See Me, Can't See You

root - Posted on 28 February 2003

What Issues get seen? What voices get heard on issues of disability rights and abuse.

by Leroy Moore/Illin and Chillin/ Executive Director of Disability Advocates of Minorities, DAMO

No, this is not a game of hide-n-seek! It’s a real life of MTV’s show, Big Brother, where the hidden video camera is on us catching all of our dirty deeds that Big Brother have been trying to sweep away. However the catch 22 is that only Big Brother has the right to use this camera. Big Brother has passed down these video cameras down to its royal family member’s i.e. the mainstream media, police departments and corporate America etc.

The video camera that caught the beating of Rodney King, unlocked one the closets of Big Brother loyal family member. More important this video set off a new tool for the average person to gain control, justice and to help balance the one-sided scale of the US Justice System. Big Brother has learned and also using this new avenue to implement their programs, to sway public opinion, to sweep certain people out of existence and to win elections. However lately the public’s video cameras have been confiscated, is illegal, viewed as obstructing justice and seen as stepping on the right to privacy. Is there privacy on the streets, in prison and for people with mental illness? When Big Brother teams up with one of his family members, it is almost impossible to fight back. Right here in the Bay Area we have witness this tag-team approach time and time again.

People with mental illness, their families, and advocates put up a good fight for almost four years to get read of the notion and eagerness of passing and implementing Force Treatment on people with mental illness. Although the public put up a good fight, the tag-team approach, media and political leaders, used their cameras to shape the public’s view about people with mental illness and helped to passed bill, AB1422 this year, 2002. For almost five years local mainstream media has chipped away at the image of people with mental illness and many times videotaping them against their will or in secrecy. A couple of years ago San Francisco Chronicle reporters followed a Black woman with mental illness home to her studio. They wanted to come into her room to interview her but she refused so they stayed in the hallway and took pictures of her against her will. When the opinion has swayed than some politicians and legislators swoops in with their propositions and laws that advocates have fought against. That is how this tag team approach works.

This tag-team is really important during election time as we saw in San Francisco with Gavin Newson’s Proposition N, Care not Cash, and how his money reached the Chronicle and all other mainstream media outlets limiting avenues to get the message from other sectors around this issue. During this last election, KPIX news reporters followed around people who were homeless and had mental illness but took their comments and actions out of context by putting words in their mouths. Also the reporters followed them back to their sleeping sites, showing illegal drugs all helping the campaign for Care Not Cash to shape public opinion and ultimate goal to get Prostitution N pass at the ballot.

Thanks for this new so-called war on terrorism there has been a roll back on privacy for certain people. Because of this new “war” certain people don’t have a right to privacy. For example, Uncle Sam can bud into a visit between lawyers and their clients in prison by video and audio recording. Now Uncle Sam wants high school student’s records for their arm forces and they are blackmailing the schools to do it by threatening to cut off their federal money if they don’t hand over student’s records.

Although Big Brother and his family members are using their cameras, our video cameras are taken away or we end up doing time because we obstruct justice? Recently there have been cases where the public has tried to use video cameras to turn the lens on the crimes of Big Brother. Remember the Donovan Jackson case of police brutality where Mitchell Crooks was arrested and his video was confiscated in Inglewood, LA? Almost the same story happened at Thurshgood Marshall School in San Francisco where a teacher was arrested and his video camera he used to record the over reactionary and brutality of police officers towards students was taken away and was booked for questioning. In both cases people have been stripped of their rights and cameras.

We have all seen COPS and America Most Wanted on television, where everything is on camera. Well now the evening news have picked up on this new wave of riding with police to catch “news worthy stories”. This has been recently used in San Francisco and Oakland. In both cities the mainstream television news-reporters has carpooled with police to catch drug users, prostitution and other urban nightly activities. Another common trait in all the cases above are the people and communities that are getting video taped and are witnessing their right to privacy disappearing are communities and people of color. They two communities that the tag team, police and media, focused their news cameras on were the Mission districts in San Francisco and West Oakland during the month of November, 2002. How funny there were no cameras on in the Mirna district where recently two off duty police officer got into a fight outside of a neighborhood bar.

And it is not only in the political, media and police’s arenas that we’ve seen the public video cameras being snatched away. Even in the Halls of Academia, students have tried to use video cameras to balance the power between administration and students. For example recently at St. Marys’ College in Oakland, students have and are trying to get some notice and reaction from the administration about the increasing rates of rap on campus. After many fail tactics a student decided to take her video camera in an open forum on this issue but was stop from entering because of her video camera. In all the above cases the individuals’ video camera were taken away and the individual were written up on charges although it was clear that they just wanted to help their victims.

How can we take back our cameras and get mainstream media and US Justice System to take on our videos of injustice? Remember you hold all the cards especially if Big Brother and his family members are threatening and blackmailing you or offering money for that tape. Make them do right in reporting and handing down justice but if they don’t then tell your side in progressive media outlets, advocacy organizations and in the political arena especially during elections. If no one wants to listen, then have a community viewing of the tape at your home. Unfortunately many times Big Brother can silence us by incarceration, money or changing public opinion about the incident. In this situation team up with other advocates and organizations etc. who have power in numbers and can take your issue to the next level respectfully.

We must keep our cameras on especially now as our rights, social programs and benefits disappear. The iron fist of Big Brother and his monopoly on mainstream media has helped create a violent environment. The most serious, fundamental and altering changes to the system has helped increase crimes are handed down by the swift pen of Big Brother at the ballot and in our legislative branch. His ink that wrote proposition N, destroyed the welfare system, has brought us into war and now produced legislation that will target our youth by allowing the arm forces to view their high school records to see who can be the best he/she can is the ultimate violence. Big Brother’s black ink has already and will continue to turn into red blood that is now flowing on our streets causing it to rise into an emergency flood alter. The question is who will turn the video camera on the ones who are really to blame for crimes, homelessness, war, brutality and our slushy economy?

By Leroy Moore Jr.
Executive Director of Disability Advocates of Minorities, DAMO


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