Close Encounters of the Worst Kind- on Oakland Po'Lice Shooting

root - Posted on 04 September 2009

By Vivien Hain/Poverty Scholar in Residence

by Staff Writer

It’s late tonight as I sit here in a quiet and homogenous North Central Berkeley with the sound of distant trains passing through, thinking about the recent shootings of the four Oakland PO’lice officers on March 21st and why it all really went down. Having survived nearly four years of houselessness, living in poverty in a dirty storefront without hot water and an outdoor toilet in West Oakland and later in public housing projects on a ‘blocked off’ 85th Avenue for 5 ½ years in East Oakland, I've experienced many unfortunate and negative encounters with the Oakland PO’lice.

I remember back in the day while living in Oakland, dealing with several confrontations of being profiled while ‘DWB’ (driving while brown or black) and being pulled over because I was driving an old ‘hooptie’ car while being a person of color. I even had the unfortunate experience of being harassed and threatened with arrest with my babies in the car by the ‘Oakland Riders’ back in 2002 just outside the old, smelly, paint-chipped, dilapidated commercial building we called ‘home’ in West Oakland.

I remember how hopeless I felt as those blue and red siren lights beamed into my blurry, dirty, kid-finger-smeared rear window like a scene out of Close Encounters of the Third Kind, making me feel trapped and hunted down for simply being a poor person of color. I remember feeling my head get hot and my chest tight, feeling breathless and afraid. I remember the feeling of extreme anxiety taking over me with wild impulsive thoughts and the tempting urge to put my key back into the ignition and desperately flee out of there like a bat out of hell.

What the PO’lice, the authorities, the mainstream TV news networks and even many people fail to understand is that the daily struggle that poor folks of color like myself deal with tends to compound into a situation much deeper than what is being seen or addressed on the surface. So when we are criminalized for our circumstance, our need for survival is taken to another whole level and in the most extreme situation, sometimes becomes a matter of life and death.

What I feel is truly missing in this whole situation are the root problems of why it went down this way. From what I have seen on the mainstream local TV news networks, nothing is being said or addressed about the deep seeded adversity that poor folks of color deal with daily in communities like East and West Oakland and the on-going momentum of internalized oppression that builds up from constant profiling, harassment and criminalizing by the PO’lice within these communities--which for us is truly Close Encounters of the Worst Kind!

I see nothing being addressed in the mainstream media about the core reasons to why he (Lovelle Mixon) may have felt hopelessly trapped in his own circumstance and felt such extreme desperation and anxiety that he had to go out like that. Remember… He lost his life too! And of course, nothing was even mentioned how he (Mixon) was trying in vain to get his life back on track during this time when this happened. What also perplexes me is how the mainstream TV news networks value certain lives over others. Tell me… Why isn’t there no Oracle Arena memorial being held for Lovelle Mixon or why wasn’t there one for Oscar Grant? I thought we were all supposed to be equal? So, what’s up with that people? Think about it…


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