The look in their eyes tell a story of a 500-year regime of violent disregard. When their black hands reach out to me from the concrete, wrapped in clothes that never come off, the historical assaults on the earth’s son’s and daughters becomes my responsibility. To casually walk by without seeing, feeling into the manifestation of our shortcomings would be to reenact a violence they experience daily.
Is it any wonder, then, that when I see the sons and daughters of the oppressor class roaming those same streets, on feet and on bike, where these forgotten people once lived that I get an anger so deep within me that images of a Nat Turner rebellion flash across my awareness?
West Oakland’s forgotten spaces are the new hot shit that many of the original inhabitants can no longer afford.
This theme of moving into spaces, freely, with disregard for the people who have established a way of being in those spaces is as old as Christopher Columbus. The financial bottom line that defines the American Dream acts like beams that uphold violence as a dark cultural tradition.
Freedom ain’t free and there ain’t nan one of us that is … free. We walk through these indigenous quarters, oblivious to the great work that was done for thousands of years to preserve the soulful integrity of these lands, wholly tethered to lies about the true nature of humanity and the reality that sustains us.
So obliterated forests don’t move us. People shattered under the oppressive demands of capitalism, losing their lives in the struggle for decency, doesn’t awaken any urgency in our consciousness. We move on to the next thing.
Gentrification is a buzzword. Old growth redwoods that were hundreds of years old lost their lives so we could build this place. This individualistic trend attached to capitalism that puts the me and mine above and before our common humanity and the earth that keeps us is a plague – and it is violent.
There’s not one of us that is not borrowing life from the history of the earth and humanity. It is no small matter that these apes in suits act with less regard for life than the apes that live in the jungle. It is contagious disease … a plague that you should hope you don’t catch.
Money is not the problem. The way in which currency is utilized in the buy and sell marketplace is not “the root of all evil”. The divisive ideas that plague our consciousness and persuade us to distance ourselves from the lives of other human beings (for whatever reason) and our absolute dependence on the earth is the problem. The resolution of and dissolution of these divisive barriers in our thinking is the greatest task for our human clan. It kills, quite literally.
So as I’m walking down telegraph and an elder woman who looks like my Auntie approaches me in her brokenness and asks for me to help her to get something to eat – I have to help. This historical disregard that has the streets littered with human bodies that barely hang onto their existence is my responsibility … and yours.
Yes, people are responsible for their lives. Yes, people should fight tooth and nail so that they don’t end up on the streets like millions of other Americans. Yes, many of these people have made some horrible mistakes with their lives and landed in positions that they cannot get out of (many others haven’t). None of this means that we should disregard their humanity.
Oakland, California is the new hip shit. It is one of the world’s great cultural Mecca’s. How do we bring groups of people together to have dialogues that allow the transition it is going through to be different than what has been happening historically? How do we make space for everyone? Is this even possible?
It truly is our collective responsibility. Our disregard only reifies cultural violence that has been going on since the first Europeans entered these lands.
Enter into and engage others in this conversation.