by Special Correspondent Thea Lim
On Tuesday Samhita Mukhopadhyay posted the article Understanding the Dialogue Around Lovelle Mixon on Feministing, discussing the case and response to Lovelle Mixon. A 26 year-old black man and parolee in Oakland, last weekend Mixon died after shooting and killing four Oakland police officers.
Some excerpts from Mukhopadhyay’s article:
I do not deny that Mixon was armed, dangerous, a career criminal and potentially linked to the rape of a young woman. Lovelle Mixon’s actions are deplorable. But if we look at them within the context of police brutality, they sadly start make sense.
The power that resides in the laps of armed police officers is terrifying. Imagine living in these conditions, in the kind of world where you can be gunned down just for being young, black, male and walking down the street. This story is almost impossible to understand given dominant narratives around race, class, gender and black masculinity. It is considered OK to kill young black men, often violently. We may be outraged, but not nearly as outraged as when cops are killed.
Mukhopadhyay also drew from David Muhammad’s article at New American Media, which starts by saying (and I share this sentiment):
Four Oakland Police Department (OPD) officers killed, another shot, and a young assailant dead. This is tragic and unfortunate. Period.
While Mukhodpadhyay was as clear as Muhammad that Mixon’s actions are inexcusable and should not be seen as justice for Oscar Grant, within half an hour of her article going up, some Feministing commenters flipped. Choice reactions:
Turning a multiple cop killer and rapist into the poster child for a conversation about police brutality is apologism at its worst…If you were saying the same basic things to explain awat why he might have been led to rape the woman he’s excused of raping than no one on these boards would accept it. But I feel that since this happened in Oakland, after Oscar Grant, and since he’s black and these were white cops and because of the racial history it’s somewhat okay for you to seemingly excuse his actions.
This next very short comment misses the panoply of stats that Mukhopadhyay provided to illustrate that ex-convicts and poor folks in general sometimes cannot secure their basic needs by following the law:
Actually, that’s not true. Not committing further crimes is the surest way not to end up back in jail.
His actions were never fueled by police brutality, they appear to be fueled by possibility that he did not want to pay for additional crimes he knew he committed.
You’re conflating the brutal murder of Oscar Grant with a career criminal who knew he was caught and reacted like a wild animal cornered, doing anything and everything to escape being brought to justice.
I also take issue with the point that you make about cops killing young black men, statistically a much larger percentage of young black men are killed by other young black men.
And of course a few commenters who called Mukhopadhyay an apologist for Mixon were also quick to say “But you can’t say I’m racist! I was incensed by what happened to Rodney King!”
Listen: the difference between Rodney King (and Amadou Diallo and Sean Bell and Oscar Grant and Jeffrey Reodica and so many other young men of colour slain by the police) and Mixon is that the others were unarmed and innocent. The similarity is that they all lived under a policing system that devalued their lives and assumed them guilty solely because they were darker-skinned.
Now, Mixon actually was guilty. But Mixon’s guilt doesn’t neutralise the rottenness of the system. In other words, just because Mixon was actually a dangerous felon doesn’t mean that we are absolved from the duty to question how justice and innocence is defined and meted out in our culture. Read the Post Understanding the Backlash to the Dialogue Around Lovelle Mixon