Monday, December 10, 2007

In My Oakland Gristle


Man listen. There is an article in the Chronicle today
about Oakland
and murders. It had me livid, inspired,
depressed AND heated all at once.
You can read it here.

In the last five years, 557 people were slain on the city's streets, making Oakland the state's second-most murderous city, behind Compton.

Most victims are young, black men who are dying in forgotten neighborhoods of East and West Oakland.

A handful of their killers, speaking from prison, describe an environment where violence is so woven into the culture that murder has become a symbol of manhood.

The inmates say the only difference between these neighborhoods and prison is the absence of walls. The same hierarchies apply - the meanest rise to the top. It's a survival skill that ensures ownership of drug corners, a sense of self-worth, female attention and protection from attack.

See. Here is the context.

Yesterday, I was speaking to Birkhold about how difficult it is to
write fiction.
My problem is that I am attempting to write about
real things
I have seen AND I am cautious, perhaps, too cautious
about perpetuating sterotypes about Black people, specifically,
Black teenage mommas.

His response was gone head and write about it, because if you do,
and your readers feel you,
THEN YOU CAN take them to
another place. And I had nothing
to say to that. He was right.

So this morning. I woke up energized. And started on my stories.

Then this article comes up. And it had me and never really quite let go.

I must have spoke to 5 people today about it, including my father.

Now, if a resonable person reads this article, it serves as evidence that
East Oakland just needs to be bombed a la Philadelphia "MOVE" and
because there is no redeeming it.

And the comments (all 486 of them), which I normally enjoy reading as a
sort of journalism anthropology experiment, I couldn't bring myself to read
I can't take what those folks have to say on this topic. They have no
"skin in the game" so what room do they have to talk?

The more I thought about it the more I realized why the article about
why it was egregious.

The article offers NO historical context for why East Oakland, and Philly,
Detroit, D.C., Newark, Pittsburgh and most of the RUST BELT
have evolved to be the way that they are.

For example, there are NO MORE factory jobs in East Oakland. Cats who
had factory jobs now operate in the underground economy.

Second welfare to workfare was egregious WITHOUT an educational component.
You and I both know that education is what gives people options in this country.
Straight up and down.

And if you disagree with me, then why was it ILLEGAL to teach
an enslaved African's to read. Right? Right.

Thirdly, prisons are the new steel mills. White rural counties LOBBY to get jails
built in their counties because of the jobs that they create.

Fourth, if a Black child encounters a babysitter for a teacher in two years,
in either first, second or third grade, they will likely NEVER recover.
Those years are so precious that the harm done academically takes and act
of congress to recover from.

So yeah.

Im vexed.

Oh. And on the bus home tonight I witnessed an E.S.O dude
going back on forth with two women. The women were obviously a couple
and he disprected one of them and THEY WERE not having it.

Street dude + lesbian couple + BUS = BAD combo.

And I am thinking to myself, please don't provoke her.

I can feel the situation escalate. He starts talking another DUDE about
BROADS that mess with OTHER BROADS and all I am thinking is
NOTHING good will come of this.

Just then, a cat walks back and says,

"Yo, I hear yall, and I just want you to know that my daughter here
seen 3 murders and she is only 5. She is five."

He pointed at the ladies and said, " You have your point" and points to him
saying "He has his point, but it ain't nothing worth getting smoked over".

Things were smoothed over between the two parties.

And the gentleman took his daughter and sat down.

At that very moment I thought to myself. This is what the article missed.

The perspective of someone who has their "skin in the game".


What was the last article you read that had you livid?

How did you respond?

was the last time you had to deescalate a situation?

Why so much violence? ( For the record, I get violence, I understand it
I had to in order to survive. I am asking YOU, why so much?)



Nexgrl said...

Man M.Dot,

Deescalate a situation......That's my job day in and day out.

I still haven't read the article. I have it, I just could't read it. I will probably read it tonight.

I see so much mess everyday, I don't want to read any depressing mess.

M.Dot. said...

I know.

Thats that real.

And quite honestly, I have been pursuing volunteer opportunities.

But on the real, I am of the mind to concurrently keep in my head the fact that WE are dealing with people, people with histories, habits and ways about 'em.

Read it.

Cuz I have something else to go with it.

Nexgrl said...

I read it and I want to know what the killing statistics look like if they include the brown youth as well.

the prisoner's wife said...

1. not really an article, but the LA times homicide blog always makes me feel a way. we are at 773 murders this year & still killing.

2. i responded with a post. also, i talk to my students about gang violence (one of our main issues here) & ask why they want to be down. what's the point?

3. every damn day. my kids are itching to get into fights daily. it's like they're constantly trying to flex & test each other. when did kids get so mean, yo??

4. why so much violence? our country is violent. our government says...if it wants something, it will take it with force. this is how it has always operated (manifest destiny). our culture (american pop culture) celebrates violence & strong-arm tactics ("scarface the movie did more than scarface the rapper"). we make heroes out of killers and mobsters and gangsters because they SEEM successful. i was watching American Gangster (the tv show), and the dude from B'more said something i thought was SO profound...he was like..."nobody can win at this game. we were all geniuses and we still got caught. all of us." that make me think. all these news kids coming up think they are so smart, that their particular brand of the game is going to save them, but in the won't. they will fall like the rest.

5. yikes @ seeing three murders @ age five. that's CRAZY!!

i distinctly remember hearing shots outside my house (regular thing), then seeing a man dead on the sidewalk right in front of our lawn. i was 8. that shit stays with you, forever. it's sad that our kids have to grow up to witness such things.

6. did you hear about the Supreme Court ruling saying that judges can ignore the mandatory minimums for crack rock? a whole lot of hoppers might be coming home.

Trula said...

This post is DEEP

Last article I read that has me livid was on the blog What About Our Daughters about a baby that was raped and died.

I don't de-escalate any situations like this. I live in greater Cleveland area and left the hood because of mess like this. Situation like this comes up, I run, I won't front.

Why so much violence? hate. self-hate. Blackamericans, so many hate themselves and anybody else black. It's a cultural tragedy. I have hope it will change.

M.Dot. said...

@ TPW.....I saw that shit about crack coke discrepency...and had a convo w/my homie about that sh*t and how the Pen is fulla hella dudes that smoke crack but also hustle it to keep they addiction going.

60% of them cats are NON violent drug offenders, meaning people who smoke AND sell.

Not to be crude, but I really need someone to break down the street monetary value of what triggers the MIN sentencing.

M.Dot. said...



I am glad you stopped by.

I am putting together a post on LAINKS and WAOD is one of them.

You will be vexed reading her ish.

M.Dot. said...


TPW. I am trying to one page a fiction a day.

GIRL THAT SH*T is hard.

Ironically, witnessing that sh-t on the bus gave ya girl some material.

Imma add your LA TIMES MURDER blog to my link post.

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