From Oakland: The Sorrow of Repetition (On the Murder of Alan Blueford)

Nostalgia

The spectacle, like modern society, is at once unified and divided. Like society, it builds its unity on the disjunction. But the contradiction, when it emerges in the spectacle, is in turn contradicted by a reversal of its meaning, so that the demonstrated division is unitary, while the demonstrated unity is divided.

-Guy Debord

It’s been a decade since I walked down that particular stretch of MacArthur, along the foothills, near the Eastmont Mall. The only major change I could see happened years ago when the police station was installed where the old Mervyns used to be. The mall imploded because no one with any money came there anymore and all the big stores pulled out, leaving behind a lifeless shell, a testament to the inevitable failure of capitalism. It is now largely a social services hub, created as an afterthought once the money disappeared.

When I was a kid, the mall was a place to wander pointlessly and stare at the cheap commodities I couldn’t buy. Sometimes people got beat up or shot outside the mall and I knew I had to be very careful whenever I was outside. One summer, a drug lab burnt down at the top of 73rd and sent large plumes of black smoke into the sky over the mall. Back then, I knew an old Pakistani man who went on short walks with a large wooden dowel. He did this to protect himself after some kids mugged him one evening. Nearby where he got mugged, people got high on the hill above Buena Ventura Avenue and looked down and out towards the cemetery, the grid of East Oakland, and the Coliseum. This is the same neighborhood where I first saw the police kill someone and where Lovelle Mixon had his shootout with the police.

I walked down MacArthur and noticed that nothing much had changed. There was a new skatepark by the school and a healthy food court for the students. Otherwise everything was exactly as I remembered it. While I’ve seen West Oakland and downtown change dramatically, filling with money and condos, this particular corner of East Oakland didn’t feel any different. Eastmont is too far from the bridge, too far from BART, and has too large a history of rebellion, drugs, and violence for any potential investors. The economic colonization took place elsewhere, leaving the neighborhood as it was. The only difference, as I said, was the police station, standing nearly two stories above the surrounding houses, looking like a military outpost in the ungovernable edge of Oakland.

Read the rest here.

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