The Great Plotnik

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Black Lives Matter, But.

A young woman is walking her two kids home from school in West Oakland. Unbeknownst to her, a fight between two women begins on the corner. One of the women calls her friends. The friends arrive and start firing. As the mom happens to pass by across the street, a stray bullet hits and kills her.  Headline in the paper: Another Senseless Killing in Oakland.

Dig deeper. Turns out the fight was in front of a crack house. Neighbors have complained for months about it, authorities have done nothing. When the fight began, someone called 911 immediately. It took fifteen minutes for the dispatcher to even call in the report. By the time cops arrived the damage had been done and the mom was dead.

Next will be a shrine of photos and plastic LOVE balloons on the corner. The crackheads will move to the side as they enter the crack house. Some people will blame the police, some will blame the city, most of us will just say "...well, that's Oakland."

West Oakland is gentrifying like crazy. Take BART across the bay and you see a preponderance of young white faces buried in their IPhones as they wait on the platform for their train into SF. If one of these people calls in that 911 call, does 911 respond more quickly? If a few of them complain about the crack house, do the authorities do something about it?

And, if cops were to actually raid the crack house and someone were shot, what then? What if the cop were not of the same ethnic group as his victim? What about lawsuits, and the threat of personal injury or death? If you were a cop, how much motivation would you have to jump into the dangerous middle? Wouldn't you rather avoid these issues as long as you possibly could? Wouldn't your attitude be closer to "let's let the crackheads poison themselves and hope no one innocent gets hurt?"

So yes, black lives matter, but the system is not set up to serve everyone. It is infinitely more complicated than holding up a sign or a balloon to make yourself feel better. And it does no one any good for me to say "well, that's Oakland." But there, I said it, twice.


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