Difference between revisions of "Talk:Oakland"
Revision as of 16:26, 31 January 2005
I, too, was disappointed by the disparging, condescending, and not a little bit racist undercurrents of the article about Oakland. The writer claims, "I don't like making the point that high black population = high crime," but then goes on to describe a city that is utterly inferior to San Francisco in charm and economically depressed in contrast to San Jose. And, oh, by the way, Oakland has a large Black population. Even the commentary concerning Oakland's affluent areas referred to the beautiful neighborhoods of upper Rockridge and Montclair as but a "tinderbox" ---which begs the question: is San Francisco then but a "faultline?" I found that racial biases tainted the article. I do not charge that the author is openly or consciously racist, by any means, but the glaring condescension, selectivity of references regarding the African-American community, and his/her appallingly biased comparisons of Oakland with San Francisco and San Jose indicate clear, if unacknowledged leanings on the part of the author, of which I believe at least some are rooted in some racially constructed concepts common in American society.
Let me present the evidence: No doubt Oakland has real problems, but the city's Black population is not all marginalized and poor (or party to the city's "staggering" murder rate), not by any means. For example, Wiki Travel readers would have appreciated learning about the late Robert Maynard, the African-American publisher and owner of the Oakland Tribune. During the 1980s and 1990s before his death to cancer, Maynard took a moribound journal and made it a pulitzer-prize winning newspaper, despite its financial struggles. The Oakland Tribune exists to this day as the major journal of record for the entire East Bay. And what of former Yale professor of literature and playright Ismeel Reed? The article's author mentions not a word. The actual case is that Oakland's African-American community has given much more to American culture than just "West Coast Rappers." Of this, the author says nothing.
Might I suggest the original author read very carefully "American Babylon: Race and the Stuggle for Post-War Oakland," or "Suburban Warriors: Origins of the New American Right," both of which give a detailed, social, economic, and historical analysis as to the origins of Oakland's urban problems (and for that matter, "booming" San Jose's "success"). Might this reader also suggest that the author also spend time in the Oakland retail neighborhoods of Piedmont Avenue, Rockridge, and Montclair Village. I suggest the original author visit such noted Oakland restaurants as the Bay Wolf, JoJo's, Le Citron, A Côté,and Canvas, all of which more than hold their own against their San Francisco and Berkeley counterparts; I propose said author take a walk through the residential neighborhoods of Rockridge, upper Rockridge, Montclair, upper Montclair, Oakmore, Redwood Heights, Skyline, Ridgemont, Crocker Highlands, and Haddon Hill. These areas boast gracious old homes, new and stunningly eccentric architectural experiments, many of which reach well over the million-dollar price tag. But what would capture the discerning observer's eye is that these affluent neighborhoods have a more ethnically diverse group of residents than one will find in these neighborhoods' counterparts in Piedmont or "charming" San Francisco and "booming" San Jose, for that matter. One can find considerable charm in the up and coming Laurel, Temescal, and Dimond, as well.
To sum up the affluent and relatively diverse hillside neighborhoods of Oakland as merely an "affluent tinderbox" not only denies the graciousness and diversity of these areas, but also reveals the author's clear bias. Again, I dont see him or her referring to San Francisco's affluent areas as "the affluent faultline," or San Jose's as "affluent souless sprawl." Language has power, but it not only conveys impressions of a place, people, and event, it also invariably reveals something of the author as well.
What is extraordinary to this reader is that Oakland, for all of its real problems, including high crime and poverty, has undergone renewal, population growth, and skyrocketing housing prices, all of which indicate a real Renaissance, a reversal of the "White flight" of the 1950s through the 1970s. The city boasts a rising rate of interracial marriage as well, far ahead of the rest of the nation. That is Oakland's story as well as its "real" urban problems. By contrast, I would note forcefully that San Francisco relegates a large segment of its poor African-American community to the hinterland of Hunter's Point, and San Jose's and Silicon Valley's gleaming "high-tech campuses" mean little to the area's disaffected and disenfranchised Hispanic communities. "Do you know the way to San Jose," indeed. San Francisco and San Jose certainly have their share of "real" problems, but their larger dominant populations can literally afford either to isolate its "problem," on the one hand to the hinterland as San Francisco does, or ignore it altogether, as does San Jose. One suspects that Oakland, that proverbial "Other" of Bay Area cities, serves a useful purpose; it is the place upon which surrounding populations of supposedly "progressive" San Francisco (and Berkeley, for that matter) and "high-tech" San Jose can project their own fears, perceptions, and prejudices, without having to address any of their own issues––and similar problems.
Happily, the offending article has been edited, giving it more nuance and a great deal more accuracy. And I am glad that the edited article addresses the racial component, not only in regards to media and popular perceptions, but in the very article in question. Oakland deserves a more nuanced and factual account. So do Wiki travelers.
For the record, I'm "White," and I live in Manhattan, New York. However, I have lived and worked in both San Francisco and Oakland, California. The updated article about Oakland, California, reflects a more honest appraisal of the city, and certainly seems closer to the Oakland that I know, respect, and truth be told, have grown to love.
I was taken aback by the extremely disparaging tone of this article. It needs some extensive rewriting, which I'll hopefully have time to contribute to in the near future. Aezram 13:55, 21 Jan 2005 (EST)
I had a hard time describing Oakland's African-American culture. I don't like making the point that high black population -> high crime, but the plain fact is that there's a lot of poverty in Oakland, that race has something to do with that, and that there's consequent crime. I don't think it would be fair to travelers to gloss over this. I'd appreciate if someone could clean up my prose, though. -- Evan 15:14, 29 Nov 2003 (PST)