What Has Seven “Ayes” & No Ears? – Oaklanders’ Concerns are the Nation’s Concerns
Why do people look at Oakland as an important center for resistance and change? Why are our city council meetings a battle? Because Oakland’s race and class issues are at the heart of the national discourse about the direction of the country with regard to these issues.
Throughout last night’s discussions, Bratton’s name became symbolic of an idea that we invoked to represent much more than the man himself, even more than his policies and suggestions. In most of the situations when Bratton was invoked, it was to encapsulate the utter audacity that the council we collectively put in office, would invite in someone who is considered a threat to people who are vulnerable in our community.
Our outrage was not necessarily over the $250,000 contract, which yes, is only 5% of OPD’s $5 million NSA (Riders Negotiated Settlement Agreement) compliance budget, which would have been a generous budget for a restorative at risk youth program. (1) (Although it’s an infinitesimally small percentage of OPD’s “we fucked up” budget of restitution for its victims). Our frustration came from the utter consistency, and uniformity of thought of our government. Yet again, the “leadership” of our city enthusiastically perpetuates the “yes man” circle jerk of police consulting police to reinforce and legitimize austerity and incarceration policies over social services and accountability based reform.
Our outrage came from the fact that in its first session, this shiny new city council climbs onto the platforms of last year’s mistakes and does so with with an impunity that can only come from an absolute disregard for the spirit and rule of probable cause for search, seizure and detention in law, and the total confidence that there will be no consequences for them– that the people have no recourse for accountability.
Really, this does mirror the national discourse, locally and federally. In every city in America, city “leadership” pushes out urban Latino and African American
communities HUMAN BEINGS through gentrification which is aided by corporate condo and business park strip mall developers, and enforced via policing by sheriffs who carry out bank foreclosures and evictions, and local police who brutalize and incarcerate minorities and the poor as a matter of policy. Our powerful voices of resistance cut like a knife, right to the hearts of people struggling against this process in cities that don’t have organized groups that fight together for our points of unity.
Our struggle is not merely a struggle to be heard. It is a struggle to be obeyed. We the people speak out at city council, testify in front of congress, and lobby for our rights because those of us who vote, elect these representatives to carry out the collective will of the people. Our fundamental, irreconcilable difference with our local and federal governments and those “in power” is that they believe the will of the people only extends itself to the vote– that we have elected them to consult with “professionals” and make decisions for us rather than with us.
On a local level, this disregard is devastating, as my community, my family trembles with rage and fear at the indignity of being disregarded on decisions that trend in the direction of revitalizing and building upon the crimes of the last century: criminalization and repression of minorities, the poor, and political dissidents. To put a human element to these heady ideas, from the moment that Jessica Hollie and I picked up a pregnancy test at the store, and sat with trepidation waiting for the second line on the test to appear, we’ve been talking about how to keep this kid safe. And no, black radicals, or anarchist window smashers were not our concern, it was the police and their ever enhancing license to kill young black men. Five months later, finding out that the baby was a boy was actually traumatic because she and I and many others are already grieving this child’s oppression, and he hasn’t even been born yet.
If the attitude of utterly ignoring the will of the people is locally and personally devastating, on a nationwide and international level, it’s catastrophic. In 2008, a chorus of voices literally parroted Barack Obama’s statement that, “Nothing can stand in the way of the power of millions of voices calling for change.” Why? Because people needed so much to believe that there was actually someone who would not just listen, but hear and obey as a public servant. Four years later, we have the categorically least productive and least popular congress since World War II– and we were literally engaged in a nuclear war. (2)
The belief that nothing can stand in our way is a delusion that in which we can no longer afford to indulge. Pat Kernighan, by the selective application of the word “sane” more than implied that perspectives and voices of dissent are illegitimate by function of insanity and we have to ask ourselves why, to her, the constituency showing active dissent is insane. (3) I think the answer lies in last night’s refrain, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” People like Kernighan, Gallo, and the president himself know that we will show up every week in dissent, and the result will always be the same: they’re gonna do whatever the fuck they wanted to do in the first place.
I will never be a person to stop the discourse. I’ll leave that to Gallo and OPD. (4)
But what I will say is this: don’t get hopeless that the government isn’t listening, that’s not how change is made. The real power for change that came out of last night is the mutual aid, and unity we generated amongst ourselves. There are unforeseeable forces at work here, that come from being unafraid of standing together. The connections we make today can be the catalyst for progress tomorrow, but only as long as we continue to not only fight, but attempt to sustain each other throughout. Which is why many people are calling for us to take the solutions we brought to city council, to OGP on Thursday, 01/24 at 5pm so that we can start making them a reality. (5)