I had the unique opportunity of trying to explain Martin Luther King Jr. to my children. I had to go buy books; to children it’s a compelling story. That people could be so cruel, that the world could be so unfair and that people actually kill each other over ideas. We kill each other over words. At 148 killings in the Oakland in the last 12 months, they found the assassination of one man shocking, perhaps I have sheltered them too much.
I told them racism was alive and well and that they were fully expected to make this world a better place. They answered, “What’s racism?” That’s the thing with kids, they go quickly to the hard questions. As I struggled to explain hate and how it drives human behavior my children corrected me, “mommy you’re not supposed to say hate.” Actually, you’re not supposed to act on feelings of hate and when you have those feelings you have to examine them.
In another part of Oakland an inaugural took place at the Paramount Theater. According to my Council Member Jean Quan’s email it was her inaugural. The Oakland City Council promptly re-elected Ignacio De La Fuente as council president which drew boos and hisses from the crowd. Then a series of public speakers got up and called for his ousting from the seat.
Now the Oakland Tribune and Jean Quan (remember it was her inaugural) have declared it an incident of racial hate. Poor “potty mouth” De La Fuente, who regularly cusses to the press and is rude to the public when they speak at City Council, has become the object of racial hate. Come on guys, he’s the object of an FBI investigation, there is growing concern about corruption and his sweet developer deals and the Latinos in his own district voted for Dellums. Apparently Ignacio and the Council were so shattered by the verbal attacks that they are mounting a PR war against the black community. Come on “potty mouth” De La Fuente, if you’re gonna pitch you gotta catch.
Meanwhile, Scott Haggerty Alameda County Supervisor for South County became president of the Alameda County Board of Supervisors. Supervisor Keith Carson is the outgoing president. When Scott Haggerty was asked about assuming the post after Keith Carson, he said, “He (Keith Carson) is like my brother from another mother.” Funny, no one at the Tribune said that this remark might be inappropriate. Nor did they criticize Sheriff Plummer who upon retirement said one of his only regrets was that “I wish I would have hit some people harder during the riots (in the 1960s in Berkeley).”
So I did my best with my kids. Slurs are hurtful but it’s bigoted laws and public figures that target minorities and exploit fear of particular racial groups that must be fought. It’s political campaigns that exploit mistrust and racial stereotypes like “all black men are criminals; even successful ones.” It’s the press, which due to prejudice, laziness or personal relationships with politicians perpetuates the hate. In Oakland it’s the City Council which has crippled free speech and denies access to the data which might reveal institutional hate, like crime reports. It’s public schools that only educate the privileged, it’s plastic flowers on a fence in Monclair and trash left on the streets in East Oakland. My kids have the attention span of rodents but they believe in fairness, kindness and the promise of a better world. After an hour of discussion they have a better grasp on the problem than the Oakland Tribune or the Oakland City Council.