Facing Race in Oakland After Tragedy

By Guest Columnist Mar 24, 2009

by gcolumnists Charles McDonald and Nick James Wake up, America! Conflict between Oakland’s Black community and law enforcement officials were NOT born yesterday. Hot headed tensions between our community and law enforcement officials predate the 1968 murder of Little Bobby Hutton, have continued to rise throughout the space and time leading up to the Jan 1st, 2009 video recorded shooting death of Oscar Grant by BART police, and have reached new heights in the aftermath of the most recent tragedy: the murderous rampage of Lovell Mixon, who cold bloodedly took the lives of four Oakland Police officers in East Oakland before his life was taken last Saturday. Indeed, tensions are high, but the stakes are even higher for young Black men in the city of Oakland. Let us be firm when saying Lovelle Mixon is not a martyr. At best, Mixon’s actions defy hope in human life. However, this unconscionable tragedy is NOT an opportunity to further the isolation, negation, and dehumanization of young Black men in Oakland and in cities across the United States. Throughout the next few weeks there will be much public volleying back and forth condemning the police state in Oakland and the prevalence of crime in the Black community. However, discourse laced with hate and bigotry lends itself useless while the day-to-day operation of the Town continues to be riddled with structural flaws. Finger pointing aside, we must ALL deal with the facts, 17.2% of Blacks in the city of Oakland are unemployed and 24.5% live in poverty. Excuses aside, these alarming statistics perpetuate crime and inequality, and have a profound impact on EVERY resident of Oakland, not simply those within the Black community. Between the untimely deaths of Oscar Grant, Lovelle Mixon and the four Oakland Police officers recently slain, the city must find a middle ground, better yet a higher calling to stand in solidarity with every citizen. Oakland has the opportunity to view these senseless murders as the apex of terror and fear and dissuade future occurrences through a stringent effort to revitalize and redevelop every community ravaged by poverty and economic inopportunity. Our socio-political community is full of powerful multi-racial organizers, artists, families, educators, and elders eager to replace Oakland’s national image of violence and political catharsis with our shared values of unity, justice, equity, and inclusion for ALL Oakland residents. This is no small task. It requires the commitment of every one of our community stakeholders to stand together and converge on these values motivated by our potential, sustained by belief, and nurtured through love. Charles McDonald is the Statewide Alliance Organizer for the Education and Racial Justice nonprofit, Californians for Justice. He lives in Oakland, California. Nick James is Director of Special Projects for the East Bay nonprofit Youth Together. He was born, raised, and is currently living in Oakland California.