This is one of those pieces that reminds me why I chose this profession (at least for the time being). One of the most important things a journalist can do is add to the discourse on a controversial topic in a constructive manner. I hope this article does just that. The history of the police and the black community in Oakland–and the U.S. as a whole–can, at best be described as contentions, volatile at worst.
Mistah F.A.B. Addresses Oakland Police Shootings | MUSIC NEWS (Originally published at BET.com, broken link)
To say that the citizens of Oakland have a contentious and volatile relationship with their police departments would be an understatement. Decades of police brutality that occurred within the confines of the city exploded into the consciousness of the nation and the world earlier this year when Oscar Grant, an unarmed black man was shot in the back on New Year’s Day at an Oakland transit station.
The wounds from Grant’s killing were reopened when four Oakland police officers were gunned down last Saturday. Their killer, 26-year-old Lovelle Mixon was also slain by police. BET.com spoke with Oakland hip hop artist and activist Mistah F.A.B. to get his thoughts on both tragedies and what steps need to be taken to begin the long delayed healing process between the Oakland police and the communities they serve.
“It hasn’t calmed down since the murder of Oscar Grant,” F.A.B. says of community-police relations in the city. “The climate has been real eerie and real temperamental as far as the decisions that the youth are making. [People] are scared.”
While F.A.B. mourns the loss of life, he also wants the tragedy to be the conduit for an honest dialog about police brutality between Oakland’s black community and the police.
“I’m not saying it’s right,” he explains of the shootings. “I don’t want to see anybody lose their life. I don’t believe in taking a life. At the end of the day, that’s somebody’s father, somebody’s friend and somebody’s husband. I’m not saying that’s right. What I am saying is, ‘Why does it take the deaths of these cops to bring to light the injustices that have been going on for the last 30 or 40 years?’”
F.A.B. also finds himself at odds with several of Oakland’s black elected officials, who he feels have not done enough to bridge the gap between the police and community concerns about police brutality.
“It’s unfortunate because it leaves me in a situation of contradiction because I helped get some of these officials in office. To see the brothers of the resistance and activists communities out on the front lines more than the people who the government recognizes—it saddens me.”
The Oakland native ultimately attributes much of the violence between police officers and the public to fear on the part of police towards those they’ve sworn to protect and serve.
“Police are supposed to protect and serve the public. I’ve always been told that a scared man will kill you faster than somebody who is not afraid of you. A lot of the police officers have to realize that it’s not their job to be so defensive when looking after the people. Why are you so defensive? A city council woman just got beat up. They pulled her over and I guess she was taking too long to get her registration and they slammed her head first on the car. This is a city council member, are you serious? It’s all because they’re defensive and they’re cowards.”
“And I’m not saying all police are cowards. There are some good men of law that do their jobs and carry out the job description efficiently. There are good men of law. But those good men are just as guilty as the guilty ones when they don’t take a stand towards justice. Right is right, and wrong is wrong. If wrong has been done, say you don’t support the wrong that’s being done. If not, you’re just as wrong as the person [committing the act].”
In addition to officers speaking out against injustice, F.A.B. also believes that police will have to make a concerted effort to heal old wounds en route to reconciling and cultivating a partnership with the community.
“We are a battered community,” he says of Oakland. “I look at our city as a battered woman. No matter how good the men are, we will always feel that they are out to get us. Until the men who patrol and govern us show that they are working just as hard to help out as they were working to hurt, we will always have our defenses up.”