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As a young white male, I have more privilege than almost anyone I know. People smile at me when I walk into their businesses, family and friends are helping me through school, I grew up in a safe neighborhood and I have taken countless blessings for granted. I can shake my head and scowl at a police officer on campus and he nods and says 'Good afternoon' to me.
This struggle is not my struggle, and it is not a struggle I can even begin to truly comprehend. Likewise, it is a struggle that many of my white friends, family, classmates and acquaintances will never fully understand. Those of you describing events like these as 'tantrums' are absolutely out of touch with reality. Not only does this diminish and misrepresent what this is about, it makes it clear that you are making no effort to understand or sympathize with your fellow human beings.
There was a huge diversity in the crowd that marched through downtown Oakland last night and every speaker was extremely inclusive. One in particular reached out to all the white people in attendance, sympathizing with them for feeling marginalized and misrepresented. But then she brought it back to the core issue: imagine that every single day of your life you wake up and the odds are already set against you.
That you wake up in the morning and you're Black, Gay, or Mexican, and because of this fact you don't have a voice in America. Imagine that you don't get the same chances, you don't get the same treatment, you don't get the same opportunities, you don't get smiled at when you walk down the street.
And really, that's exactly what everyone started out doing last night: walking down the street. This was a peaceful, unified cause with over 6,000 people expressing their displeasure towards the ideologies of nearly 60 million Americans. There are plenty of biased news articles about "violence" from this protest (and others like it) and I am not going to propagate that rhetoric.
It gets people to read news articles, and that simply seems to be the extent of it. Reconsider what you read, what you see. This type of content is not always accurate and certainly does not reflect my experience. My straightforward experience was that the officers started the violence.
It was on the corner of 8th and Washington that the intensity and depth of the situation got real for me. Now that the protest was headed towards the nicer, and largely white, area of the city the Police decided that this would be the end of the march. They simply were not going to budge. However, instead of both sides waiting it out, Oakland Police Department had other ideas.
Lieutenant Eric Mausz, who made over $225,000 with benefits in 2015, climbed onto the hood of a parked car and reached into his belt. Two seconds after this photo was taken, I could not see or breathe. This is the same officer who, almost exactly a year ago, is quoted saying "people in the community need to know who we are and that we are here to provide safety...trust between the community and officers is crucial."
What was so threatening about the woman next to me who was yelling? She took the brunt of the tear-gas grenade that was thrown, and I had never experienced anything like this. More than disoriented, the injustice of what had just happened filled me with rage towards OPD and every officer in the intersection that night. I could not understand the logic behind attacking and oppressing this woman.
How could this possibly be an effective technique to control a crowd, a crowd that was not out of control. A crowd that was yelling, desperate for their voices to be heard. A crowd that harmed no one. And I had an instant realization, that this is how every minority feels when they are oppressed every single day of their lives.
More tear gas and flash bang grenades were used to back the crowd up and redirect the march. After this, I left. I admit it didn't take much. And that's all I have to say about what happened. Look at the rest of the photos below, form your own opinions. This was my experience and I think we can all agree that America was created by way of protest in the first place.
In theory, America is a place where cultures are to be celebrated, a place where voices are to be heard. A place for majority rule and minority rights. Instead of moving towards hate and fear, lets keep working on the basics of acceptance and tolerance. On love and peace. Please consider others, their struggles, and their backgrounds this coming year.
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