Desley Brooks: “Our city has been torn up
by angry, young white people, but that’s
not the perception that goes out.

OAKLAND CITY COUNCIL | Councilmember Desley Brooks can sometimes confound even her strongest supporters with a propensity toward inflammatory and in-your-face remarks, but when she is on, few in Oakland speak with more passion and clarity than the East Oakland council representative.

While introducing a resolution calling on authorities in Ferguson, Mo. to file charges against the police officer who killed teenager Michael Brown, Brooks launched a charged screed against the hypocrisy in Oakland toward the killing of black people before urging the community to eschew violent protests in favor of acts of civil disobedience such as the Black Friday shut down of the West Oakland BART station. Below are her remarks during Tuesday’s City Council meeting:

Racism is alive and well in the United States. And we talk about a justice system—and it isn’t simply the justice system—it’s the education system. It is so many systems in this country that are denying people an opportunity in equal opportunity that looks at them because of the color of their skin and makes decisions. It is a fallacy for us to believe that the criminal justice system is the only system that’s not working here. It is a fallacy. There are too many things that have gone wrong. Black lives matter. And today I’m talking about black lives, not just all lives, I’m talking about black lives. Because we are dying in too many numbers to make any sense. And it isn’t just when we talk about the end point of people dying and we go back to business as usual or we don’t speak up until tonight when injustice has been done on a regular basis in this country. You know, we had an opportunity to get out in front to talk about this issue, but we gotten into a society that says that if you talk about race, that you’re pulling the race card. We are so politically-correct. Black lives matter.  

We are dying in this country and people go on as business as usual when we die. And I’m not talking about when black on black crime happens because they are not charged people who are killing people in the streets with protecting us and that’s the difference. And every time we raise that as an issue and act like it’s a justification, we do a disservice to our communities. Black lives matter. We have an obligation to address the race issue in this country and in this city because racism isn’t just alive and well in the United States, it’s alive and well in Oakland. And we would be lying and not talking about the real elephant in the room if we fail to acknowledge the racism that exists right here. 

When I watch the news media talk about the protest and make it seem as if black people are out tearing up our city, when we know and the chief knows that 80 percent of the people who have been out there since Oscar Grant have been white tearing up our city, but we will allow it to be put out over and over again that the destruction is being done by black people. I’m not saying that there aren’t any black people out there tearing up the city, but let’s talk about the real issues and put the real issues on the table. Our city has been torn up by angry, young white people, but that’s not the perception that goes out. We can talk about the killing of people on a daily basis when they have no hope or opportunity in their communities. And yet, it’s okay, we’ll come out and talk about elephants, we’ll come out and talk about the zoo, we’ll come out and talk about everything but—everything but—when do our lives matter?

Later Brooks called for “real reform” at the police department and “reform in the systemic system that makes sure black and brown lives don’t matter.”

She also lauded the effort last month by protesters who chained themselves to BART trains in West Oakland as opposed to the recent street protests that have often been highlighted by violence and broken windows. “We need to teach our children the difference between protest and civil disobedience,” said Brooks.

“I would encourage all those who believe that something is wrong with this system to go out and to take part in civil disobedience—shake it up, make a difference in this community—because we all have an obligation.”