“And so, you asked me what my challenge is. Well, my challenge is to let people know what the new Oakland looks like. Somebody just sent me an email saying, ‘Oh, you should have more black police since more than 50 percent of your residents are black.’ And I’m like, ‘Actually, no, 28 percent of my residents are black, but we’re pretty evenly divided between blacks, whites, Latinos, and Asians these days.’ But that’s their image of Oakland–and this is somebody who lives in the Bay Area.”
In other words Quan’s saying ‘I don’t want you to think Oakland’s a black town’ because that’s a bad thing.
Really? So it was bad for Oakland to be a city that elected a black Mayor in Lionel Wilson early on, and back in the 70s? It was bad for Oakland to have been the home of the Black Filmmakers’s Hall Of Fame?
Now when this blogger saw that it brought up the painful words Quan tossed out during her first year in office, saying that “Chinese probably read more papers than the average American” and then went on to talk about how much better Chinese media was over “Media as a whole” at covering local issues, and captured in this video:
What this adds up to for me is Oakland Mayor Jean Quan thinks that we need fewer black folks in Oakland, and more Asians folks in it. In other words Mayor Quan was being flat out racist.
For me, this year in Oakland has been a hard one, and because the racial splits are too great to ignore. And because of acts that have happened to me.
For example, I was at The Alley bar and restaurant in March and an obviously drunk white guy who’s wife had started talking to me and my small group of friends, openly asked me if I was black, and then went on a loud, and long rant about not seeing black people, and then kept asking me why was I black – this went on for 10 minutes. I told his wife to escort him out of the place before I called the police.
And on the night Kiante Campbell was killed at the First Friday Art Murmur, I was getting into a cab on Grand Avenue, and asked the driver to take me to Uptown Oakland. A group of three white guys yelled “Black guy going to Uptown!”
Additionally, there are a small number of white folks here in Oakland who don’t seem to seek out or want black friends. (And by friends, I don’t mean acquaintances, but people you meet up with and socialize with on a regular basis) Moreover, robberies and assaults seem to take on the look of young blacks and Latinos attacking whites.
I’ve never seen that before here in my city.
This is not to say that Oakland is in crisis, but it is to point out a new pattern of behavior that’s harmful to our image as a diverse city.
Remember, Oakland never took up an official policy of diversity, it’s the byproduct of in migration by blacks and Asians during World War II on top of the general “live and let live” attitude prevalent in the Bay Area.
But, that Oakland is diverse is part of its image, and it’s come time in the city’s history where we must take deliberate steps to maintain it before it erodes. And my argument is that is happening now, little-by-little.
Mayor Quan Must Stop Her Benignly Racist Behavior
A great step in Oakland’s future would be for Mayor Quan to stop her rhetoric. While others pray and hope Mayor Quan doesn’t run for Oakland Mayor again, the fact is, she is running, and as the incumbent in a Rank Choice Voting system, could wind up the winner, yet again.
All the better to pressure Mayor Quan to change now, rather than think she’s just going to go away.
I personally do like Jean Quan, so this is hard for me to write, but there’s a larger issue of the maintenance of our beloved Oakland. It’s getting to the point where I don’t like my city like I did before.
Oakland’s society is starting to consist of people who walk on the street with their heads down or buried in a smartphone because they don’t want to talk or even just nod and smile. Or, those same people save their friendly behavior for those who are the same race as they are, and in my experience that has happened all too often with Oakland’s new young white population. Many come from other parts of America and don’t know or care about Oakland’s social history, and it shows.
We have to preserve Oakland culture, and Mayor Quan has to be part of that, now. We also have to be candid about our crime problem and enlist African American and Latino leaders to simply sound the call for young blacks and Latinos to stop selecting someone white to be the target of a crime.
But we also must work to prevent any Oakland public official from attacking someone because they’re black, or any race, and sending out a signal that is what they’re doing. That has happened all too often this year, alone.
If it’s not Oakland City Auditor Courtney Ruby and Councilmember Pat Kernighan teaming with Chief Administrative Officer Deena Santana to single out two of Oakland’s black councilmembers for the same ‘tampering’ with city staff all Oakland councilmembers have done, then it’s Quan’s statement of fear of Oakland’s image as a black town.
And then, it’s Oakland’s record of police racism against young black males, who aren’t doing wrong. As recent studies have shown, a young white man will get a pass for actions that would cause young blacks to be cited for by Oakland police.
Overall, some in Oakland are sending out a message that blacks aren’t wanted here, and that signal has grown in 2013.
The best way to stop all of this is true social diversity. If a young person sees a mix of people, walking together, they’re not going to bother that group. But more to the point of what I’m talking about, if we all know each other, and engage socially with the objective of establishing real friendships, the chance that someone becomes the target of a crime is far less.
I’m personally proud to say that I know everyone to some degree in my neighborhood here in the Lake Merritt area, and that’s because I make the effort to do so.
A friend of mine who has lived in Oakland’s Adams Point for a long number of years is white and blonde. For four years, she walked from her office in Downtown Oakland to home, and back again in the mornings. Nothing ever happened to her. Why? “Because I walk with my head up,” she said. “And when someone looks, I say hello.” That was her simple answer. In other words, she didn’t act like she was afraid of anyone.
You’d be surprised just how powerful the simple act of a greeting can be. It means you’re not afraid and it says you acknowledge the other person.
Mayor Quan acts like she’s afraid of black Oakland.
What Mayor Quan can do is just openly apologize for her statement, to start, explain that African Americans are a vital part of Oakland’s history and culture, and then commit herself to the betterment of the quality of life for blacks in Oakland in particular, and the maintenance of Oakland’s diversity overall.
Diversity may ‘just happen’ but when it does, we can’t assume it’s just going to be that way, we have to take steps to maintain it. Oakland has not officially done that, but it must do so, and soon.