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If you want peace, fight for justice

March 31, 2009

Editorial by Willie Ratcliff

Bay View publisher Willie Ratcliff speaks at Saturday’s townhall at Olivet Missionary Baptist Church about the importance of working for economic opportunities along with the fight for justice for victims of police terrorism. – Photo: Dave Id, Indybay
Bay View publisher Willie Ratcliff speaks at Saturday’s townhall at Olivet Missionary Baptist Church about the importance of working for economic opportunities along with the fight for justice for victims of police terrorism. – Photo: Dave Id, Indybay
A time bomb is ticking, waiting to explode in communities of color across the nation. Law enforcement officers have become an occupation force – police misconduct, disrespect of citizens, beating, planting evidence and murdering our youth an everyday occurrence. In fact, police kill on average one person every single day in the United States.

If we are to have peace, we first must place economic justice at the top of our agenda, setting environmental justice – our health – criminal justice and political justice as our next highest priorities.

The police execution of Oscar Grant on New Year’s Day – the ugly, bloody injustice of it recorded on eyewitnesses’ cell phone videos seen ‘round the world – shone the spotlight on Oakland and the Bay Area, the world watching and waiting to see whether we will change the dynamics, shift the balance of power between the people and the police, between us – the locked out and locked up – and those who hold the keys to freedom.

In quick succession, the police shootings of two more unarmed young Black men in New Orleans and Houston on New Year’s launched the year that we put a Black man in the most powerful position on earth. Eighty days later, on March 21 back in Oakland, gunshots that ended the lives of Lovelle Mixon and three Oakland police sergeants and an officer tore holes in the conventional wisdom that deems Black youth helpless in the face of incessant police harassment and assault.

The Caravan for Justice heads again for Sacramento on Wednesday, April 8. Join us as we demand justice, including the repeal of this law that shields police wrongdoing. This pocket-sized booklet with shiny gold lettering tells officers how to avoid admitting to misconduct.
The Caravan for Justice heads again for Sacramento on Wednesday, April 8. Join us as we demand justice, including the repeal of this law that shields police wrongdoing. This pocket-sized booklet with shiny gold lettering tells officers how to avoid admitting to misconduct.
We who are the butt of police misconduct say there is no such thing as a “routine traffic stop” in our neighborhoods. Every one is the spark that could set off the ticking time bomb.

While any loss of life is regrettable, we will never have peace so long as a race of people are locked out of the economy and see no alternative but to break the law to feed their families. The day Lovelle died, those close to him mentioned two explanations: He dreaded being sent back to prison yet he couldn’t find a job.

Rather than enforce the civil and human rights laws, common sense and basic fairness, our economy locks out many of our best and brightest from jobs and business opportunities – white supremacists fear competition, you know – and locks them up and throws away the key. We cut education to build more prisons, then let our strong young men and women – our sons and daughters, fathers and mothers – die behind enemy lines for lack of health care.

Thank God for Judge Thelton Henderson and two other federal judges who demand that California spend what it takes to keep its prisoners healthy and release thousands of nonviolent men and women who don’t belong in prison in the first place.

Our responsibility is to break the economic barriers and build our businesses so we can hire those coming home and keep the youngsters out of prison by giving them their first job, taking them under our wing and teaching them all we know.

As a survivor of the 1998 massacre of Black businesses – especially the members of the African American Contractors of San Francisco that used to keep hundreds of Black workers employed and their families prospering – that culminated in the hanging of a noose on the SFO jobsite of my company, Liberty Builders, I have been trying to re-enter the competition for public works contracts. Here’s what I’m up against:

I have it on good authority that last year San Francisco contracted for $5.9 billion in construction work, yet only 10 percent of the jobs went to San Franciscans. Even though affirmative action was wiped off the books, the 14th Amendment is still the law of the land and San Francisco’s Local Hire Ordinance requires that 50 percent of those jobs go to San Franciscans. Who’s enforcing that law, Mayor Newsom?

Today, federal stimulus money is on the way to bail out states and cities so afraid to tax the rich they’d rather threaten bankruptcy – but will we be locked out of the competition for the jobs and business opportunities it creates? HUD is speeding $3 billion to public housing authorities and Mayor Newsom announced Monday that San Francisco will spend $17.9 million and make 200 currently vacant apartments habitable. How can a city where Sen. Dianne Feinstein reigns in the splendor of a $16.5 million mansion let hundreds of homes sit vacant while hundreds of families huddle in homelessness on our streets?

When the Congressional Black Caucus met Monday with hundreds of Black business owners, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke and top federal finance decision makers, concerned about what CBC Chairwoman Barbara Lee called “barriers faced by minority and women-owned business enterprises to participate in the TARP and TALF programs,” Congresswoman Maxine Waters said, “At this early stage of the Obama administration, as the federal government is still developing and implementing its response to the financial crisis, we want to make sure that these programs are inclusive and draw on the talents, skills and expertise of everyone willing and able to help.

“In recent weeks,” she said, “we have heard much about prominent banks and other institutions being ‘too big to fail.’ Today America’s minority- and women-owned business enterprises are exclaiming, ‘We have experience and qualifications that can help America out of the economic crisis, and we are too numerous to ignore,’ and the CBC will make sure this does not fall on deaf ears.”

I’m also encouraged to see that San Diego contractor Abdur-Rahim Hameed has launched the National Black Contractors of America to “build the bridge for equality.” Learn more at www.nationalbca.org.

But what about San Francisco? Will federal stimulus funds stimulate the ability of Black businesses to hire the thousands of Lovelle Mixons – Lovelle’s family, I hear, has roots in Hunters Point – seeking legal work to support their families or will it further enrich the Newsoms and Pelosis and Feinsteins Dr. Sumchai describes in this issue of the Bay View in “Singing in the rain: Hunters Point Shipyard enriches SF’s most powerful families”?

Activist Kim Rohrbach wrote recently to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors: “I have just heard news to the effect that Mr. Newsom would prefer to spend $11 million of the stimulus funds to prop up the faltering and felonious Lennar Corp., whose familial and financial ties to Mr. Newsom (via Nancy and Laurence Pelosi) have been publicized locally. This is the same Lennar Corp. that recently paid a settlement for poisoning residents of Bayview Hunters Point – all while Newsom and the former board more or less passively looked on – with airborne asbestos.

“And this is the same Lennar that has been entrusted by the mayor, the former board and the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency to ‘redevelop’ Bayview Hunters Point – i.e. to assist in the process of effectively driving out San Francisco’s remaining African-descended citizens in order to replace them with a wealthier demographic, who, it is hoped, will furnish tax revenues to the quasi-private Redevelopment Agency. And this is the same Lennar from whom the City has received nothing more than a scarcely credible promise, secured only after the City had already given over huge tracts of land in Bayview Hunters Point to Lennar, to build some below-market-rate housing on a toxic Superfund site for which there exists no plan for environmental remediation.”

Some 15 local and national environmental organizations, including the Sierra Club, also wrote recently to the Board of Supervisors, asking that they “take no action at this time on the proposed Candlestick/Hunters Point development project” at least until it has been environmentally reviewed. They’re referring to the Proposition G land grab passed last June 3 after Lennar spent $5 million to defeat our competing Proposition F that would have ensured that any new housing be affordable to the people who live in Hunters Point now.

I’m also concerned about Mayor Newsom’s decision to spend $1.2 million of the HUD stimulus funding to HOPE SF, a public housing privatization scheme designed mainly to enrich big developers like The John Stewart Co., notorious for its oppression of the tenants under its control. I will raise holy hell if I hear that one dime of the stimulus goes to Lennar or John Stewart.

And I’m not the only one prepared to raise holy hell. Our spiritual movement that has met for three years now every Thursday at 7 p.m. in my church home, Grace Tabernacle Community Church, 1121 Oakdale Ave. at Ingalls, in Hunters Point – you are cordially invited to join us – and that now meets in Oakland every Saturday at 4 p.m. at Olivet Missionary Baptist Church, 807 27th St. at San Pablo, Oakland, and in several other cities as well will pile into a couple dozen buses on Wednesday, April 8, to lobby for justice in Sacramento.

It’s called the Caravan for Justice, www.caravanforjustice.com, and this is its second trip. Join us to demand the repeal of the Peace Officers’ Bill of Rights that shields police wrongdoing from the public and reinstatement of public access to police disciplinary records. We’ll also demand remedies like the Second Chance Act now before Congress.

Earl Ofari Hutchison explains in his recent column, “Oakland Police Massacre Casts Ugly Glare on Ex-Felon Desperation”: “The bill called the Second Chance Act is a relatively mild measure to pump about $100 million to local and state agencies for education, job and skills training, counseling and family unification programs to stem the high rate of recidivism among ex-felons.

“President Obama has often spoken of the need to unhinge the revolving door of felon release and re-incarceration. He backs the Second Chance legislation. …

“At last count, there were an estimated 12 million people in the United States with felony convictions. That’s nearly 10 percent of the working-age population. And with jails bulging and states desperately trying to figure out how to cut jail costs and increasingly resorting to early release, more ex-felons will be on the streets. The current estimate is that more than 600,000 offenders are now being released from prisons yearly.

“(Lovelle) Mixon was one of them.”

Our Black president is nowhere near so outspoken about race as Brazilian President Lula da Silva, who told reporters Thursday, March 26, “The (global economic) crisis was caused by the irrational behavior of white people with blue eyes, who, before the crisis, appeared to know everything and now demonstrate that they know nothing.” He added, “I do not know any Black or Indigenous bankers, so I can only say (it is wrong) that this part of mankind which is victimized more than any other should pay for the crisis.”

But President Obama did say as a candidate a year ago in his “A More Perfect Union” speech: “In the white community, the path to a more perfect union means acknowledging that what ails the African-American community does not just exist in the minds of Black people; that the legacy of discrimination – and current incidents of discrimination, while less overt than in the past – are real and must be addressed, not just with words, but with deeds, by investing in our schools and our communities; by enforcing our civil rights laws and ensuring fairness in our criminal justice system; by providing this generation with ladders of opportunity that were unavailable for previous generations.”

We the people have the power to defuse the ticking time bomb and bring peace to the Bay Area and the nation. But until we win economic justice, explosions remain inevitable – and imminent.

Give me your ideas about practical steps we can take right now. Go online to www.sfbayview.com and write a comment at the end of this editorial. I’ll see it and so will thousands of Bay View readers. We are the ones we have been waiting for.

Willie Ratcliff
Willie Ratcliff
Bay View publisher Willie Ratcliff can be reached at (415) 671-0789 or publisher@sfbayview.com.

18 thoughts on “If you want peace, fight for justice

  1. The other white meat

    Lovelle Mixon was a loving man…He loved to rape 12 Yr. old black girls..he loved to car-jack and kill his fellow blacks…he loved to prey on the very community that showed up for his dis-service…intil the black community starts holding each of these monsters responible..it will never stop.

    Reply
  2. jade stone

    Maybe you should have put what obama said in his speech closer to the start of your writing. We are the ones and we can wait no longer the time to act is now. Justice must be served. Violence is upon us at every turn. We will only be safe when the power is in the hands of the people.

    Reply
  3. Ann Garrison

    Readers might find this surprising, but I, a middle-aged white lady in San Francisco’s District 8, feel occupied too. Last year the police broke into my house, forcibly constrained and tied me up, then hauled me off to General Hospital and threw me against the wall on a gurney, in a straitjacket for the next 6 hours, till St. Luke’s released me, with a $1000 bill I absolutely refuse to pay.

    Why? Some melodramatic onetime friend of mine called to tell them I was gonna kill myself because I was really depressed.

    Well, I think it’s a matter of personal freedom, to be good and depressed by whatever, or to kill yourself, if you really want to, though I hadn’t been planning to when the SFPD burst into my house. I kept asking, more like screaming, at the SFPD, all the way to the hospital, whether there weren’t some homeless people they were supposed to be out on the streets abusing, if not shooting, instead of “saving” me with an all-out assault that the City of San Francisco sent me yet another goddamn bill for yesterday.

    I’m with the Oscar Grant Movement on this. FUCK DA POLICE.

    Reply
  4. s Murph

    Great article Mr.Ratcliff as you so clearly stated you could see this train wreck coming. Here are a couple of links to some articles that speak to the underlying reasons that created the pretext for this tragedy. These articles get right to the heart of the problem which the national and local (bay area) media conveniently missed.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rick-ayers-/oakland-tragedy-in-our-to_b_180354.html

    http://www.blackcommentator.com/317/317_btl_estrangement.html

    All life is precious no one deserves to die unnecessarily. As you articles states if you want peace you have to fight for justice. It will not be given just because you want it and deserve it. African Americans have never got the social/economic justice just because.

    Peace

    S Murph

    Reply
  5. Nefertitiisaracist

    Lack of opportunity did not cause Lovelle Mixon to carjack and murder other black people in his community. Nor did it cause him to wander his neighborhood raping children at gunpoint. These actions were caused by an abandoned and malignant heart and led him ultimately to take the lives of four Oakland Police Officers who daily risked their lives to stand between decent honest folk and vicious savages like Mixon. Who raised this creature to become what he was? Where was Hillary’s “village” when it came to exerting the types of influence over this young man that could have prevented him from becoming a soulless sociopath? When will people like you stop villifying the only people willing to stand between good people and the Mixon’s of this world(police officers) and start focusing your and your communitie’s anger where it belongs, towards the vicious thugs who create this mayhem daily and in every large urban city in America. It is time for you to pull your collective heads out of the sand, have a look around, recognize and label the true enemy among you. Until you do this, no amount of opportunity will serve to prevent the carnage to which you have become daily witness.

    Reply
  6. the other white meat

    Brown girl…Where are the protest when its black on black killing. almost daily there is a death in oakland by a black on black attack..where is the protest??? only when its white on black crime do you pull out the race card…”white man keeping me down” bullshit….Thugs like Mixon prey on you and your families all day long…but you have the “Don’t snitch” mentality..well guess what..you reap what you sow…I live in a lovely neighborhood…you want to know why it is a lovely neighborhood??? BECAUSE WE SNITCH!!!! thats right we snitch..there is a level of decency and morals that are not present in east Oakland or any other hell hole like it..then you use the excuse that the man is keeping me down….once again…playing the poor me race card..bullshit once again..I voted for our Black president..because of his morals and intelligence..not because of his color or lack of… I work with people of color that look at you like your nuts…and no they do not have the “Uncle Tom” complex…or actin’ white..no they have made something of their situation and took responsibility for their actions..so keep eating your welfare cheese..keeep sippin’ your forties…keep spending your money on bling and crack cocaine..and keep letting da boys call you “Bitch” and all the other disrespect they place upon you..look long and hard into the mirror..stop playing the race card and start being an asset to society and not a problem. you want the cops to stop harrassing you?? start dressing in non-thug clothes..get rid of your hoodie and sagging pants…along with your grill…I personally would not hire anyone walking in for a job dressed like that or actin’ like that..would you???????

    Reply
  7. Brown Girl from East Los

    You have no idea where I live, what I do for a living or what my educational background is. So go talk about someone you do know.

    Reply
  8. Brown Girl from East Los

    You asshole – no one disrespects me. I wouldn’t put up with anyone disrespecting me, and especially not you.

    Reply
  9. the other white meat

    It does not matter where you live…its your mentality…the “black victim of society” angle has run its course..we have a black president..which I am proud of…and it is evident that you support the thug mentality…stop playing the victim…do something positive for the black community…mentor a kid that does not have a future without it. I do not disrespect you…I’ll leave that up to the Homies that rape and kill other blacks…like your beloved Lovelle mixon.. if that was your 12 yr old sister he raped..I would hope you see things differently..but probably not..500 show up to celebrate his life…pathetic..

    Reply
  10. Brown Girl from East Los

    You are so funny with your stereotypes whitemeat. I do plenty of work with kids and others. But to you, if I have brown skin, I need you to tell me how to live my life. Why don’t you take your own advice you paternalistic racist piece of crap.

    It makes you feel better to sling unfounded allegations about Mixon, but I, for one, will never believe what the cops say about him, and since there will never be a trial or evidence, I guess we will just have to leave it at that. Mixon is not my beloved, but I can assure you, neither are the cops.

    Reply
  11. Brown Girl from East Los

    I feel bad for his family. They feel just as bad as any other family who has lost someone and they are innocent.

    Reply
  12. Brown Girl from East Los

    My apologies to Mr. Ratcliff. I can’t believe that this is the first time I read this article! This is a great article that pulls it all together. It would be an excellent resource for teachers to use with students so the students could start to understand how connected all these elements are. Thanks for this article. I am emailing it to friends who teach high school. And sorry I was on here fighting with whitemeat before I had even read the article ;) Forgive me!

    Reply
  13. carlo

    brown girl…what about the substance of what whitemeat said though? I agree he’s a little preachy, but: Why not snitch? wouldn’t you want people to snitch if, for example, your 10 year old son got shot in the back while taking his piano lesson by someone doing a robbery, like actually happened here in Oakland last year? Wouldnt you want police to find those responsible, and try them in a court of law?

    If you want peace, fight for justice, like the title of the article says. Justice is holding people responsible for their actions, and not just whitemeat’s people, but all people.

    Reply
  14. Brown Girl from East Los

    Carlo, This article and discussion is not about snitching. Whitemeat will grasp at anything to try to make his racist points. He lives in a lovely neighborhood because he and his neighbors snitch. I also live in a lovely neighborhood because we don’t have kkk type racists living among us.

    I would be loathe to call the police for any reason, and I feel lucky that there has never been any reason for me to do so. Yes, I would and do want justice for a ten year old boy who was killed. But I don’t even trust the cops to arrest the right person or the judge and jury to put on a fair trial so I’m not the person to ask about all that.

    Reply
  15. redbeardedguy

    The publisher asked for practical solutions, not flame wars. I’m not sure how practical this suggestion is, but in San Francisco Critical Mass does an every-last-friday-of-the-month mass bicycle ride to force folks to pay attention to the concerns of bike riders, to force people to slow down and smell the coffee and/or the roses.

    What if there was a weekly or a monthly Black Critical Mass-like event, a mass march or mass bicycle ride by African American folks primarily, to do what CM does with the focus being on Black community concerns.

    Brown Girl (and others)—-I don’t give a damn what The Other White Meat and others who think like him/her/them/it think, they will never understand what being marginalized does to people and they will insist on insulting you and being part of the problem instead of part of the solution.

    So ignore them and keep on doin’ what yer doin’, or if you aren’t doin’…do somethin’…and the folks with half a brain and more than that will get it and the rest will just be left sucking dust…

    Reply
  16. Luis

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    Reply

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