I posted a story on this blog about the Oscar Grant trial, the protests on the verdict, and the ensuing violence. I also posted it on my Facebook wall, and clearly the feelings still run deep. Opinions were either of not enough justice done, to just dropping it and lets just move on. I was pleasantly surprised when one of my Hip-Hop heros, “Davey D” Cook from the Bay Area, posted a comment on my FaceBook wall about me being careful not to focus on just the Black people; they weren’t the only ones doing any of the violence in Oakland.
Watching the Oscar Grant killing, trial, protests and rioting coverage on the news here in Sac and the Bay, brought back personal memories of “civil-disobedience” gone wild.
I was in LA during the riots in 1992, upset and angry that yet another Black Man was beated in LA by police…again. The police stayed mum on the situation even though it was caught on tape…again. Having to witness the trial move outside the area…again. Watching the “slap on the wrist” verdicts…again.
I saw with my own two eyes people of ALL races protesting of injustice and second-class treatment of minorities and the need for progress after the Rodney King trial and verdict. Only to be overshadowed by a SMALL group of Black people of with alterior motives, schemes to “get theirs”; I saw a group of Black youths horse collar and beat down an elderly Black man, take his wallet and groceries, and yell out “Rodney King, Rodney King” as they ran away. I also noticed that small Black group in LA slowly influenced other Black folk in other areas like Long Beach where I lived at the time. Some Black youth unfortunatley took the bait, to where a group of Black men and women in Long Beach burned an entire DMV biulding, their local grocery store, a church, and a day care center to the ground, all in the name of justice and Rodney King. I just traveled to LA last week to visit old friends and drove to that block again, there is STILL nothing there…since 1992.
I have witnessed worse tragedies that that during the 1992 LA riots, not to mention what played out on TV, i.e. the Reginald Denny beating.
Worse still, I saw the local and national media ingore city leader press conferences calling for peace, only to run in those same Black neighborhoods, hopeful to catch the next beatdown, police confrontation, or shooting, looting or next building on fire. Ironically, I saw NO rioting and looting in Bel Air, Beverly Hills, Rancho Palos Verdes, Orange County. not even UCLA and USC. This tragedy happened in the predominatley Black neighborhoods.
In that frenzy, the original, human-bonding message of fighting injustice and peace was drowned out like being hit by a tsunami.
As many incredibly outstanding and inspiring things I saw that happened in the Black neighborhoods in the greater LA area before and since the riots, that period in history was in my opinion deplorable. That was also the very thing I saw many White people in LA, time and time again, use as a reference point, a benchmark to gauge whether you were a “good Black Man” or not to get a job, be accepted to college, even what store to go into, until the OJ Simspson trial reopened those wounds.
Sorry, but it was what it was, and I lived through that.
Fast forward to 2010’s Oscar Grant killing…the pieces of injustice fall in place like a puzzle, only this time, a young Black man lay dead, caught on video, BART police are mum, the trial moved form the Bay to LA (how ironic) and the verdict was lax. History repeats itself.
My prayer was that people of ALL races in the Bay can learn from LA, focus on rallying behind the flag of fighting injustice and change for ALL people and show that a new generation can take up that stuggle. But pictures of Black youth stomping down a Oakland police car, and YouTube video of knuckleheads robbing a store of their belongings in the name of Oscar Grant, only after someone on a bullhorn pleaded with the crowd to “stay non-viloent”, made my heart sink.
I can’t fully speak on how things are done in the Latino, Hmong, Vietnamese, Italian, Irish, Russian, or any other ethnic community or cultural group in their own neighborhoods, but as a Black man, I pay more attention on how African-Americans in general are treated and treat others, just a natural thing I guess.
I went to the Dwele concert last night at Yoshi’s in Oakland (great time by the way), and out of curiousity went to the areas reported on the local news to be the “flashpont of violence” and the “scenes of mob brutality” the media overhyped. Let the media tell it at the time, it was the birth of Al-Quaeda in Oakland. Things were calm and quiet, just like I hoped it would be. And yet, I saw the CBS Channel 5 Newsvan at the scene, and I overheard the reporter speak to the camera on the “easing mob tensions in this seemingly quiet Black community”. I heard that was the TOP story, over the BP spill, and unemployment rates and benefits.
I view and report on what I see, speak on what I feel, and hope for what better things are to come. That will never change. But two things I DO know:
1. If it bleeds, it still leads.
2. If left unchecked and not spoken of, history will repeat itself.