Rios_introduction[1] - Introduction Dreams Differed Mass...

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1 Introduction Dreams Differed: Mass Punishment in Oakland What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?…Maybe it just sags like a heavy load. Or does it explode? -Langston Hughes Life in the neighborhood continues much as it did when I lived there as a teenager. At fifteen years old, Slick, a Latino kid born and raised in Oakland, shows me the “hotspots”: street intersections and sidewalks where life-altering experiences linger, shaping residents' picture of the area. As we walk the neighborhood, he points to the corner of International Boulevard and 22nd Avenue, where his best friend took a bullet in the lung during a drive-by shooting. He watched his homey die slowly, gasping like a waterless fish, a torrent of blood inundating his respiratory system. We approach the corner of 23 rd Avenue and International, and Slick warns me that “at any given moment something could jump off, fools could roll up and shit could go down.” We stop at a mobile “taco truck” to order a burrito. Standing on the corner watching cars and people pass by, Slick continues to “break it down” for me: “Just the other day, mothafuckas rolled up on me and pulled out a strap to my head…fuck it, today is my day…so I threw up my sign and said fuck you. ..the thang [gun] got stuck or some shit ‘cuzz I saw him pulling but nothing came out.” An Oakland Police Department patrol car pulls up as we take our first bite and wipe our hands on paper napkins. Two officers emerge from the car and order us to sit on the curb:"Hands on your ass!" they order. Slick and I look down at our burritos and realize we are being asked to throw them to the ground after a single bite. We hesitate; the officer yells again. We toss our burritos and sit on the concrete with our hands under
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2 our thighs. The officers grab our arms and handcuff us, lifting us up by the metal link holding the cuff together, placing excruciating pressure on our shoulder joints. As they search us, I ask the officers, “What’s going on?” They take out a camera and take pictures of Slick and me. “Who is this guy?” they ask Slick. He tells them, “He’s from UC Berkeley. He’s cool, man!” The officers release our handcuffs, tell Slick to stay out of trouble, and get in their cars and drive off. I turn to Slick and say, “That was crazy!” He replies, “That happens all the time. They got nothin’ on me.” “How often does it happen?” I ask. “Shit! Come on, Vic! You know wassup. It happens everyday,” Slick replies. The interaction with the police is the most dramatic form of punishment I saw on the day I spent with Slick, but his daily life is marked by an accumulation of such punishing interventions, big and small, apropos of something at times and apropos of nothing just as often. It's a school day, but Slick doesn’t go to school since he’s been kicked out for truancy. As we walk away from the avenue through an alley to Slick’s house, I find that he started evading school, at age fourteen, after his homeboy’s death in
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This note was uploaded on 09/09/2011 for the course PLSI 200 taught by Professor Schendan during the Spring '08 term at S.F. State.

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Rios_introduction[1] - Introduction Dreams Differed Mass...

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