspirations, hope and possibilities; far better, I dare say, than a person who visits the neighborhood to cut wood. Certainly using a cheap labor pool of entrepreneurial pushers is in the spirit of capitalism and down right convenient to boot, but I wonder how many West Oakland residents can claim their lives have been improved by folks who make deals with thuggish drug dealers. 

In his exposition, like many officious liberals, he fails to deal with the important aspect of race. Ms. Smith, and I’ll bet Mr. Hamilton, are whites dealing with black criminals. In reality, black people are far more likely than whites to be the victim of black criminals perpetrating violence. It’s easy to choose to be unarmed if your choices also include simply not going to the dangerous area. It seems all too easy, but fashionable, for some to impute their choices to others whose lives are different. Bill only had to deal with property damage and apparently left after office hours. In my case, after having survived one ambush beating by three thugs upset that I reported them to the police, I had to deal with one gun about to be pointed at me from among a mob that had at least one other gun. Yes, there could have been another outcome: I could have been the subject of a chalk outline on the sidewalk. 


Patrick McCullough is a City of Berkeley employee and a North Oakland resident.