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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The League of Denial of Racism

Dr. Bennet Omalu

 

I just watched the highly anticipated Frontline documentary League of Denial. It was billed as a no holds barred expose on the NFL’s insistent denial of the connection between playing football and traumatic head injuries, and it was. What bothered me way more than the concussions, however, was the unexplored theme of racism that was prevalent throughout the piece.

 

The discovery of chronic traumatic encephalopathy or CTE in NFL players can be accredited to one man— Nigerian born Dr. Bennet Omalu. He made the startling discovery, which eventually lead to massive rule changes in professional football and a $765 million settlement by the NFL when he performed an autopsy on Hall of Fame center Mike Webster. Once he published his findings the billion-dollar behemoth that is the National Football League promptly railroaded him. They had closed-door meetings based on the fallout from his research which they intentionally failed to invite him to. They discredited him personally and professionally. The NFL made things so difficult for him that he had to move across the country to Lodi, CA.

 

Apparently they had no choice but to respect Dr. Omalu’s groundbreaking research, they just needed it to come out of a white person’s mouth—enter Dr. Ann McKee. Based on the evidence depicted in the two-hour documentary it was very clear, to me at least, that Dr. McKee completely hijacked Dr. Omalu’s research and what made it even worse is NFL representatives actually sat down and spoke with her like she was the first person to present that data. Dr. McKee then complained about being treated in a sexist manner when she presented “her” discoveries on CTE. I found it to be quite bizarre that the documentary devoted about five minutes to her claims of sexism but never spoke to the fact that she was standing on the back of a black man the whole time.

 

It was as if all fingers needed to point to the NFL in order for the viewers to receive the message, therefore analyzing institutionalized racism in the context of medical research would have been too much to process. Overall I was underwhelmed by League of Denial. It was extremely oversimplified. I really dislike it when so-called documentaries attempt to make the world resemble a comic book; good versus evil, light versus darkness, the forces of heaven versus the forces of hell, the NFL versus retired players. When will we realize that life is more complicated than an old episode of Full House? There are multiple issues functioning simultaneously that prevent us from reaching our full potential and we need to acknowledge them all.

 

I want to give a special shout out to Dr. Bennet Omalu for his bold and courageous efforts to save lives and improve the human condition. I do acknowledge you sir, even if your colleagues don’t.

-YB

Tweets in the media? Are you serious?

Is the American media so starved for another story about racism to jump start waning interest in the Trayvon Martin case that they’ve resorted to writing about racist tweets? On Wednesday Joel Ward, one of the few black Hockey players in the NHL, scored a game winning goal in game 7 to lift his Washington Capitals into the 2nd round of the playoffs. Now I’m pretty far from considering myself an avid hockey fan but I know an impressive feat when I see one. He was the man of the night and he made an outstanding play but is that what people are focusing on? No, because journalists are too caught up in people using the “N” word on twitter.

Are you serious? The best moment in Ward’s career is being marred by the rants of random people on social media, how absurd is that? It’s equally absurd that the creator and star of Awkward Black Girl Issa Rae felt compelled to speak out against the racist backlash on twitter in response to her wining The Shorty Award for best web series.  Why can’t both of these modern day pioneers just enjoy their respective moments? I mean do we really need to see offensive tweets smeared all over national media?

People are racist. People will always be racist. So why does a drunken college student with a twitter account and a smart phone get a chance to completely sabotage another person’s success. The same thing with people taking to twitter to hate on the fact that the film version of “The Hunger Games” apparently had too many black people—so what! Can national columnist, and syndicated news sites think of something else to write about besides the racist tweets of random people? Are they really trying to inform the people or are they trying to piss us off? Well if it’s the latter then mission accomplished. I’m hella ready to move on.

-YB    

The Uncertainty of Crepes

 

The worst thing about racism is when you’re not quite sure whether or not you’ve just experienced racism. When it creeps on you slowly and leaves you frustrated and paranoid.

I was supporting my homegirl who had a poetry reading in the Mission District of San Francisco last night. Her reading went very well as she tore through a 15 minute set reciting well-crafted poetry about blackness, queer identity, and family. When her set was over The Poet, her friend, and myself walked through the Mission on a Saturday night like hundreds of other artists. She was high from all of the adulation she received and I, being a man, was hungry. I had a sweet tooth to be more specific. I wanted a crepe hella bad and I knew just the place.

So we approach a trendy little restaurant on Valencia preparing to eat some of the best blueberry crepes with ice cream that San Francisco has to offer. But as soon as I walk inside the dude behind the counter says they’re closed. I look around and sure enough there didn’t appear to be anyone in the kitchen as if they were about to close but I also saw no less than 8 white people who appeared to be in their 50’s sitting down and enjoying their food.

“Ya’ll closed?” I asked incredulously.

“Closed,” The gentlemen said as he cleaned up.

“Aight, whatever.”

Of course when we got outside The Poet checked her smart phone and discovered that they were supposed to close at 11:00pm. At the moment it was 10:49. Perhaps sensing the tension heighten or knowing that I was just about ready to slap the hell out of dude and force him to make me a blueberry crepe, The Poet then added, but I don’t want to eat there now because they’ll probably spit in our food.

She had a valid point of course, however, I was still pissed and by this point it wasn’t even about my inability to consume ice cream. I was irritated because I had to think about the fact that if it would have been three well-to-do white folks who showed up at the door instead of a black guy, a black queer poet, and a white female anarchist he probably would have let them eat crepes for an hour. And, ironically enough, I was equally irritated because I will never know whether or not the former statement is true.

For all I know a small place like that could close the kitchen down 30 minutes early, or maybe the cook had some kind of emergency. Also I used to wait tables and I know how annoying it can be when people slip through the door at around closing time. We were never allowed to turn people away like dude did us last night but we definitely wanted to.

As much as Americans speak about racism it’s really rare that we delve into the psychological effects that it has on oppressed people in general and black folk in particular. I was so quick to assume that the guy was being racist (and there is a good chance that this was the case) that I allowed my anger to build before I could follow an effective protocol to get the right answers. Had I just remained calm and asked the right questions I would know for sure why I couldn’t have my crepes, but I didn’t. I stormed out of there with an attitude. He won.

Even though I ended up eating a breathtaking strawberry crepe (I was no longer in the mood for blueberries) in the Sunset District, he won. And even though I’m currently calling that gentleman’s motives into question in this blog entry, last night he won. He didn’t want us there for whatever reason and we all left. I couldn’t keep my emotions in check for long enough to properly challenge that man and so I lost. I hate losing just like I hate racism but I must confess that I hate uncertainty even more so.

-YB

Lost in the Details: Notes on the Murder of Trayvon Martin

March 15, 12

It’s amazing how technical some folks get about the law when a young black man is murdered by a white police officer. What is even more amazing is the asinine things that people say when a fake cop, whom for whatever reason is allowed to carry a real gun, kills a young black man.

Let’s use the most recent case of George “The Jackass” Zimmerman as an example. The Jackass was a rogue volunteer captain of a Florida neighborhood watch group before he decided to use deadly force on 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. Apparently this wasn’t your average neighborhood watch group that The Jackass was heading. It was not by any means an organization that encouraged community members to sit on their porches and document suspicious behavior, and it for damn sure wasn’t about planning neighborhood movie nights.

George The Jackass decided to follow Trayvon because he looked “suspicious” while he walked down the street with a bag of Skittles to take back to his little brother. Now I’m not sure why this is, but for law enforcement officers (and wannabes) the word suspicious is synonymous with black. I suppose it’s the American way.

At any rate The Jackass decided to confront Trayvon who was visiting his dad for NBA All-Star Weekend even though when he radioed it in to the real cops they told him to stand down. I guess he just couldn’t resist the opportunity to put a young black man in his place—which from a historical perspective, most white men can’t.

From that point on the details are sketchy as of right now. But we do know that The Jackass was bleeding from his nose and the back of his head. And we do know that Trayvon was killed by a single bullet wound to the chest. Mr. Jackass has not been charged with any crime because…well he’s white.

People really trip me out in these kinds of situations. I’ve seen the extremely ambiguous self-defense laws in Florida cited several times in this non-case. I’ve also watched the news media casually bring up the fact that a few homes in that Florida neighborhood had apparently been burglarized in the months leading up to the shooting. I even saw one journalist report that Zimm—uhhh I mean The Jackass was very well liked in the community.

Oh my god. So what!

An unarmed high school students was shot to death by a man who is supposed to be making sure elderly women aren’t mugged on their way back home from the grocery store. He’s supposed to be armed with binoculars, and a walky-talky, OK pepper spray at best. So why the hell is he toting a damn 9mm pistol like he’s in 50 Cents entourage? It’s the most ridiculous thing imaginable.

It’s just as bad as when Oscar Grant was shot in the back and killed by a BART cop.  BART is routinely one of, if not thee, safest rapid transit system in the country. So why does a BART cop like Johannes Mehserle need a gun in the first place? The main difference between that incident and this one was the Oscar Grant murder was caught on videotape, but unfortunately it didn’t matter. People watched the video of a handcuffed man on the ground being shot and scratched their heads and said; “Well he does seem to be resisting a little bit. I mean look at him squirm. He’s being belligerent. And on top of that it was New Year’s Eve. I’m sure those cops were having a long day.”

It was this kind of not so subtly racist rhetoric that landed Mehserle a sentence of less than one year for killing an unarmed man in front of dozens of people. And it is this kind of thought that justifies The Jackass not being brought to justice after murdering an unarmed teenager carrying a bag of Skittles.

The general reaction to the tragedies of Oscar Grant and Trayvon Martin prove that American racism has come a very long way since Jim Crow and the K.K.K.  Just like medicine and technology racism has advanced. It is no longer out in the open like the word “nigger” but rather it is hidden in details like the word “suspicious.” Evil folks don’t hide behind sheets and burn crosses anymore. In 2012 they make up titles and get permits to carry guns so they can continue to kill with impunity and be supported by a society that will never admit that they are enabling these racist psychopaths.

Racism is in the details these days. It’s in the questions that people have and the doubt that is cast over whether or not it’s actually wrong for an unarmed black man to be murdered by a white authority figure.

Because we all know Trayvon instigated the situation and why was he wearing that “suspicious” looking hoody. And as for Oscar Grant, he had drugs in his system and he had gotten into a fight earlier that night. I mean I’m not racist but I just don’t know. It seems a little suspicious to me.

Meanwhile Oscar Grants daughter Tatiana will never really know her father and Trayvon Martin’s parents will never hear their son’s voice again.

Black men continue to be gunned down like animals while we scratch our heads and ponder about silly little details.

-YB