Battleground Lake Merritt: Notes on Henry Sintay and White Supremacy

I can’t imagine what being white must feel like. It’s baffling when I think about all of the ways in which white skin distorts the mind. Let us make a brief foray into the brain of one Henry Sintay. Henry Sintay is a white man who was born in Idaho (it doesn’t get any whiter than that). Apparently, he got into some trouble in Lake County, CA and was busted for cultivating marijuana with intent to distribute. He did over two years in prison for that offense and got out November 27th of 2017. Mr. Sintay is currently in the process of going viral for throwing a homeless man’s items—the homeless man is black—into Lake Merritt and in a nearby trash can while said homeless person was not even there. Some people, including the people who videotaped the incident and tried to intervene, are upset with Sintay while others are applauding him for restoring the beauty of the Lake. I am of the opinion that not only was Mr. Sintay wrong but he definitely needs his ass beat.

 

The homeless situation in Oakland is far beyond a crisis. There are encampments on major thoroughfares, under freeway overpasses, in parks, in residential districts and all around Lake Merritt. One cannot go anywhere in the city of Oakland without seeing our unsheltered brothers and sisters. It is extremely disheartening. It has inspired me to host a panel discussion. I have participated in several “Feed the Hood” events put on by the East Oakland Collective. I try to give back to the homeless whenever I can. I’ve had multiple conversations with people both online and in person about what is causing this problem. It is clear to everyone who is actually from Oakland that homelessness now is worse than it has ever been before. At no point in all of my interactions with those who live on the streets have I ever had the urge to pick up a homeless person’s belongings and throw them in the trash. At no point, have I ever held animosity towards those who live on the streets in deplorable conditions and have to beg for food.

 

Everyone knows that the skyrocketing homeless population in Oakland is directly related to the skyrocketing rent. It’s also very clear that while most of the homeless population is black, most of the newer Oakland residents are white. It wouldn’t be a leap for one to come to the conclusion that these new white residents shoulder at least some of the blame for so many people living on the streets. This truth is what makes the acts committed by Henry Sintay absolutely repugnant.

 

He’s upset at a situation that he helped to create. He is in effect raging at a man who cannot be doing any worse. A man who is sleeping on the concrete and must endure the daily trauma of living in squalor and uncertainty. And even worse he did this at a time when the man was not even there to defend himself. I will never understand how delusional one must be to do two years in prison, live in a town for six months, point to the homeless and say to himself “These people are the problem. I’m going to do something about this.” This is the very same Wyatt Earp, George Zimmerman, self-deputized, colonizer-cowboy mentality that America is built on. This is the aggressive form of outward racism that Californians like to pretend only exists in places like Mississippi and South Carolina. A lot of “good natured, liberal minded” people won’t see hatred in Henry Sintay because he isn’t an Oklahoma trucker with a Make America Great Again hat on his head. But he is a manifestation of the devil and we all need to internalize this fact. Even as an outsider and an ex-convict he knows that his white skin gives him the power to pillage and plunder. He is reclaiming the lake for his people, but unlike BBQ Becky he took things into his own hands.

I can’t fathom what it would be like to possess the blinding privilege of whiteness. I also have no clue as to what it takes to combat such idiocy. It would be nice to beat Henry Sintay’s ass though. To land a few straight rights to his nose. A left uppercut to the solar plexus. Maybe if someone made him bleed then he would realize that he is only human and not the great white god that he’s been conditioned by society to believe that he is. Perhaps the sight of his own blood on his fingertips after he wiped it from his broken nose would cause him to be humble. Probably not, albeit the fantasy is a gorgeous one.  Picture a colonizer with blood on his hands, but not the blood of the natives, this time it is his own blood. Because this time there are repercussions. This time his sense of dominance is questioned. This time he losses. Can you imagine that? Can you envision the downfall of white supremacy?

-YB

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Running

February 13, 2012

I’m an avid runner. On average I run about 5-6 times a week. I hit trails, run around Lake Merritt, or spend about an hour on the treadmill. Running is so second nature to me that it wasn’t until very recently that I began to ask myself what exactly am I running from. I mean of course I’m trying to stay in shape and speed up my metabolism a little, which at the age of 30 seems to want to stand still. But I feel like it’s deeper than that.

For example I write to express feelings that are impossible for me to verbalize and I box to blow off steam, however, my reasons for running 5-8 miles a day is something that I don’t have a complete answer to. Perhaps it’s a mixture of both. After all I do blow of a lot of steam when my feet are rhythmically pounding the pavement and I am outwardly expressing my desire to reach the finish line, but really why am I so compelled to run. I’m not training for a marathon and I’m not a slave.

Often times I’ll tell myself that I’m going to spend a whole day writing and the next thing I know I’m on some trail deep in the hills hoping local coyotes don’t smell my sweat and decide to attack me. I don’t know. It’s kind of bizarre. It’s like when I’m running with my I-pod blasting I feel like I’m floating through my own self-contrived galaxy.  It’s definitely a form of escapism; yet I wonder why I need to escape so often. Like this one story I’m working on. It’s very personal but instead of sitting down and cranking it out as soon as I look at it I put on my sweat pants and my sneakers and head out. Lately I’ve been feeling like a shot fighter who sees his opponent’s mistakes but can’t capitalize on them by letting his hands go and throwing a punch. I fear that I’ve become too guarded to be an effective writer. Instead of molding my issues into art I just want them to go away. It’s like I really want peace but I’m no longer willing to fight for it, or in my case I’m no longer willing to write for it. So I run.

When I was a boy I was led to believe that only the most cowardly of men publicly display their emotions. Now that I am a man I feel like a coward for not being able to express what makes me human.

I need to stop running.

-YB