Oakland kids, a school performance, and song of police brutality: Too soon?

This evening, after a small schools presentation at the East Oakland School of the Arts at Castlemont, a small group of students performed two dance routines for the guests, which included school board members, principals, politicians, organizers and foundation representatives.

Considering that four police officers were recently gunned down less than a mile from the high school (and the time it must take to put together a 4-minute dance routine), I’m pretty sure the opening song was chosen before this tragedy.

My Life,” by Oakland native Mistah F.A.B., tells a story of police brutality, racism and survival, themes that surely resonate with some kids. But hasn’t Castlemont held assemblies to stamp out the N Word? It was bleeped out during the performance, but one of the lines goes “Cops don’t give a damn about a negro/Pull a trigger kill a n** he’s a hero.”

Given what the city has been through in the last two weeks, and efforts to bring about peace in the wake of this and the Oscar Grant shooting (and subsequent violence), the music selection struck me as a bit tone deaf. But maybe it shouldn’t have. What do you make of this?

photo of vigil by Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • Nancy

    Obviously students have the right to free speech and academic freedom, however I am just plain sick and tired of the hate going on among all on both sides.

    What if the Oscar Grant shooting was an accident? When a principal does the same “brain reaction under stress” with a credit card, does it make it any more plausible?

    I am also sick and tired of pinning up all cops, especially white ones, as wrongdoers. Stop that acting out on white people!!! Please. I’ve witnessed just as many reverse racists.

    The four officers who lost their lives right down the street from that school appear to be good, honorable men who gave their lives in the line of duty. I don’t believe there are “cops” just going around brutalizing blacks and latinos just for the fun of it. Maybe in years past there was some of that to inspire the Panthers in Oakland. Most whites voted for Obama and hold no grudge based on race.

    This performance was in bad taste. Instead of continuing to perpetuate “an eye for an eye” mentality and further target white cops, why don’t they come up with some other play?

    It’s time to be accountable for one’s content of character one person at a time.

  • Nextset

    Schools are for education and training, not for political rabble rousing.

    And free speech swings both ways not one way. Perhaps the schools should start speeches and plays about black crime, black on white crime, and typical urban black pathology such as domestic violence, low intelligence, addiction, single motherhood, poor test scores, 4th grade reading levels of adults, HIV rates, etc etc.

    For every left wing argument that the kiddies should be able to wallow in their left wing nonsense, there is right wing argument that some people have nervous breakdowns when confronted with (So the school makes sure they’re not confronted).

    When the reading levels in these schools approach adult levels maybe we can go there. For now as far as I’m concerned when schools like this get into this kind of activity it’s just one more example of how learning has stopped and gameplaying has taken over. And this is just another reason why industry will not want to hire these kids at all, including in entry level and menial positions.

    Victimology is being taught, and it’s not even rational feelings of victimology. This is why 3rd worlders can walk into the USA and get jobs and these kids are unwanted and unskilled.

    If the schools must talk about police/gang conflicts in Oakland they can start with Aesops Fables and move from there to Loonie Tunes. People who go looking for trouble usually find it. And people who get institutionialized as early as puberty – locked up in Juvie and sent to CYA and then Prison, are usually/always mentally disordered. They don’t live long in the first place. Whether they suicide by cop, overdose or trip over their own feet and break their neck, it’s just evolution in action. Now back to work in the math/reading classroom.

  • harlemmoon

    Yep, timing was waaay off for this performance.
    But I’d argue that schools are indeed the perfect forum for expressing students’ feelings, thoughts and perspectives through performance.

    Schools are more than just the bricks and morter (e.g., reading, writing and math). They are also the stage for creativity, innovation and artistic expression.

  • Catherine

    There are as many or more black men hurting black men than police officers hurting black men.

    I wonder if a student were expressing himself or herself by rapping: black men killing – black moms letting black men sell drugs from their porches – hurting and killing – blowing out the torches.

    Would it be freedom of speech or racism?

  • Nextset

    Another thought – and this thread bothers me a lot. Mexicans are in the process of becoming the dominant ethnic in this state. As an ethnic group they are already dominant in the powerful prison guard union (a union that used to be more black influenced). How would OUSD like it when and if the Mexican student population started propagandizing about how annoying black criminality is to their interests? They could publish or invite in presentations by the prison guards about sub-human behavior by the prisoners and explain why the guards feel entitled to $100k+ a year salaries and early retirements, and parity with CHP salary and benefits. Believe me, La Raza does not look on all this like the NAACP does. Crime to them is civil service jobs.

    Victimology is not race neutral.

    Once you let this nonsensical “freedom of speech” out of the box, it goes on and on until the focus of the secondary schools is no longer preparation for age 18 and adulthood but rather political rabble rousing and victimhood. You don’t see such devotion to political action in the real schools which families really pay for and which actually prepare their students to get into the professions. (Yes there is some political gameplaying, but they do have to prepare for the SATs & UC Entrance requirements, etc.)

    I like to teach students that politics is vital to survival in a division of labor economy. If students aren’t aware of political science they will be dogmeat in this Brave New World.

    But there is a difference to becoming skilled in politics and propaganda (debating included) and being indoctrinated in worshipping losers and professional victims.

    We should never teach urban kids to indentify with any criminals, mentally disordered people, psychopaths and antisocials. We should rather teach our students to abhorr them and to regard them with the contempt they deserve. My black family and my integrated schools did so. Our students will wear better for that in this Brave New World.

    And it bothers me that urban Black kids are being raised to be disqualified for law enforcement jobs. Those jobs pay huge salaries and benefits. Why are black kids not being educated to identify with law enforcement and those careers? Police Cadet programs I’ve heard of started as young as 14. Law enforcement in the Bay Area was integrated at least in the 1960’s and that took some work back then. Have we turned the OUSD kids over to the Black Panthers and such Psychos – (I knew them…) while not introducing them to Judge Smith, Judge Brown, and the countless currently serving and retired blacks who started out in law enforcement right out of school?

  • David

    Catherine — should we also teach our children about the white bankers on wall street that have ruined millions of lives? or how about the white president who initiated the war on terror that has killed 100’s of thousands of innocent Iraqi’s?

    Would it be freedom of speech or racism?

  • harlemmoon

    You beat me to the punch, David.
    What’s more, there are several prominent rap groups that speak quite eloquently to black-on-black crime. One of the best rap groups ever, Public Enemy, immediately comes to mind.

    Again, public expression shouldn’t be the issue here. It’s about sensitivity, timing of said expression.

  • John

    Harlemmoon: The “schools are indeed the perfect forum for expressing students’ feelings, thoughts and perspectives through performance,” feelings, thoughts, and perspectives learned from their leftest trainers.

    “Roll over, bark, sit, beg! Good dog!”

    Trouble is real world (non-government) employers need “graduates” who know more than dog tricks, while self serving leftest politicians don’t. For the latter, anyone tromping over the border or across the graduation stage of Stupidville Socialist Elementary, Middle “School,” or High “School” is a career bolstering good fit.

    Amnesty and graduation for all in our deteriorating STUPID NEW WORLD!

    David: Your moral equivalency comment, and education level with Catherine, lack equivalency.

    And yes Harlemmoon, the timing of stupid comments can certainly be an issue.

  • harlemmoon

    Dearest John,

    While it would be deliciously tempting to punch crater-size holes through your leaky reasoning, I will forego that desire and instead focus on more appropriate discussion.
    I will suggest, however, that you read comments in their entirety before pouncing apelike.
    I did indeed say that schools are the perfect forum for expression. But I wasn’t suggesting that those various forms of expression be the ONLY thing taught, encouraged and permitted in schools.

    Arts – yes, even so-called provocative arts – is a great addition to schools’ attempts to educate the whole child.

  • David

    John – why are you personalizing this?

    FYI – I have a graduate degree, and i am a very successful OUSD high school teacher.

    I’m sure Catherine is a thoughtful person, who cares about education in Oakland.

    The right-wing in this country has nothing new to offer.

    Oakland is a great city, that has problems just like any other city. Stereotyping black men, may make someone “feel good”, but it doesn’t help, or create an atmosphere for cunstructive debate.

  • Katherine Cox

    I hope David doesn’t teach spelling.

  • Catherine

    The reason I brought up the rap is that our bank has had two customers in the past 60 days have a son shot dead in the streets of Oakland. Each customer knew her son was dealing drugs from the house. Each house had semi-automatic weapons and automatic weapons in the house, drugs packaged for sale on the street and each house had over $30,000 in cash – small bills. Each time mom came in to deposit money in her name it was just under the $10,000 reporting requirement.

    When the latest son died, as her older son had, she said, “You kind of expect it. My son said that somebody had to die tonight before he left the house. I didn’t know it was his turn.”

    What bankers are doing is horrid, they should be punished. However, just because one group of people are doing horrid things does not make it okay for another group to do horrid things. Selling drugs to kids and their parents is horrid. Making the police who prosecute the crimes out to be racist is horrid. Moms who allow drugs to be sold from their front porch or through the screen door is horrid.

    When you allow or deny one group “free speech” you have a resposiblity to allow all “free speech.”

    I hate the KKK, but they have a legal right to assembly if you are going to have the Human Rights Campaign, Mothers Against Drunk Drivers or if you allow teenage rap “artists.”

    Most of the people on this blog have no interaction with the families of drug dealers, of people who carry weapons on their person while conducting business or who deposit “dirty money” – so until you have walked in my shoes even for a day you have no right to say what you would or wouldn’t do.

  • Nancy

    The problem is the overall disrespectful conduct with many in Oakland. Breaking the social contract has become norm. When a police officer stops someone, you are supposed to be respectful–you don’t have to agree. All of these rap lyrics about violence on anyone is also the problem–what you say is what you think and what you think escalates feelings, hostility, and promotes in some cases as Nextset states as faulty beliefs about reality.

    And then, what about the Mexican Drug Cartels accused of infiltrating all these automatic and semi-automatic weapons to almost every major city in America? Then they want the jobs in the Prison? Just what is going on there?

    IF it takes ATF descending SWAT teams and/or police having to announce on a loud speaker “hands on your head” for a routine traffic stop, then I am all for it–how does a police officer have a chance against those kinds of weapons? And, how can they be accused of police brutality when all of these gangs have more fire power than the police? Victimology?

    There is too much disrespect–people need to follow the rules of society to remain a civilized society.
    I support our police officers and think that they should be respected even if you don’t agree with the ticket they are writing for you or their attempts to protect the community and enforce the laws.

  • Nextset

    I have posted earlier that the families of the feral criminals are no better than they are. Some of them conceal their amorality better than Jr does but an experienced eye and ear sees them for what they are.

    Banks are susposed to report suspicious transactions not just $10k cash transactions. The Momma laundering drug money is reportable – and she herself will do time if law enforcement targets her. And if all these people and their pit bull die in the drug wars, think of it as evolution in action.

    I have many times had a whining relative come snivelling to me that there was an “illegal” warrantless search of their home – and in a couple of questions the real story is that they knowingly allowed their parolee/probationer relative or friend to stay there and in so doing opened their home up to day and night warrantless searches. What part of “Search Condition” did they not understand? Typically under cross examination it turns out they were in the room when the Search Condition was explained at sentencing or by the Parole Officer.

    They come in trying to lie their way into getting someone to start a legal battle for them because using people for their drug dealing enterprise is what they’re all about. Those who do wrong constantly involve foolish others in fighting their battles for them. Starting with getting some dummy to post bail (Sure I’ll pay you back…).

    Doors sometimes get kicked in. People knowingly allow their criminal relatives/friends to use their address to receive mail, a driver’s license, live there or whatever. Then when Jr. skips out on his parole/probation/sex registration (or actually murders someone) here comes the cops often with a warrant if required. They’re easy to get.

    And the family gets caught with their own stolen goods and dope, or gets roughed up or shot up while acting out. They always always start with the same rant… “I didn’t DO anything.”

    It goes on and on and on.

    What the kids have to be told in no uncertain terms is that anybody involved in the underworld or with underworld figures can expect to play this “mortal combat” game and don’t come crying to someone else when you get yourself hurt. If you don’t OD, Shoot yourself and each other loading the guns while high, get killed by the cutthroat competition of various other colors, you might get hurt playing with the Cops. It’s a cost of doing crime or associating with crime. Too Bad, So Sad.

    Back to the thread. Before these silly kids go on the march about “police brutality” they need to get it about “life is brutal” and that people make their own luck and make their own problems. Stop feeling sorry for other people and take care of yourself and your own family. When other people want to change they can start doing so (hint, they have no intention of changing, people like what the are and what they do). Don’t get used by other people as a sob sister.

    And David, The Bankers you would teach the kiddies about aren’t Protestant and they aren’t “White” either. Madoff, and maybe the couple from Oakland that gave us all those Option ARMS, etc. etc. Don’t think for a minute the public schools will go there. But if it’s freedom of speech they want we could have some lively conversation about the tendencies of certain groups.

    But we don’t want to push victimhood. Everybody who was done in had a fair chance to say no. If only the victims were better educated!!! Or just smarter?

    Brave New World
    Where there is little fear of law enforcement by anybody – high or low.

    Perhaps we should reintroduce some terror in crime and punishment? Would that save us from a Madoff and from a Robber?? Would even a moderate change in our system to include severe corporal punishment ala Singapore and the other modern Asian Nations save us from all this crime? China executed a woman who ran a factory that produced dangerously defective merchandise. Would this help consumer protection?

  • Catherine


    We reported every time even included facebook and utube entries for the whole family.

    BTW – both men left two known children to mothers who now on welfare with no fathers, being educated in Oakland Public Schools.

  • Nextset

    Catherine: If you reported it hopefully the report helped stop these people. It’s usually a good idea to report to the IRS/treasury as well as the local Police Vice/Narcotics/intelligence section.

    The other thing for the bank to do is to close all the accounts of the customers who appear to be involved in crime and laundering the money at the bank. There is an old rule about “know your customer”. If the customers are bring in inexplicable money the bank may and should choose not to deal with such a person. Many banks nowadays don’t care if they are being used to facilitate crime. They should care.

    Of course the dead men left children to (likely) unwed mothers. Reproduction is a primary biological urge of psychopaths. You can be a criminal who is not psychopathic (or is low on that scale) but the feral ones as a matter of course are psychopathic. They will not be raising/support their many bio-children. And those children are at risk to become psychopaths – there is reason to believe it can follow a mutation that runs in families. (Attachment disorders can be induced also.)

    Among the more obvious traits of a psychopath is that they cannot develop empathy or emotional attachments to persons, places or things. They drive their cars without ever changing oil, their pets die or run away to save themselves, they harm/neglect their normal objects of affection such as family, sex partners, pets and children, drift from place to place without forming attachments to places (one reason why “drifters” are always considered dangerous), they neglect their own health because they really don’t care – they can have bad teeth and by age 45 they may look 70 if they even live that long (Psychopaths are at risk for premature death). They lie as a primary process even when the truth wouldn’t be a problem. The list goes on.

    These are the people the police spend a disproportionate amount of time fighting and cleaning up after. Quickly the cops learn to recognize them even in casual encounters. And the cops know better than the public how very dangerous these people are – because they don’t care about ANYTHING including themselves. Experts can often identify these people as children.

    So is the cops accidently shoot one while reaching for a Taser to subdue a psychopath, that’s just the breaks for the psychopath. These things happen across the country during struggles with paychopaths. It was an accident, of course.

    And the students want to identify with the psychopath and take time from their studies and demonstrate… Not in any school I run. I would be teaching to disidentify with antisocials, not to identify with them. And it’s more important that the black kids learn this because they are more at risk for getting hurt dabbling with antisocials. In very short doses antisocials are fun, charming, exciting, seductive, needy and never boring. Kind of like the Black Panthers, the SLA, the Bakery Gang and the rest of the Bay Area Psychopathic Party crowd. And they probably can BBQ also.

    Brave New World

  • John

    Harlemmoon, you’re referring to me as “Dearest John,” followed by “it would be deliciously tempting,” gave me a bit of a nervous twitter until coming to that part about “foregoing your desire.” Whew! You’re right Harlemmoon, I should read (your) comments in their entirety before pouncing “apelike” [ape like] on a conclusion better suited to the agenda of a ‘social connecting’ site.

    I’m exhaustively familiar with your fashionable brand of holistic feel good education doctrine and therefore a bit energy challenged about “pouncing on” your second hand “insights.” However, the cuteness of your comments has motivated my paternal instincts. I will therefore admonish you NOT to “punch crater-size holes” through “leaky reasoning.” Perhaps, after much reflection you’ll understand the futility of punching holes in something you perceive to be “leaking.”

    You are correct in your observation that “schools are more than just bricks and morter [mortar],” and it’s time for you to learn more. If per chance you qualify at some point to attend BIG SCHOOL (college) enroll in a logic course, take two aspirin, and get back to us in four years when your ideas and thinking have become “whole” and accomplish more than making stupid space in cyber space. Blast off Harlemmoon!

    Disclaimer: The above comments should not be construed as an effort to restrict your right to free speech or make a fool of yourself through the reiteration of fashionably ignorant ideas and comments.

    DAVE! I’m so sorry. I had absolutely no idea that you have a graduate degree and are employed as a “successful OUSD high school teacher.”
    In light of your comment that “the right-wing in this country has nothing new to offer” perhaps you could take Harlemmoon under your broken left wing and help him become twice as successful and distinguished as you’ve become? At least it would be a good poor start.

    As you say, “Oakland is a great city that has problems just like any other city.” I’ve certainly observed plenty of problems in my new city, after living in Oakland for fifty-five years! Just yesterday someone parked in a red zone and got severely ticked by the local police. The car was black and, consistent with my Oakland training we are now organizing radical members of my new city to protest the “stereotyping” of black cars!

    I’d attend the protest myself if it weren’t for all the local crime perpetrated by jay walkers, people spitting on sidewalks, and other criminals who roam the streets of my new Metropolis, point well taken Dave!

    P.S. Have you and Harlemmoon ever considered becoming playmates?

  • Katy Murphy

    A friendly reminder: This forum is about debating the issues. Please keep it constructive.

  • turner

    This is just irresponsible…and after all we have been through this year.

  • harlemmoon

    Thank you, Katy.
    Now, Johnny, go outside and play with the rest of the school children! Go on, now. Scoot!

  • John

    Teacher Katy! Harlemmoon’s teasing me and not being constructive or nice. Make him stop!

  • cranky teacher

    You threw them red meat, Katy.

    This event had nothing to do with the cops, right? It wasn’t a memorial or anything?

    Then why are you linking them? I think you’re making something out of nothing.

    When teen students in flatland Oakland are invited to express themselves creatively, you better be ready for some painful or even ugly stuff. Can’t have it both ways.

    And yes, being threatened or intimidated by cops is part of their reality, whether those cops are crooked or just doing their very difficult job.

    There are plenty of kids in the hood trying to keep their noses clean and some of them get pretty upset when they are treated like criminals.

  • Katy Murphy

    “This event had nothing to do with the cops, right? It wasn’t a memorial or anything?

    Then why are you linking them?”

    In short: timing.

  • Nextset

    Cranky: I posted something that seems to have become lost after your post # 22. I said something about Katy doing a good job and the problem I react so strongly to is OUSD teaching Indiscipline to kids that need discipline to survive. It might have seemed I was reacting to you – or blaming you for the syndrome.

    And I thought about that, I don’t want to personalize any of this – I speak towards school policy and what needs to change at OUSD and black dominated “schools” like OUSD.

    Katy is right about timing. My anger in this whole situation is the constant push on the Oakland school kids to identify with loser underclass figures instead of being taught to disidentify. They (the black schoolkids) won’t have a chance in this Brave New World because people are ready, willing and quite able to protect themselves from the underclass and “people” includes every traffic cop, store clerk and employer even in Oakland.

    The schools promote bad thinking and indiscipline and turn out these babes in the woods. And the babes are taught to be very loud as they make their way in the woods. everybody can hear them coming in case they need a reminder to get the knives and forks ready.

    So we don’t need any expressions from these kids until they get their heads straight about how life is.

  • turner

    I gotta say, Nextset, that is well said.