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Town Sick

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 27, 2009 by kinganyi

I moved to Los Angeles from Oakland seven months ago, and ever since I left, my home city has been experiencing one tragedy after the next.
First, the economy crashed and while our nation was coming to terms with being in a recession, my thoughts were with those in Oakland who have always been struggling.
Then on New Year’s Day, 22-year-old Oscar Grant III was shot in the back…lying face down by a BART Transit policeman, in front of a crowd of people. Bystander videos of the murder inspired rioting and protests against police brutality, unhealing a wound within the community that’s been oozing for decades. Then, last weekend before the city could catch its breath, a wanted parolee, killed four Oakland Police officers. The city is having worse luck than
Growing up as a black man in Oakland, I always felt vulnerable to thugs like police killer Lovelle Mixon, and to police officers like former transit cop Johannes Mehserle. Mixon preyed on Oakland residents before he killed four officers sworn to protect and defend, and Mehserle was one of those protect and defend guys who unprovoked, shot an unarmed black man. For me the tension of being caught between such forces, always caused uneasiness in my stomach, even just walking down the street.
As new information comes out about the gunman, like him being a child rapist, I cannot sympathize with this character or feel sorry for his fate. I’m really upset because he is an example of how the heinous actions of one are applied to a whole group of people. This cop-killer has made things much worse for the common black man walking the streets, and it was already pretty hard.
I was walking down the street after work one night and was greeted by an officer this way: “Are you on parole or probation or carrying any concealed weapons?” I told him about my grocery store standard issue box cutter and he laughed at me and granted me permission to go home. That was my introduction to someone hired to serve and protect my community and enforce the law. It made me feel less than human, and definitely less than American.
Even in my short time spent in LA, I’ve been pulled over on foot for “fitting the description” of a suspect.
Just Like Police are suspicious to see if the common black man is thugging, thugs are paranoid that the common black man might be the undercover police, or a “snitch.” Snitch means someone who is a paid informant or a criminal who testifies against another criminal for less time. The word, however, has been interpreted in several communities to mean anyone who dials 911 for any reason. Anyone whose dialed 911 and called police over to anywhere would be considered a snitch to a lot of people. Who wants to face that castration within their own community? Especially when calling police over usually results in you being scrutinized and searched.

My mother told me that even though she misses me, she’s glad I’m away, because she feels it isn’t safe. I’ll be alright, I just won’t pack that hoodie.

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