As usual, I was running late to the “This System Kills Jesus #GoodFriday Action” at the Superior Court of California, Alameda County. I woke up early and could really think of no good reason why I was running behind; I would soon discover why.
I pulled on my hand-painted #BlackLivesMatter t-shirt, hopped on my bike, and got down to the BART platform to catch the train that would take me to Oakland. Toward the very end of the platform, two BART police officers were standing over a calm but anxious young Black man who was sitting on the last bench.
You see, I was late–a good half-hour already–for a protest designed to decry the failure of the criminal justice system with respect to Black lives and the lives of people of color in general–you know, things like police terror, unjust sentencing, mass incarceration, capital punishment, degradation, deportation, and denial of opportunity. What I instantly realized on that platform was that my moment of protest was right there and then.
As the questioning officer’s voice grew louder with threats and the other office maintained a position purposefully blocking the view actions of the other officer from everyone coming down into the platform, I moved closer, vowing to stay with this young Black man in a 2-on-1, them-against-him, they-have-all-the-power-he-has-none, life-and-death situation. And as the officers’ intensity increased and the young man’s fear visibly rose proportionately, I turned the camera on.
We were all near the stairs in in a fairly high-traffic area. People looked over at the scene and continued toward the other end of the platform. But not everyone left. What the camera does not catch is a young Asian woman standing nearby, watching too, and being clear that she was purposefully doing so.
Presently, another young Black man came from the farthest end of the platform on the other side of where the police were. You can hear how he first says he’s having nothing to do with the situation and then decides to stay present, in solidarity, and provide brave commentary born of his own experience as a young Black man in America. It was not long until the officer began to question him over whether he had paid his fare to be down on the platform!
Sidenote: I have seen lots of people of all ages and races hop the railing to avoid paying their fare. And, considering my proximity to Cal, I’ve seen lots of white and Asian kids do it and have yet to see one of them detained (though I’m sure it has happened). I myself have gotten a Muni ticket for boarding without fare and was treated with nothing but respect from the white officer–and that’s in spite of my very poor and antagonistic attitude toward the Muni officer. (This is documented in a series of flaming tweets after the incident which ended up confronting me with my privilege. But that is another blog.)
And as the young man standing with me boldly proclaimed: “There will be no #OscarGrant moments in the BART today.” (Read here and here and then watch (graphic) here.) Despite the glares of the officers (one of whom had yelled before I started recording, “We are here to keep all these people down here safe!”) in our direction–at least three of us–their tone calmed drastically. The various threats were emptied into the calm and quiet writing of a fare violation ticket.
I was late to the Good Friday action but I stayed because I have seen on the news too many times when these situations have escalated and people have been killed.These officers were becoming angrier and the young man more afraid. What might have happened if we had not been watching?
I was late to the Good Friday action because I will be DAMNED if while I’m standing there another Black life is crucified or bullied by the state–or the BART Police–because of a vast power differential that has at its roots a systemic devaluing of some lives over others.
I was late to the Good Friday action because as a white, male, person of faith, when I say #Blacklivesmatter, I have to go beyond t-shirts, buttons, platitudes, and convenient solidarity, even if–and especially when–Black lives are at the hands of those given authority by the Empire. (See Oscar Grant, Philando Castile, Sandra Bland, et al.)
So no: there will be no crucifixions in the BART today. Nope.
And maybe they’ll stop altogether when we ALL–particularly us white people–rise up, show up, stand up and say to Empire and this society:
STOP brutalizing, crucifying, lynching, discarding Black and brown bodies. Trans bodies. Immigrant bodies. Women’s bodies. The bodies of the poor and differently abled. We are watching. And will will no longer stand for this.
Do not laud me or celebrate me for this action, please. I post this ONLY to further expose, from my place of privilege (I would have never been treated this way, even if I had jumped the gate), what happens in the dark tunnels of the BART, during rush hour, when no one else is watching and in the broad daylight–and to encourage each of us to EMBODY our solidarity when the moment arises.
No. There will be no crucifixions in the BART this Good Friday. And in the name of the crucified Jesus and in the name of all that is holy and sacred, may they forever cease.