Hello, Oakland, and from suburban Atlanta, Georgia, where I spend about 65 percent of my time each month, and have for the past two years. Ok, it’s not always that percentage, but it feels like it. My friends, and readers who actually pay attention, know my Mom lives here and that I’m her only child and that she turns 81 October 1st. Thus, I make it my duty to spend as much time as I can with her. Still, my thoughts never stray far from Oakland. I’ve lived in it since April 8th of 1974, and long enough to remember when it was called “Chocolate City” and it had an active African American culture, complete with the Black Filmmakers Hall Of Fame, and The Gingerbread House.
Oh, let’s get one thing straight: I’m not Afro-centric, and never have been. Oakland had such a rich black culture, and healthy numbers of African Americans, Afro-English, and so on, that one didn’t have to search for it, it was around you. So, in my case, I could comfortably grow up in Oakland as a 12-year-old Chicago transplant, gather a good number of white and Asian friends, and so much so that my base of associations was that (and even more than that, Star Trek nerds) and yet, I never felt I was really in a city that had a race problem. Oakland was a unique place, and not for burning.
Oakland has changed, and in a way such that, as I told a friend of mine I visited The Battery Club in San Francisco with last week, so much so that I don’t look forward to going back home from Georgia. There are several reasons for this, but a new and racist form of gentrification is right at the top of the list, and the other reasons flow down from it like water down a hill side.
Everyone talks about how Oakland has been changed by gentrification, but it’s as if it’s never happened here before. Also, “gentrification” is more of a code word for something else, and that is young professional whites, for the most part, and some Asians and Latinos who secretly hate being thought of as a person of color. They are new to Oakland, and far more so than the ‘hipsters’ that are said to populate Lake Merritt, and the foolish think are only white, when in point of fact, they’re black, white, Asian, and Latino. No, the “ young professional whites, for the most part, and some Asians” I’m talking about are the kind that, say 20 years ago, would try to find an apartment in San Francisco’s Marina District. They’re not far removed from college, materialistic, classist, closet-racist, neurotic, fit, and anti-intellectual.
In Oakland’s past, and my past, someone like that who lived over here grew up in Piedmont, feared anyone black and male even the token at their school, and learned how to do the backyard bird call. In Oakland’s present, we’re surrounded by them and that fact’s particularly true around Lake Merritt. Those folks, combined with the older types who feared blacks but stayed here long enough to chill out somewhat, but not so much that they’re tolerable all of the time, have conspired to make the area for all practical purposes unsafe for anyone straight, black, male and middle class. They’re the first to walk to the other side of the street if they see you – provided they take time to look up from their smartphones long enough to see you. They’re commonly in whites-only packs (sometimes with Asians) and such that you can’t help but wonder if having black friends ever occurred to them as a good something to try and do. When I see these types, I often wonder if their Facebook pages are full of photos of nothing but whites and Asians they call friends. I wonder if they like black rap, but hate black people.
These folks scare me and are scary. They take to social network sites like Nextdoor and write about how the ‘black or hispanic-looking person knocked on their door”, or post photos of people, again of color, who they claim are harassing them with no evidence to back their written claim and then they even offer the bold admission that the police called to investigate found that the Latino man in question with the hoodie did nothing wrong. Then they have the total nerve to ask others to actually look out for that person, thus creating a cyber-based lynch mob, all set to punish the unsuspecting person, or try and convince the police to assault that sad victim in the way James Blake was attacked by that NYPD Officer.
Or 14-year-old black male Emmett Till was killed for just saying hello to a white woman in 1955.
I say that could happen here, again. Indeed, we have had several instances where it looked like the Emmett Till-ization of Oakland had started. On Nextdoor, one man wrote that “A man should never say anything in public to a woman.” Which included the word “Hello.” I could not believe the insanity I was reading: a full blown rationale that would cause that person to settle for the creepy world of online dating (where fears of some act called ‘cat-fishing’ are expressed) rather than the plain, raw openness of verbally expressing a desire to meet a woman. There are some in Oakland, and maybe your neighbor, who want to use social media criminalize the extrovert and use the legal system to punish those who are socially extroverted, as many blacks and Latinos are. Forget that’s not what you can use the legal system to do, false reporting of actions solves that problem nicely for those horrible people. They should be locked up, and if the Oakland Police had their collective eyes open, they would be.
Do you see?
These new gentrification types didn’t get the note about Oakland’s cultural history. Indeed, they don’t even care to know about it. This has been a particularly bad problem at Cafe Van Kleef, the popular bar at 1641 Telegraph in Downtown Oakland, and where its founder and my friend Peter Van Kleef, died last week at the young age of 65. Peter loved life and the Rolling Stones; the workers who have been hired there of late (the last two years) don’t like The Stones and hate life. Last week, one of the managers told me of one woman bartender who complained that some male customers were groping her in a crowded situation. When the manager, a friend of mine, went back to sit and watch at length, what he saw was the common happening of people bumping into each other as they pass by – normal for anyone who was of a normal temper, but not for this woman, who was not. It turned out she was falsely accusing male patrons, and had to be fired – she hated men, as it turned out. Thankfully, her employment was terminated. But my friend lamented that “There are a lot of people like her, and we have to watch who we hire now.” This, in Oakland.
That was never the Soul of Oakland. It wasn’t Peter’s way. It wasn’t the way of a lot of Oaklanders. Nor has it been the way of my Godfather Bob Schock, a great Oakland-based personal injury “Super” lawyer, who could charm any woman at Eli’s Mile High Club into dancing, and yet always return safely to the home base of his table where his now wife and my Godmother Barbara Schock, was. (And, yes, Eli’s is still around!) But what’s happened is these racist, non-fun-loving, nervous, new gentrifiers have expanded in number to, it seems, fantastic proportions, and rendered Oakland without a soul. High housing prices, a lack of civic events, and a total failure to communicate by our people and government what Oakland is, may doom us to a purgatory we can’t escape from. We have to act, and now. Oakland’s true culture must be preserved, and at all costs. Oakland needs a multi-pronged cultural and population diversity policy and it needs to have a plan to implement it. Fast. Before its too late.
Jean Quan Is Back In Politics, Setting Her Sites On The At-Large City Council Seat
I got a tip from a friend of mine that former Oakland Mayor Jean Quan was going to seek to run for the Oakland City Council Seat held by current Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan. So, I made a vlog to report the information and because of my friend’s background, I believed it to be a solid lead. But I did ask Former Mayor Quan, and she sent a letter saying that she and her husband had just returned from vacation and looked forward to their new ‘projects.’ In other words, Quan did not deny the news, so that means Rebecca’s got company. A challenger for her seat.
Can Jean Beat Rebecca?
The question is can Jean Quan beat Rebecca Kaplan? Well, what Jean has going for her is name recognition and the total lack of Asian representation on the Oakland City Council. If Jean worked to ignite an Asian / Community Leader base, it would vote as a bloc. Meanwhile, Rebecca is well-liked but has been absent for a number of votes on critical issues. That could come back to haunt her as the time progresses.
On the other hand Jean has a number of negatives but she could overcome them by using the r
Plus, let’s not forget that Quan did pull up to third place in the last mayoral election in 2014.
Let me think about this some more.
Oakland Raiders Stadium Update
My presentation to “Save Oakland Sports” of the idea for a new Oakland-Raider and Oakland Athletics stadium at Oakland Coliseum Complex that Raiders Owner Mark Davis asked me to come up with, is September 23rd at Luka’s Oakland at 6:30 PM.