Hello - I'm Pat and I think!
Updated: Jun 4, 2020
Who but the realest of the real chooses to write their first blog post during racial upheaval in a pandemic on a controverial subject? Hi, I'm Pat Wilson and I endorse this message.
Apocalypse Los Angeles 2020
For starters, its June 2, 2020 and if you happen to be reading this - yes! it is the week the apolocalypse began! Hopefully you found some fossilized beer too cuz you're gonna need it for this long post...
I live in Los Angeles, where currently we enjoy not only quarantine from a deadly pandemic, but also now - curfew from our city's own armed dictatorship (I believe it is called LA City Council?) which has left me with nothing but time to reflect in the evenings (and drink, but mostly reflect.. okay so maybe like 50/50 reflect/drink ratio..ha) and write. Usually I try to write music because it makes me happy! But on occasion (such as this) there comes a somber time to write about some real shit, facing some real communities right now, that actually IS life or death.
So if you are on my FB page, you know I had a bit of a knee jerk reaction when I saw the riots start in LA. Let me reassure you, it is not cuz I am a callused asshole who does not stand with his black brethren, naw bruh - miss me with all that. Its actually the complete opposite - after seeing this happen, time and time again, and seeing our outrage, time and time again, and seeing the acquittals, time and time again... I don't spring into the streets or see that any imminent change is coming due to initial 'crowd' outrage. I still remember Rodney King and the LA riots back then, thinking how "the cops will never do this again! They know we won't stand for it!! We'll bring the whole city down if we have to!". This was 1992, not to mention - I was already afraid of the cops. As most know if left unchecked, fear breeds hate..
I'm willing to admit when I've changed my mind, or if I'm wrong. It's my belief that it is important for people of character to be able to do this, which is what I aspire to be. Many of you are about to see a new side of me, whereas several of you that have known me for years will always know I was always a mix of hippie & gutter punk at heart. Admittedly, I came out a bit angry on both sides when the protests first happened.. On one side, I'm just not impressed with riots anymore or how they seem to be picking ground for the opportunistic criminal (which are probably less than 1% of all protesters). But on the other hand I am sick and tired of police brutality, clear prejudice on the police force and the fact that they do not feel they need to be held accountable for their actions...
I guess one way I could start this obscenely long rant is by describing my first tattoo. One of my favorite bands to this day is an old punk/ska band called Operation Ivy. I was all about those guys in JR/HS and I remember the day I turned 17, my friend told me about a tattoo shop in Venice that would do tats on 17 yr olds (wow! lol) which was a big deal at the time as you could be arrested I suppose for tatting peeps under 18.. Anyways, the very first tattoo I got was on my right shoulder blade, solely the word "Unity". No fancy letters, no crazy fonts, just UNITY. Having lived in Detroit, Canada, Long Beach, LA, and OC in my life all before that time, you can probably believe I'd seen quite a bit of racial inequality and just straight up racist people. But on the same token, also met some of the coolest people in world that believed in human equality and truly didn't care about someones color but their actual content. I vowed even amongst racism (from blacks and whites, and every race tbh) that I would be one of those people. This tattoo has always just served as true north for me, even though its the lamest looking tattoo I have, it still just means the most to me for what it represents.
In the Op Ivy song, one of the main refrains is "Unity - as one, stand together.. Evolution's gonna come." This week, I've seen this in LA - the 'Stand Together', in ways I used to only see in my dreams as a youth. Its so amazing seeing people of all races unite and gather mainly peacefully, to look after one of their own facing serious injustice.. and I must say - I commend you LA on standing up the way you are, and I have never been as proud to say I'm an Angeleno, good or bad, as I am right now. Wanna know why? Read the novel below!
If you think about songs over the years from gangster rap artists, people that grew up in the hood - Fuck the Police, Cop Killer, all the classics.. These songs were praised and highly regarded when I was growing up.
I went to church for a bit when I was younger and I remember us having a discussion about gangster rap, and how appalling it was that they would say such things about hard-working police officers, just trying to protect our neighborhoods and stop gang violence. Why were these rappers so hateful?
Was it that they were just so hardened by street life, they saw the need to kill anything that stood in their way? While I didn't say it in bible class, I knew the answer, almost instinctively.. I stayed quiet and let the class ruminate over why Ice-T was a soulless murderer who needed to find God and NWA were preaching ruthless, heartless, killing.
Over the years, I even thought back and wondered why I knew the answer so handily, but also I would wonder - why did I not want to share it with the pre-dominantly white bible study? When these songs came on or were discussed over the years, I definitely came across many who wondered why so many people in inner-city neighborhoods have so much hatred towards the police..
Over the years, I occasionally ruminated over this black hatred for the cops, the brutal music and the general sentiment in some neighborhoods that police were the enemy. In all actuality, it wasn't until very recently, that my viewpoints started shifting a bit. It began when I started to look at it through the lens of my own life experiences - how I used to feel in Long Beach, LA, or even especially Orange County getting pulled over by the cops... Or how everyone black or even brown that I knew experienced some form of prejudice or injustice.. And the reason for the hatred just smacked me in the face like a Prodigy song recently; it was and is - the Fear.
I experience it myself. I know that just about everyone in LA or Long Beach where I grew up for the most part, that is black or latino, or even other races - we have that extra ping of fear in our gut when a cop car pulls behind us and turns on the lights. 'Why are they pulling me over? What are they going to do to me? I hope they're not racist.' I'm not going to sit here speaking for everyone because I know everyone's experience is different, but I literally think those three things every time I'm pulled over, or have run-ins with the police - every time.
It's weird though - so many black people just seem to have an innate disdain for the police (or at minimum, severe distrust) which is just built in and passed down from our parents, who had things even worse racially in this country. So many of us grow up just bracing for the next encounter, and hoping to avoid it as long as possible. Here's an exercise: ask a black friend if they've ever been treated unfairly by the cops. Choose literally any of them, and just calmly ask. I can almost guarantee they all will have at least one (more likely multiple) experiences that may shock you. LITERALLY. EVERY. PERSON.
So why all the fear?
Is it because of all the crazy stories on the news or Rodney King, Ahmad Ahbery, George Floyd, or Eric Garner? They definitely added to the fire.. but no - it was from my OWN experiences with the police.
When I was in Jr. High, my family moved up to Orange County for a bit and coming from Long Beach, it was definitely a big shock to my system. First, a lot less black people (if any) but if you know Long Beach, that city is a mixing pot so being around other races was already something I knew and loved. My (white) friend and I were walking through the parking lot of a shopping center in Garden Grove to get some lunch at Carl's Jr when a swath of police cars (6 in total) surrounded us, sirens blaring as several officers drew and pointed their weapons at us, exclaiming for us to drop to our knees immediately and put up our hands.
Being unarmed 12 year old boys and fearing for our lives, while simultaneously wondering what kind of CSI plot we must have inadvertently become involved in somehow in our journey through the strip mall-we instantly complied with the armed officers and were roughly apprehended & I was hand-cuffed without explanation. This was the first time someone clearly pointed a gun at me in my life, and I counted at least 7. Now, over the years - I've been through alot of crazy shit.. If you don't know about me, I was born in Detroit - I was first robbed at the age of 2 (my moms purse, long story), I was raised in downtown Long Beach spending most of my time working in a homeless shelter in downtown LA which my family ran for over 22 years. I've broken 4 arms (fell off a staircase which left me with internal bleeding in my head and spent 23 days in the ICU), since had guns pointed at me multiple times, and joined the Marine corps at 17 (just turned 18 before bootcamp). But still, for me - being a 12 year old from Long Beach, and just feeling the helplessness of being completely surrounded by police with guns drawn (mainly white), yelling over their loudspeaker for us to get to our knees NOW.. that moment sits with me to this day. The utter confusion of having no idea why they are doing this, knowing you did nothing wrong, but you're still being grabbed by the head and roughed into the back of a squad car. I looked out the window, my friend (yes he is white but that didn't really bother me as much as this next part) had still not been handcuffed yet but was obviously in direst talking to multiple police officers just outside the car. Another cop ran up to the cluster of officers around my friend, erratically making hand gestures that the other officers seemed to be responding to quickly and running to their respective cars. A latino officer scurried to the door of the car I had been loaded into and opened the door, gently grabbing me by the arm and carefully removing the handcuffs. "you guys are free to go" - he says... and proceeds to start walking towards another car.
So I'm confused and at this point visibly wondering wtf is going on so I shout to the officer 'Excuse me sir, why did you guys just do that to us? Did we do something wrong?'
He glances at me and nonchalantly says, "you two fit the description of two kids that just stole $100 worth of DVDs from the Warehouse". Oh. I wanted to continue the debate with the officer but he was clearly in a rush and I myself was not in a hurry to keep the men around that had just cuffed me at gunpoint. But I do vividly remember just being in shock as I watched the police cars speed out of the parking lot, probably in pursuit of the deadly movie stealing criminals they'd thought we were. Not a single officer offered an apology.
I didn't know it at the time, but that moment did leave me with a bit of PTSD (even if I didn't want to admit it to myself). Honestly, I think I just felt ashamed about it and didn't want to talk about it with anyone. Pretend it didn't happen. I didn't want to feel like some helpless victim that people needed to feel sorry for, I'm just a person trying to live my life like everyone else. Over the years being in OC it turned into - 'Why were they trying to pull ME over or out of the car every time? Don't they know I play on their son's baseball team?' Into - 'Oh yeah, this again. Let me act like the model citizen, hands on the wheel wait for him to ask for my ID' - yadda yadda. I was fucking used to it, and now looking back on it, I've got to say I'm semi-disgusted with myself for being such a sheep. Wish my 12 year old self had the spine to look those cops in the eyes and tell them right where to fucking go for treating two pre-teen kids like hardened criminals because one of them happened to be black. It never hit me that I just didn't have the right pretext yet. It still hadn't quite hit me that all extra attention and rough treatment from the cops was happening not because of what it looked like I had done, or even what it looked like I might do, but solely for HOW I looked. The color of my skin. Literally the one thing about myself I cannot change. The only people in this world that have truly made me fearful for my own safety solely for this one, impossible to change fact - has been the police. It is disgusting when you think about it - an organization of fellow human beings, employed by us to protect & serve, that to this day instill feelings in children & people that make them wonder why they have to look the way they do. Make them feel like they are just a little more expendable than their other friends of a different hue, and this clear racial profiling is occasionally reinforced with violence [without reprieve], and/or the threat of it. That is not a world I want my children to have to be raised in, and that is not a group that I as a taxpayer should have to fund to be honest.
On the other hand, I'm not so callused I don't see both sides of the coin - a world without police does have high probability of descending into order-less chaos until finally a dictator is borne of the blood wars that ensue.. We do need police of some form, we need people that will look after our community, our elderly and young and make sure that the city is a safe place for all. Even with all I've seen and been through, I am not one of those calling for the abolishment of the police force or rule of Anarchy. This isn't the way forward, and if you think it is - you should check out Somalia, or maybe Liberia, they have this kind of setup now - tell me how you like it! We do need police, sorry to say. But we also need police to be responsible for their actions, just like a NORMAL citizen. If I'm an elevator attendant and someone gets mouthy with me and I kick them down the elevator shaft one day - I don't just get fired, I GO TO JAIL WITH THE REST OF THE MURDERERS. No one says - "oh Pat was just having a rough day, lets suspend him for a month or two without pay", or even "fire" him... ooooh!!! Meanwhile all getting further and further from the fact A MAN WAS JUST KILLED! We need to all look at this objectively for more than just the black and white issue many think it is, and make this into what it really is - a time for people to speak out against true injustice and prejudice WORLDWIDE, an awakening, and a movement towards our more true selves as humanity. There is far too much information available these days for the downtrodden to stay silent, and this has gotten me so energized over the past few days to see the vehement rage within people in LA of all walks of life and that they're just fed up.
Some poeple are saying the racism on the LAPD is 'systemic' but I myself think that is a problematic way of looking at it. In my short time in the military, I remember catching on to the little pockets of dirt and corruption that were hidden here and there. I won't go into specifics, but for the most part - they were all nothing new. The person doing the dirt learned of the vulnerability through another before them, that passed it on. The more and more people could get away with, the more and more the problem would fester and bubble beneath the surface. To illustrate this in a brief microcosm, [at one point] a co-worker of mine told me he'd found a cache of MREs in an empty barracks while I was stationed at Camp Pendleton. When we went to check it out, he was right - this seemingly abandoned military barracks was packed to the ceiling with unaccounted for Meals Ready to Eat, boxes and boxes - which in deployment are like gold. Seeing the writing on the wall, I grabbed a couple MREs initially, but never really returned to the barracks to stock up. Just seemed too hot.. Well it was over I'd say two weeks tops, I'd seen larger and larger groups of Marines going towards that barracks - obviously my friend had shared his knowledge, and others had begun to capitalize. The word spread, and within 3 weeks - a Colonel noticed a large group of junior Marines, all headed towards an empty barracks room down the hill. The Colonel stopped and exclaimed, 'where in the hell are you Marines going?' - they froze sensing the seniority in the high-ranking officer's voice.. As they clearly were guilty of something, the Colonel continued, "why don't you Marines come with me.. What Battalion are you with? Who's your Sergeant? We need to have a talk." When I finally saw the Marines in that group that were in my direct unit again, they had been assigned to never-ending work parties, one of them even lost a paygrade. Why? The problem was allowed to fester, and bubble - just beneath the surface. But there is always a point where people will notice the festering, or when the bubbling spills out into view for all to see. Its a matter of when, not if. This is an inevitability when it comes to humans and how our minds work in groups.
I think this is exactly what has happened on the LAPD over the years. In any profession, you can have people from all walks of life, with differing beliefs and values - that happen to be well-suited or driven to a certain career path. When you work in a large group, you tend to gravitate to those who see things more your way.. For starters, more to talk about! More in common = better camaraderie, etc. etc. Usually, its something like coming from a common city or interest in the same music or sports/teams. Sometimes maybe you're both into basket-weaving & Corgi's - who knows? We also cannot ignore the darker side of that, however.. Racism is still very real in 2020, though widely frowned upon by the general public - it is still exists, and groups such as the KKK assemble, sometimes publicly to spew messages of racial division. On occasion, humans in groups can bond not over things they enjoy, but rather the things they fear and/or hate. As the general public obviously wouldn't stand for Swastikas and Klan hoods in this day and age, those that have extreme racial beliefs must live in the shadows, especially in positions of authority.
For an [extremely] brief history on Cops, the concept of the 'Police' itself was formed in 1829 in the UK with the Metropolitan Act. As I'm sure you as an informed person are aware, 1829 was not necessarily a period known for racial tolerance. In 1838 (obviously the same era), the first American police force was formed in Boston. To give a reference, slavery did not officially end until 1863. So asking an OG police officer to be racially sensitive would be like asking the guy who built the Model-T Ford to build you a Tesla. It just didn't exist yet. The fact that blacks were second-class citizens was literally a widely-held and practiced belief. Even throughout the years since then, Blacks were not treated as equals. Racial segregation continued until almost 1964 if you can believe that - colored drinking fountains and all. This wasn't just the police. This was AMERICA. That thought gave me a bit of pause at first.. It has been less than 80 years since black people couldn't even use the same bathroom as our white brethren.. How can we expect the police force to have made such a radical change from the [basically legislated] racism to a place of racial tolerance for everyone in such a short time? Of course there are echos of racism still around, right?
Now me having been born in the 80's, I do not proclaim to understand the struggles my parents and (for gods sake) my grandparents had to face. Things were so much different and harder for them racially growing up than they are for just about everyone across the board right now. Its the age of information - there is literally data available in our pockets that says we are all equal, save for a few minor physical differences. People being raised today have the unique privilege of knowing the truth should they simply seek it - humans are the same species, and racism is constructed solely of the weak mind of the beholder. I know racism and racial bias is not a problem that is going to be fixed overnight for our entire society and to be honest, I do not expect or even WANT it to be. However, one thing we cannot allow is for people still holding on to these antiquated beliefs to brandish weapons and utilize them on law abiding citizens with little to no repercussions. When I think of what a Police force should be, it should be the bravest and smartest people in the community, that are there to protec tand serve those that live there as well, and WANT to do so because they are a PART of the community they serve. Alas - I know this is a pipe-dream, but still - it's great to think how much different many aspects of our lives would be without the constant fear of encountering the wrong officer on a bad day. If when you got pulled over, it was your buddy Mike from High School - that told you to slow down in a school zone cuz both your daughters go there. Or even just having the knowledge that if one day Mike did get mad and do something wrong, he would return to the same community, where he also lived - and be held ACCOUNTABLE for his actions. If Mike blatantly broke the laws he was meant to enforce, he would be serving the same sentence as I would had I done the same, if not more so given the fact he is a trained officer, holding a responsibility to the people and his community [which btw he elected to hold of his own free will]. Ahhh.. dreams..
Well the thing is [with our current situation] - when lives are at stake, and people are dying - we can't stand around while these people with their views from the past slowly 'figure it out' meanwhile dictating our future and whether or not our kids make it home at the end of the day. We have the information, we know the truth - it's time to find and force out those that deny it to the peril of our own society and communities. Prejudice and injustice cannot be tolerated in this day and age. If you ask me, as painful and as hurtful as this all is for us all, especially the families of those hurt or killed in these atrocities, the light at the end of the tunnel here is one of the brightest I've ever seen. Around the country (and world for that matter) normal citizens are standing outside in the streets - in solidarity, united by love and camaraderie. Standing up to oppression, looking after their own brothers and sisters - regardless of their skin tones. This is the REAL future. And it makes me fucking proud to be alive to see this monumental change in worldwide discourse. To see the conversations that are happening and the barriers that are being broken. Each day with our actions, we are showing that we refuse to let George die in vain, and I am endlessly proud of the citizens of this planet for that.
Growing up, I was one of the very few people deeply involved in the Punk and hip hop scenes simultaneously, and over the years, disdain for authority as well as police, govt, capitalism, establishment - it was all embedded in me. With time (& age) however, you start to realize you are the outlier for these views so rather than have them flourish, you eventually start to hide them away - only for the right time for them to resurface.. A time where rather than be met with ridicule and brushed aside, these views would actually mean something, and people would listen with an open ear about why we were fucked since before the British invasion, and how our government continues to screw us today. Well, I'm not spewing that right now.. TBH, my punk days will always be a part of who I am, and many of the ideologies formed during that time in my life, I will forever hold onto and believe in. But I am not saying I support Anarchy.. I don't. Not now because humans still could not handle it yet. The same people driving from store to store, completely detached from the Protests - smashing glass at high end stores for shoes, would eventually allow their stupidity to overcome their humanity resulting in more tragedy. What we do need to do NOW is to make sure this resistance of humanity does not end until each and every last officer in or out of uniform knows that there will be REAL consequences for their actions. This protest, this demonstration should continue peacefully, but loudly - until the Moore family, and the American family - has justice for this senseless murder. The officers like the Chief Moore's of this world may want to downplay the gatherings as simply criminal rioters, heck he even had the audacity to blame George's death directly on LA protesters (yup for real) - but I really do hope this national & global uprising doesn't end until those in power within the LAPD, local and even National government know there WILL be justice. As Americans, it is our right to not be unjustly persecuted but be allowed equal access to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, regardless of which lightly-closeted dictator is able to swindle themselves into the Presidential office. Rights are do us all as Americans, and the fight to take back ours begins with our voices, not weapons. Our intellect, not brute strength. In my eyes, racism is just an outward expression of inner ignorance and lack of compassion - both of which I (and I'm sure MANY others) view as deficiencies that are simply unacceptable for those sworn to protect us and that brandish the ability to harm or even kill us on a moment's notice.
So LA officials - you look at those in the streets and you judge them.. you think, "don't they see the error of their ways? when are they going to come to their senses and go back to being a peaceful, abiding city again? Don't they remember how great that was? Like last week?"
Well I'm here to inform you that YOU are looking at it wrong.. WE [the people] are already done with YOU. That's what these protests signify. The end of our patience with your intolerance and in-accountability. [Talk of police abolition and defunding of the LAPD is actually gaining steam in LA] WE the PEOPLE are now judging YOU. Will YOU make this right? Will YOU as officials [we have elected and/or pay btw] punish your own when they treat the human lives of those they've sworn to protect like the most expendable of resources? OR will WE have to do it ourselves next time? Think about that shit. Pat out.
Want to hear the sentiment of the people? Here's hours of people telling the LAPD Commission what they think. This is REAL (and inspiring actually): https://youtu.be/oz0CKlGj3uI?t=4202