Remember those young men who robbed you at gunpoint?  How could you forget?

They may have been blacker than you, but they share a race with you: the human.  Humans are known for making errors.

They did not rob you because of their skin color or yours.  They felt the need to rob you for three reasons:

  1. Money
  2. Power
  3. Respect

It was something they noticed in your body language.  Your tentative walk, the disjuncture of your attitude.  They spotted you feeling vulnerable.

It does not worry them  that you subsequently made fifty copies of a flyer and posted it on telephone poles, warning your neighbors of “African-American males, mid- to late twenties, approximately 5’9″, 180 lbs.”

They know that the more fully you and your neighbors carry fear within your hearts, fear of the unknown, external and anonymous, the more easily they can catch you slipping again.

Mutual fear and vague hatred are the recipe for crime that appears random but is in fact very precise.

When you hire a private security force for your neighborhood, you bring yourself closer to São Paulo, Brazil and Johannesburg, South Africa.  In these megacities, residential private security is the status quo.  The society segments itself into an ever-increasing number of “fortified” enclaves.  It is no longer the ghetto-dwellers alone who feel an overwhelming pressure to stay inside and hide.

This is not bad news, per se.  It is, however, the result of a society enslaved by the ignoble fictions of Black & White, and a crushing inability to recognize the other in oneself.

“You can’t tell if a man is Black or White just by looking at him.” – Miles Davis


Photo Credit: Mammi-Ama Ofori, Ofori Photo.

Editor’s Note: This piece reflects an individual opinion and is not a reported story from Oakland Local. Oakland Local invites community residents to share their views about events and issues in Oakland. See our guidelines.

8 Responses

  1. R2D2II

    This is about as bigoted and violence-justifying a screed as I’ve ever seen in public. The writer might apply for a job as a PR person for Al Queda.

  2. Devon

    Dear person who wants to rob me,

    Please realize that you will never get real money, power or respect by threatening the life of another person. That powerful feeling you get right after threatening someone is actually just the weak and adolescent form of masculinity. It’s what grown boys feel. Power and respect to not come by way of a cowardly act, which itself only reinforces your own shame and self-loathing. And eventually, you will be justifiably killed. Or, if you’re lucky, incarcerated.

    This coward’s path, that tries to use force gain fake respect and pretend power, is the epitome of sin. Not only does it NOT give you that which you seek, but it robs you of the ability to ever get that which you wanted in the first place. No one respects a coward – especially a coward with a gun threatening the life of fellow human being! And for what? A few dollars and a thrill? And you will end up dead, and justifiably so.

    Now, you can spin it any way you want – play the race card, play the victim, power-up on your own racial hatred, or delude yourself with any of the cultural lies at your disposal. But, in the age of Obama, nobody is buying it anymore.

    You will die believing a lie, never having become a Man. You will have betrayed everyone who actually cared about or depended upon you. Then, you will be forgotten. The victims (or the remaining family members, thereof) will piss on your grave. Justifiably so.

    So step up. At least try to be a real man, not some plastic, adolescent-boy version of a man. Strive to be somebody that someone can count on. Work to gain the trust and respect of your family, community and the public at large. Stop despising education. Don’t follow or believe the haters or race-baiters. Even if they are your elders and your pastor. Just refuse to buy the race-card lie. And please don’t just spend your life collecting resentments. That does not end well.

    Finally, I want you to know that, even if you’ve been a coward/thug in the past or chosen to play the “angry child” – there is a way back. There is a vast community of people who would really like be a friend to you if you’re willing to even try. We want to love you, welcome you back, and watch you soar! All the while, helping you to lay the foundation for real manhood and a fulfilling and productive life. One where you are not alone, poor, weak and desperate. No no, you will finally know what it is to be a Man, who can (honestly) provide for his family and is respected by his neighbors and the community as a whole. And you’ll be in a position to reach out to other boys, trapped in a coward’s lie.

  3. KL


    Who are you really writing to?

    I don’t think calling robbers “coward” really makes them re-consider robbing. I don’t think they believe they will rise above their situations through crime. I doubt they believe they’ll become millionaires by stealing iPhones.

    We live in a materialistic society. True, he may embarrass his mother. But he can impress his friends with the “bling.” Most robbers are young men. Young men, black, white rich poor, do crazy things to impress their peers.

    Race is a factor in our reality. Poor African Americans are not the only ones to deal with race. Middle-class and rich African Americans have to deal with race as well.

    A loving community for them will have to recognize this.

  4. Devon

    You are so wrong – You employ the racism of low expectations, played out in a rationalization of delinquency. How sad.

    One of the first things we should be offering these boys is reality. Not more lies to explain or justify their own self-destruction. These boys have either squandered every opportunity society has provided them (which are legion), or been so poorly raised that they do not yet realize there are certain consequences to their action. Deadly consequences. Either way, your approach seems to validate both tragedies.

    We live in a multi-faceted and complex society. And yes, there are strains of materialism, idolatry, body-obsession and you name it all around. But look what you did. You used the EXACT pattern of the lie that is destroying these boys: cherry-pick some real-or-imagined problem, and use it as a justification/rationalization for deadly behavior. And so the cycle continues.

    To answer your question – I am speaking to the thug who wants to rob people at gunpoint. I am speaking common-sense truth. I am treating him as full person. Not someone who needs you to offer him excuses or be placated with soothing lies. You offer the exact destructive excuse structure which any adolescent boy (of any color/creed or race) would just LOVE to have. I remember, as a child, grabbing at any excuse to not do something difficult. Be it homework, chores or facing embarrassment. Adults are supposed to battle the excuses children offer. If they love them, they obliterate the excuses, they don’t buy the petty justifications. We are supposed to provide a boundary in life. You know, the type of boundary that says “If you threaten someone with a gun, chances are you will end up dead or in jail.” THAT is what love does. Not prop up plastic excuse structures and then just blame blame blame ‘society’ or all those ‘other’ people. Your whole approach to these boys only serves to make YOU feel better about the world YOU are passing on to him.

    You make the disjointed statement that “…Race is a factor” In what? In life? So is height, weight and education. What is your point? We all deal with racism – black, white, asian and latino. Stop pretending we are the only ones who experience racism. Black bigotry is alive and well – and has become a real family value in some (sick) communities. Were you just reiterating and reaffirming your own excuse structure?

    A loving community does not sabotage our boys by poisoning them with racial-victimhood and providing endless excuse structures. Easy excuses and racial lies are what propel these boys into a thug/coward path. A loving community does not give in to the racism of low expectations, and racial justifications. It holds up a standard. One that CAN lead them out of the perpetual self-disenfranchisement that a thug’s life instills. A loving community calls a lie a lie, and an excuse an excuse.

  5. Erica

    Wow. In conversations about victim-blaming and sexual assault, sometimes someone will bring up the point that “we don’t blame mugging victims for being mugged.” Because, of course, that would be completely absurd.

    And now you just have. I think this is a historic low in victim blaming. “They spotted you feeling vulnerable?” The person who makes a choice to commit a violent crime is not magically privy to the inner thoughts and feelings of their victim. They simply spot someone who they think has something valuable, in a physical location that offers an easy approach and getaway: confident body language may help but it’s no guarantee of protection. Or do you believe that thugs somehow gaze into potential victims’ hearts and lovingly pass by all those who pass the moral test?

  6. KL

    1. I wrote that young males are often reckless and aggressive. It is not fair to demonize young Black males. Their communities should not demonize them. That is not the same as “justifying” or making an excuse for robbery.

    2. Young people, including young Black males, have a responsibility to their communities.

    3. I disagree that all discrimination is the same. Nor do I put race discrimination in the same category as height and eye color in influencing one’s life. Based on that argument, a blue-eyed blond woman faces the same discrimination as a dark-skinned African American woman.

  7. Jonatton Yeah?

    “1. I wrote that young males are often reckless and aggressive. It is not fair to demonize young Black males. Their communities should not demonize them. That is not the same as “justifying” or making an excuse for robbery.”

    That is not what you wrote. It isn’t. If that’s what you meant, I suggest a rewrite because your “1” is not in the original piece. It just isn’t. Are we supposed to imply? Infer? Read between the lines? Well, if so, I feel pretty damn confident that the inferences made by most will not be what…I think…you’re trying to say.

    And all discrimination is the same. It’s wrong regardless of the direction. Sorry, but you don’t get to decide what discrimination is more destructive than another. The prior poster also said nothing about eye color nor hair color – they spoke about weight, height, education; all identifiers that contribute to discrimination, just like skin color.

  8. SJ

    There’s nothing moral about it, Erica. And nobody is the victim here. It’s osmosis–resources flowing from one place to another.


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