Berkeley – A blog called “Friends Of Adeline” has a post that hits one right between the eyes with the title “For ‘Black’ Berkeleyans, There Are Only Two: Re-Elect Cheryl Davila and Ben Bartlett”, and referring to Berkeley City Councilmembers Ben Bartlett of District 3 and Cheryl Davila of District 2. Here it is, below. I’m posting it here, because absent this action, it’s not the easiest content to find in online search, yet it should be seen and read by many.
Here it is:
For ‘Black’ Berkeleyans, There Are Only Two: Re-Elect Cheryl Davila and Ben Bartlett
October 22, 2020 Friends of Adeline (Photo Courtesy Berkeley Tenants Union)
By Paul Lee
Friends of Adeline
Since I believe that the dangerous mythology of “race,” which has no basis in science, is the root of the even more dangerous reality of racism, I’ve enclosed all “racial” terms in quotes so as not to legitimize either. — PL.
I don’t know if African American Berkeley City Council members Cheryl Davila and Ben Bartlett are friends. Frankly, I don’t care.
What matters to me and, I could assert with confidence, most “black” Berkeleyans is that, more often than not, they can be counted on to do right by us.
This is more than could be said for their council colleagues and the rest of those in our city’s mostly-spineless, sellout, in-the-pocket-of-developers government.
‘Blackness’ Ain’t Enough
However, Ben and Cheryl shouldn’t be supported because they’re “black,” although this can offer the advantages of familiarity and personal investment. Fundamentally, it’s a question of character and commitment. We, as an oppressed people, have learned from painful betrayals that “all skin folk ain’t kinfolk.”
For example, it would be both obscene and terribly destructive if someone who looks like us were to run for office, but only did so at the behest and with the support of rich, “white” real estate interests. This would only facilitate and legitimize the complete colonization or takeover of what’s left of “black” Berkeley.
I’m 60 years old and for all of my life and longer “black” Berkeley — that is, the historically “black” enclaves in the south and west of the city — have been islands of official, damnable neglect.
Indeed, the only branch of government to consistently pay attention to these districts has been the police department, but that’s not the kind of attention that anyone would want because it’s about containment and control under the cover of fighting crime.
But the real crime began when “black” and other non-“white” peoples were herded by redlining into these districts like cattle, then abandoned to their own devices to make them viable communities — without the supports accorded to the rest of the city, meaning the “white” parts.
With bravery, sacrifice, ingenuity and vision, we did this, despite the racism of Berkeley’s “Mississippi West” government, as many of us called it.
We recognized that it only differed from the infamous Southern bastion of “racial” segregation in how it structured its inequality, which was more urbane and less obviously violent — with the notable exception of the police, whose habitual brutality against us made believable the rumor that many of these officers were recruited from the South.
In another respect, Berkeley was worse than its Southern cousin because it didn’t begin to desegregate its schools, thru compulsory busing, until 1968 — that is, 14 years after the U. S. Supreme Court declared this U. S. brand of apartheid unconstitutional.
But there were also subtler, but not less damaging, forms of violence. Obligating these majority-“black” districts to have to create, from scratch, and sustain, without support, what others could take for granted was a psychic, emotional and material assault upon our dignity.
That’s why we need Cheryl and Ben to remain in office. That’s also why we and our allies must fight to put more people like them on the council and in other positions of authority — people who care about and work for all of Berkeley, not just rich, “white” Berkeley, including the entitled newcomers.
Most “white” Berkeleyans don’t have a clue about any of this history, which, for us, hasn’t fundamentally changed. We are where we began — at the bottom, ignored, isolated, not seriously considered in the councils of power, where we are occasionally spoken about, but rarely given the respect to speak for ourselves.
But where we once survived, and even thrived, in “a place of our own,” as one longtime African American resident described “black” Berkeley, nourished and protected by businesses and institutions that we built, most of which collapsed under the weight of successive economic downturns and a drug scourge that hit us first and hardest, now we’re being forced out of all that we had left — our homes.
And who listens to us? Who fights for us? Only Cheryl and Ben, dependably. That’s pathetic and unjust, but it’s also par for the course in this faux “progressive” city, where, as usual, we’re compelled to mostly rely upon ourselves.
Of course, two reliable city council members, no matter how enlightened, can’t alone protect the interests of “black” Berkeleyans. However, as veteran politicians, they can and do occasionally sway, negotiate with or pressure their colleagues to do right by us.
However, in our long fight for recognition, equity and a justice that was never simple, we have real allies, most of whom don’t look like us and aren’t from here. Just as we couldn’t care less if Cheryl and Ben are best buds, we aren’t interested in what motivates our allies.
We simply accept them as comrades in the fight to make Berkeley in reality what it has fooled the world to believe that it is, but has never been — namely, an inclusive city, where everyone is given the dignity, opportunity, security and justice that should be the common lot of all people.
If you’re an ally, do whatever you can to maintain Cheryl’s and Ben’s positions.
If you aren’t, considered becoming one because — and I ask you to trust me on this because I’ve lived it — Berkeley’s greatest strength has always been its rich cultural diversity, even though our government has almost never supported this.
Perhaps, ironically, that’s what made it so unique and powerful — because the people themselves marshaled it as a resource.
Which Way, Berkeley?
Berkeley’s best future can and should be built upon its past — by learning from its mistakes and benefitting from its successes. Until we can increase their number, Cheryl and Ben are the best hope for this freer, fairer future, or at least a hedge against the obnoxious continuance of its ugly past.
We deserve better. Our children and grandchildren deserve still more. That’s why we’re asking you: Support and vote for Cheryl and Ben. Thank you.
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