Let the headline sink in: “White Oakland Celebrates Loren Taylor Win Over Desley Brooks In City Council District 6.”
That was not without accident.
The title of this blog post came after I cursorily browsed the results of a Twitter search under the keywords “Loren Taylor Oakland”. What I saw was sad: tweet after tweet, after photo-included tweet of folks who were celebrating Loren Taylor’s win in the Oakland City Council District Six Race who weren’t black, but young and white (with one Asian / Latino couple), and in East Oakland.
What that told me, right there, was the District Six I thought I knew became far less black than it was in the past, as recently as, well, 2014. That was the last time Oakland Councilmember Desley Brooks withstood a challenge to her service of the area.
But, it’s 2018, and those of us who know how to see it and live in Oakland have to endure another sick, sad wave of subtle racism tossed in our face. In this case, the message is clear: let’s all (who are not black) be happy that District Six voted to replace a loud older black woman with quiet young black man.
Unless you think that last sentence was hyperbole, take the headline one publication ran that I will not link to or mention, but to say that it called Councilmember-Elect Taylor “low-key” and then I see tweets like this one…
Desley's out. Ruby's back. Libby's reelected. Nikki Fortunato Bas and Sheng Thao seem pretty chill. Loren Taylor is super chill. This town might see some very functional governance for the first time in a VERY, VERY long time.
— Occupied in Oakland (@itsowalkable) November 7, 2018
Anyone who thinks government wasn’t functioning when now former Councilmember Brooks was representing District Six is just plain nuts. But, considering that as I write this, our morning news is sullied by yet another national report of a mass shooting in about 24 hours, I’m getting the impression that “just plain nuts” is the norm, now.
But, I digress.
These photos send the signal that Oakland’s a town bent in purging black people. And that’s not race-baiting – a term used when someone doesn’t want you to mention patterns of behavior by race, which is what I’m doing and using what images were presented on Twitter. As they say “Don’t hate the player, hate the game…”
Take a look at this tweet…
— Oakland North (@northoaklandnow) November 7, 2018
Or this one…
Alex Acosta (right) and Jeanette Osterloh watch election results at Skyline Pizza in East Oakland, where Loren Taylor had his election night party. Photo by @drewcostley #ElectionNight #Oakland @lorenmtaylor pic.twitter.com/RA2qW2oNAZ
— Oakland North (@northoaklandnow) November 7, 2018
Or this one…
— Oakland North (@northoaklandnow) November 7, 2018
A either a lot of black Oaklanders weren’t photographed at Loren’s party, or there just weren’t a lot of African American folks there. I know this is a hard pill to take, people, but it’s medicine you need to have. This is purely from what I see represented on social media on this Friday morning.
Moreover, the tweets here are mostly from Oakland North. Oakland North is a publication that was started by the UC Berkeley Journalism School, and historically only focused on North Oakland, which is white. Consider that Oakland North came down to what’s really historically black South Oakland (but we call it East Oakland) to issue tweets of photos that, save for Loren, don’t have black folks in them. As Johnny Guitar Watson would say, “Ain’t that a b….!”
I’m only pointing out what someone else would see, but is afraid to say. I am not. That’s what blogging is all about.
In this case, it’s about pointing out how the kind of gentrification we read, and hear about, really took it’s first political casualty in Oakland. But then, I also think Desley was just plain tired of the rather crazy cloud that seemed to hang over her regardless of what good thing she did.
On Election Night, she texted that she was proud of her campaign, and had “zero regrets.”
It’s easy to think that because Councilmember Brooks lost, she didn’t do anything for her neighborhood. She did a lot over 16 years, but it’s being ignored by a group of overly-sensitive people: a small mix of white folks who only want their black acquaintances quiet and low-key, black developers and business people who didn’t get exactly what they wanted demanded from Desley, and folks new to Oakland, who bought into the crap said about her without getting to know her.
Explain to me this: why is it I never had a problem with Desley Brooks, and some of you did? What does this say about you? What does it say about your ability to work with different personalities to get things done? What does it say about how you regard black women who aren’t afraid to shout?
I know you’re going to raise the name of Elaine Brown, but I’ll say this: I have nothing mean to say to Ms. Brown, and I wasn’t there to see what happened. Ms. Brown is a legendary figure in Oakland, without question. I just think it’s too bad that happened and I wonder why someone with a cool head didn’t step in a keep things from escalating. But I do know drink was involved, and heated emotions, politics and alcohol can be a lethal combination.
As for the complex array of thoughts that ignited this post, I’ll say this. Look, I am not a “black activist”, nor do I play one on television. I’m a guy who’s been blessed to have been able to deliberately assemble a truly interracial group of friends over my life. A man who’s friendships have been a great stew of white, black Asian, Latino and jewish folks in Oakland, OK?
The kind of friends I have allowed me to become the first black president of the Skyline High School Bike Club in 1978. When we decided to take a new tour route from Oakland to San Francisco, our teacher / sponsor told me that was not “tradition”. When I objected, he said “Well, you’re the first black president.” To which my friend, Bill Boyd, chimed in and said “What does that have to do with anything?” We were 17 then – we’re still friends today.
But what I can’t be silent about is how some people, and yes, some of them friends (some not anymore) have changed as we have aged. From the one white woman I thought was without racist ideas, who had them all the time we knew each other, to some others who just plain forgot who their friends were. And they are white and Asian. And in Oakland.
I’ve seen a giant wave of subtle racism wash over Oakland, and give us BBQ Becky and Jogger Joe. And then I met Jogger Joe and asked him what was wrong with him, and he said he didn’t know, but he knew he was wrong. After all, racism is a mental illness.
Maybe that’s true for a lot of people in Oakland who are contributing to this mass population shift? They don’t know what’s wrong, but they know they’re wrong. Or do they? I’m starting to think the Internet has stopped us from having good face-to-face conversations, the kind that solve relationship problems. You know?
And then there’s the real engineers of gentrification in real estate. You know who you are.
Do the real estate speculators who prey on older black women who’ve lived in East Oakland for decades think they’re wrong? Does the City of Oakland, who has failed to jail those creeps for their actions think it’s wrong?
And will Councilmember Loren Taylor help stop that problem? I hope so, but then I look at those party pictures, and wonder. I like Loren, even though I don’t like the circumstances under which he came into office, or some of the things he did to win it. I call Loren “The Six Million Dollar Man” as a reference to his bio-engineering background. (And don’t get on me for not calling him “The Six Billion Dollar Man”, because that movie’s in development hell!)
I just hope that Loren’s bio-engineering background doesn’t point to a cold, machine-like view of the World that pushes out folks who look like him from Oakland.
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