When I first embarked on this OaklandVoices journey in May 2012, I could not have imagined the many places and situations that this experience has taken me to. I have had the opportunity to meet new people, grow, reflect, and learn. As we draw to a close, I and now faced with a new challenge: so, where do I go from here? How will I go about continuing to share stories about the Town?
There is a lot that sits heavy on my heart right now. Everyone has the right to their opinion and vote – and like them, I can only share from the lenses of my experiences. In being a public health practitioner and educator for nearly 30 years, I have seen and felt a lot. The good with the bad. The ups and the downs. The forward progress and the backsliding. In my work, I have been on the ground/in the frontline, in the classroom, out in the streets, in the administrative role, in senior centers, on campuses, etc. Serving the young and old. And what I see coming down the pike scares and angers me. Scares me because I know that folks that I serve, and folks in my family and immediate circle are going to struggle significantly over the course of the next four years. I know, you might say that folks have already ready struggled, but here are a few examples. I’m angered because of the apathy I feel is permeating this society. I used to co-lead a program that worked to help uninsured folks enroll under the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare). Yes, the system wasn’t perfect – but how many times was it yanked, pulled, and gutted before it passed congress? I digress. But we worked to enroll folks who were severely ill and didn’t even know it. I’m talking 40 and 50 year old men that the last time they went to the doctor was when they were 18. The same folks that when they felt “real bad” went to emergency instead of routinely seeing a primary care physician for routine check ups. Yes, it’s easy to put blame on the individual, or site cultural norms, but what about the system? With this new administration coming in, they say they want to take “ObamaCare” away. So what will the uninsured be left with? Another example, at the end of my class yesterday, one of my students asked advice on her career path. She wants to do public health work focused on HIV/AIDS in the LGBT community. The excitement and passion in her voice as she talked about ways she wanted to help people. But my heart sank when she said, “but I’m scared I won’t be able to do this work because I’m undocumented – what if I get deported in the next 4 years?” I wanted to cry. What do you say to that? “Oh, you’re good – don’t trip?” And even if this administration takes a turn while he is in office – how will that stop the train of the most vile and visceral behaviors of not only some of their supporters, but random bozos who feel they can say and do whatever they want to others that are of a different race, ethnicity, orientation, background, etc.? Again, you may say that’s already happening – and if you do, I ask how do you think we should stop it? Have you ever tried to stop it? What do you do when you see this? It’s also important to note that in administrations like the one that is coming, health, education, social services, and art programs are the budgets that get significantly reduced or eliminated. Lastly, you realize that a potential cabinet member in this administration wants to bring back “stop and frisk.” If you are old enough, try and remember what that was like. If you are not, do your research. I worry about the folks in my immediate circle that will be recipients of it. And I worry about some law enforcement folks in my circle that are trying to bridge better relations with the community. In some instances – the same folks will be on both sides of that coin. Again, I can only share the lenses of my experiences.
Many thanks to Happiness Engineer, Andy C., for the help in regaining access to my blog. 🙂 You rock!
A couple of months ago I was the witness of a crime. It happened so fast, yet things seemed to go in slow motion, all at the same time. It was early evening. The street lights barely flickering in the glow of the sunset. The breeze was calm, with a tinge of humidity woven in. It was a calm and beautiful evening. I was running errands when two perpetrators caught my eye. I felt guilty for pegging them as such – one was the same skin tone as mine, and the other was a shade darker. They were young, they were Black, and they were males. In my head and my heart was a tug of war, and a telepathic conversation that I hoped they were receiving via my glances. “Whatever you are thinking of doing, please, please don’t do it.” They didn’t heed my message. In the blink of an eye, they took a person’s personal belongings. He gave chase, but they were too fast. I called the police – who was to say that weapons wouldn’t have been drawn? Or someone could have gotten hurt or killed? I couldn’t just let this event happen without helping. What if I were the victim?
Approximately 10 minutes later, the police arrived. Several witnesses stepped forward, including me. Call me a snitch – so what. If the same thing happened to you, wouldn’t you want someone to speak on your behalf? Yet, I still felt a sense of sadness and frustration. Why didn’t those guys just walk away? As I was giving my statement to the officer, he mentioned to me how this was his beat, and that he had only been gone for 20 minutes to serve as back up on a shooting call across town. “I was just here,” he said, “if only I had had been here, this wouldn’t have happened.” In that moment I wondered, what if the officer had been there? What would have transpired? Would his presence have made these guys take a second guess about their potential actions, or would they still have carried out their mission? If the officer were there, would he have felt threatened and needed to use force or let off some warning shots to make them stop? If the officer had been there, would the place that these young men last stood become their memorial? A curb covered with candle wax, liquor, and flowers? Or would their names be hash tagged along with #HandsUpDontShoot? What if? Given the outcomes that the poor combination of itchy trigger fingers and dark-skinned males continue to have, in addition to past and present transgressions, as well as my own lived experience – it’s hard for me to say that anything positive would have resulted from his presence. And that’s sad. It’s sad because it doesn’t have to be. It’s sad for the children that may not make it to adulthood. It’s sad for those that will be fortunate to survive, only to ravaged by the insidious nature of racism. It’s sad for the children I hope to have some day. It’s sad for the generation to follow.
However, in spite of how sad such outcomes could be – they are not destined to happen. We do not have to let such attitudes and actions continue to be the social norm. We gotta let go of this bystander mentality in order for a sprout of positivity to grow. My hope is that someday, God willing, my future son can walk down the street on a cold day with his hoodie up. And make it home alive, or without being covered in the stench of temptation, negativity, and harassment.