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.
No doubt Oakland has real problems, but the city's Black population is not all marginalized and poor. For example, readers would have appreciated hearing about the late Robert Maynard, African-American publisher and owner of the Oakland Tribune, a man who took a dying paper and made it a pulitzer-prize winning newspaper before his death. Or what of former Yale professor of literature and playright Ismeel Reed? Oakland's African-American community has given much more to American culture than just "West Coast Rappers. "
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 "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 hold their against their San Francisco and Berkeley counterparts; I propose said auther 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, 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.
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 disaffected and disenfranchised Hispanic community of the area. "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 to either isolate its "problem, " on the one hand to the hinterland, or ignore it altogether, as does San Jose. One suspects that Oakland, that proverbial "Other" of Bay Area cities, serves a useful purpose, the place upon which surrounding populations of " 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.
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
address the racial component, not only in regards to media and popular perceptions, but in the very article in question.
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.