There is more to Oakland than a Sad-Mad City
A recent article in the Huffington Post seems to describe Oakland as having two parts:
Black Block and Occupy described with the snarl words “protester-tourists” and whose views are summed up by quoting the Occupy website and saying that: “They are hijacking our streets, wearing masks like bandits in the night, right under our noses. And we feel powerless to stop them. They have hijacked our message, blocking our ability to choose our own mode of expression.”
The rest of us. Meaning I guess people in her friend circles going about their lives: “glass company trucks sped through the streets from job to job, electrical workers continued to upgrade underground electric lines, and construction crews continued renovation projects for new restaurants and office buildings as part of Oakland's revitalized economic development downtown, uptown and elsewhere. Residents are making a stand -- using social networks, they immediately made plans to continue to patronize Flora, the Awaken Cafe, Oaklandish and the other vandalized businesses. Locals have circulated a fundraising appeal for Youth Radio.”
She goes on to add some other things that sort of hint at police accountability or the need for some more equity in our local development. The article has its good and bad points, but I really disagree with the idea that we are a “sad-mad city” and once again there is a lot of attention to how we are perceived.
But read it yourself. I was uneasy with it mostly because it seemed to cut so many of us out. Too much of it sounded like the Kaplan – Quan reelection campaign view of this city.
One group of Oaklanders who do not get mentioned is our dysfunctional “progressives” Last night at the showing of the radical theatre SF Mime Troope (SFMT.ORG and please go see them) a woman wearing a bunch of left cause buttons told us that she supports Jean Quan because she has been such a good person and been around for so long. I asked her what she thought then about Deeana Santana our City Administrator and she had no idea who that was. This kind of uninformed progressives thinking that they are supporting the least worst Democrat because that “gets things done” is a national disease that has many sufferers in Oakland. When we ask them what we are getting for our “practical” strategic brilliance one gets some vague answers.
What we do not get is a lower rate of young black men killed in our streets. Not less from internal violence and not less from police shootings. We do not seem to get a lot for the black and brown flatland residents who are not going to go to any of those nice restaurants downtown, even if they live in downtown. There are a lot of other things we do not get, such as proper education for the whole community, jobs, foreclosure relief, police accountability and… well I am trying to write about this article that describes us as a ‘sad-mad’ city and will have to stop here. Suffice to say that all the problems have been talked about and then we turn around and elect people who are guaranteed not to effect any progress.
And our youth have very few of those jobs in the glass trucks and doing the upgrades to our “revitalized” economy. Most of that is contracted out to out of town residents working for non-union independent contractors who take city money and/or often enough a city salary. That list starts with Ms. Deeana Santana who like many of our administrators comes from a group of “pros” available to any city that pays for them akin to a free agent football player.
Are our police “protest-tourists” too? You can count the number of them who live here in Oakland on how many hands? I doubt you need four hands. I'm told they hold their Oakland Police picnic in Danville or somewhere like that. My invitation did not come.
Other people come as crime-tourists to Oakland for the sex workers and drugs.
All these people from out of town are part of the Oakland reality every day. Oakland is not a country, not even a county and the reality of our lives is that we are only 400,000 in an urban area of over seven million. There is no boarder crossing. I took a friend to San Leandro for dinner, did that make me a food tourist? Other people living in this area who come here to work or whatever are our fellow residents, not tourists.
Another Oakland to take note of is the one that does not vote, does not know much about what goes on downtown and does not need to come downtown to Occupy to commit acts of vandalism or get mistreated by the Oakland Police. It is out of their communities that we have the 130 black and brown youth killed, and 3 times as many wounded every year.
Also from that community comes the peacwalkers one could find on Fridays walking the heavily affected high crime areas offering a message of peace and reform to the neighborhoods.
That only scratches the surface of the cultural and economic life of the un represented flatlands. Worried about the flatlanders not being represented in what is going on downtown? How about standing up during our upcoming redistricting and oppose our current gerrymandered districts that cut up the neighborhoods from the affluent hills to the working class flats and secures the election of “moderate progressive” Democrats? Honest districting in Oakland would lead to at least one Republican on council and probably a Green.
From all of our communities comes a large number of us who protest. We protest the Zimmerman Trial, we protest the Oscar Grant murder, we object to police violence, we advocate peace, social justice and economic reforms. Not one of us was on 17th street messing with any windows with a hammer.
Every time we are doing something we have this sudden focus on the few Black Block folks and no attention paid to our City Council who has still not made good on the promise of a viable Civilian Police Oversight since the project was first promised in 1977. Good thing for the Chamber and the Council and Ms. Quan that they have these Black Block folk around, otherwise we might have to discuss what large numbers of hammerless people have been asking about for a long time.
Funny how our pols always call this a distraction but are glad to stay distracted and harp on this small fringe.
And there are many other kinds of people here doing many different kinds of things. That includes some well financed people who came here to advocate radical violence and stir things up and then disappear. If they care so much about this radical fringe, why do they not investigate these people who provoked so much discord and ask who employed them in the first place?
Most of Oakland on the “sad-mad” day had nothing to do with sadness or the madness or anything downtown because downtown has little or nothing to do with their lives. Helicopters fly over that area all the time, it could have just been a traffic jam.
Lives of privilege and lives of disparity went on as normal. Life in Oakland is not really a series of dramatic ups and downs; in fact it is really a bunch of conditions that resist change. The tragic events are not exceptional, they are part of the pattern. Nothing changed this week either.
I feel that the sad-mad city idea misses most of us and most of what is going on.