This morning as I worked on researching #AlexNieto and #FireMorse it felt like a littered autumn wind was whirling around my mind spreading jagged oak leaves that pinned memories and ideas as they arose to my already overwhelmed mind. Growing up in the streets of LA, with drivebys on my block, and bullet holes in my living room window, I know the effects of gang ties well. As a kid I actually idolized those guys and the tough cholas that ruled the hood. But in reading about the day Alex Nieto was murdered in his brand new red 49ers jacket it felt like the Bloods and Crips all over again. Like the days when you could get shot for wearing the wrong gang color in the wrong territory. Only this time the boys in blue don badges and the full fledged support of the #SFPD.
And another difference is Alex Nieto. Alex was studying criminal justice, a security guard, a pacifist by nature, a buddhist even, an Intern at the Youth Guidance Center’s Probation Department, an active member at the Mission Peace Collaborative, a community event organizer and participant, a volunteer for youth organizations: Alex Nieto was not a gang banger. Seeing the pictures of him in his cap and gown broke my heart and I had to dig further.
The Mission District station in San Francisco and 14 officers who sparked what’s now being known as “Textgate” spurred an investigation into “the existence and extent of institutional bias (racism/sexism/homophobia) within the SFPD.” (SF BRP) Their findings were astonishing and supported an entire police department fraught with discriminatory practices against minority and homosexual police officers and citizens, confirming biased practices, protocols, operations, sanctions, behavior, culture, even stealing from their victims. Their words speak volumes:
Notice the use of Nig and Nigga, common terms these days sometimes even used as terms of endearment. When you read these texts, when do you get offended? See more from the report below:
These texts are examples of camaraderie, they’re acceptance, they outline social norms and accepted behavior within a governing body of our elected government. They also seek to express their views actively through policing. The investigation unveiled the police unfairly targeting minorities pulling them over for traffic violations just by the color of their skin, or for acting overly gay this could also attract the eye of the ever present police force to say the least. Murder irreprehensible and irreversible. How can it be that in the city that welcomed the first openly gay person elected to public office in Harvey Milk that this very city would also have a police force persecuting them in 2016?
When I think back to the Los Angeles Riots and I think back to a time when all minorities banded together regardless of gang ties because the true oppressors were coming; I hope San Francisco is listening to the people and to each other. The normalization of all things, the fact that we give horrible and unconscionable acts like murdering innocent people while calling them names and threatening their families AS PEACE OFFICERS palatable names like Textgate: The fact that we do this at all takes the grit from the wound that would inspire more people to unite. Did you know that only one officer involved in the investigation went to jail? Did you know that the other 13 who sent all those text messages, carried out illegal witch hunts and worse, that they are still receiving pay? We have to start calling the injustices for what they are and stop calling them catchy names. We must discontinue joking, making light in comedy of minority issues or culture because we are giving our power away. The moment you allow someone to call all black people Blacks- the moment you allow someone to call all Latino people Hispanics- the moment you allow someone to say all Asian people are the same- the moment you allow someone to call all Muslim people terrorists- the moment you allow someone to call themselves an Oreo in jest- the moment you laugh: you are normalizing their wrong doing. Think about it, what they will openly say to a room of people is a test. Whoever is willing to try out something in a more diverse arena is giving their most watered down version of what they would actually say. Don’t let them: don’t let it start. We can’t continue the problem- the result is innocent people dying while eating their dinner in the park watching the sunset in Buddhist kindess.
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