First off I would like to thank you for “Undercurrents.” J. Douglas Allen-Taylor generally hits the mark, and his stuff on Oakland has exposed Chip Johnson for the gossip columnist he is. I must take Jean Damu to task, though, for his recent commentary. I know Damu and admire his union work and his solidarity work, but his piece on “Black America and the Police” is almost embarrassing. I mean it was a step up from the garbage that was Mr. Anderson’s commentary, but in a way like it.
I have worked with young people in Oakland since 1965. I have run a community center, continue to be an educator and coached as well. I have worked with our delinquent population as the Coordinator of the Court and Community Schools of Alameda County and retired as the Assistant Principal of Oakland Tech, my old high school. First off, this article was full of unnecessary hyperbole. The statistics on prison populations are bad enough without coming up with no source for the inflated figure of 50 percent used. The quote from Mixon’s sister, but tell me brother, here was a dude with no job, driving in East Oakland with a new car, rolling on dubs and armed to the teeth. Maybe not a monster, but how about predator? I will not say “there but for the grace of God I could have been he.” How did he find the funds for the car, why was he driving with that sort of weaponry ... could it be he was looking for other brothers and sisters to prey upon? Was he really looking for a job, or someone to take off on?
The comparison to a classic film, The Battle of Algiers, is totally specious. “Occupation,” hell; the “occupiers” are the thugs that hold our community hostage and enforce a “you will be killed if you snitch” mentality. Thank God for the sister who led the cops to where this dude was hiding, and the brother who tried to give CPR. Man, does someone have to tell you that that statement was a total reach?
Yes, some white cops live outside of Oakland, and so do some minority cops. Hell, all four of my sons at one time or another have bought property outside of Oakland, the oldest after he and his wife were subjected to a home invasion as they walked through the door, after he picked up his wife from her longshore work. Were these Klansmen who put a gun to my son’s head with his wife on the floor and his four kids in the house? No. I guess, since they lived in East Oakland, they were just trying to get paid. I guess, because my son and his wife work and rebuild salvaged cars, these poor unemployed youth had to do something?!?!
How many of your readers have witnessed the dedication of the staff out at probation as they try to bring a little light into lives of misery? Damu, as far as I know, does not work with this population. Talk to some of the black men who coach soccer and are active in Oakland Babe Ruth. They will tell you that they teach young brothers that, yes, we live in an oppressive society, but there are ways to cope, and the first one is personal responsibility. Did you know that the two motorcycle officers might have had their guard down because they had just finished being escorts to our local Babe Ruth parade? That Hege had volunteered countless times to do duty at our high school games?
We can no longer afford the luxury of these outdated stereotypes about cops and the black community. We have black seniors who live in fear on many of our streets, and it is not fear of the cops. Get a “fricking” clue, and get out and reread the Pedagogy of the Oppressed, and try to figure out how we can stop being the worst self-oppressors in our community’s history. We have enough clowns writing news columns that serve to divide us without this tired old tripe. Damu has dedicated a large part of his life to the service of people of conscience, for that I hold him in esteem, but he is wrong on this count. We as a community need to bring the type of lessons back that our children no longer receive, those lessons that helped our forebears through the darker days of the past. We need say enough is enough. If you are selling drugs, form a cooperative (street wise) with your partners, and invest in your community not in flash and bling. But please stop killing one another over turf and material things. We need to dismiss the fools who are not constructive and are all flash. We have known historically that capitalism is unjust. There are all types of religious, educational and community groups trying to help men and women with, history like this young man had. Guys like Mixon are a part of the problem, and nowhere near the solution. Quit absolving them!
Marty Price is a Berkeley resident.