On November 19, KQED Pop, a web initiative of public media outlet KQED, ran a blog post entitled “A San Franciscan’s Guide to Living in Oakland.” The article was written by Serena Cole, a UC Berkeley art teacher and Oakland resident for the last decade. Cole listed several places she recommends for new residents forced out of San Francisco due to high rents – in other words, the very same people commonly referred to as gentrifiers and hipsters.
Where it gets interesting, though—and the reason we’re writing this article—is a paragraph Cole wrote which stated the following: “The only rule to living here is to find where to go and not to go. The places I am going to take you on a tour through will label me as ‘bougie’ by Oakland standards, but I don’t think there is anything elitist about coming home in one piece. So stay out of East Oakland and West Oakland. That doesn’t sound like it leaves much, but it does. Trust me, my friends have been violently mugged in East Oakland and had the same house robbed three times in West Oakland. But be my guest if you want to go to either for ‘cool points.’”
Hold on. Full stop. Let’s back up. Did KQED’s blogger just tell recent SF transplants to avoid three-quarters of the city on general principle? Yup.
Radio personality, journalist, and webmaster Davey-D took the media outlet to task with a lengthy Facebook post, in which he admonished KQED, “you guys should be ashamed of yourselves for allowing such a disparaging article that bashes on our city and its hard working residents…I guess with small minded, bigoted attitudes like the ones displayed in your article you should definitely stay out of West and East Oakland and the town in general… Middle finger to you guys for allowing that article to be published.” Davey’s post generated more than 50 comments, most of which expressed similar sentiments.
…While the incident certainly caused embarrassment throughout KQED’s Potrero St. headquarters, “we’re actually very grateful” that it happened, Lupetin insisted. “We’ve learned a tremendous amount from the feedback” from community members and subscribers, he added, noting that many KQED staffers live in Oakland. “When you make a mistake,” he said, “you need to learn from that. We take it very seriously.”
read more: oaklandlocal, 22.11.13.
comment by Johanna Workman:
So, these are the kinds of messages that are constantly thrown at us in our society which makes people of certain racial and ethic groups (i.e., low-income Black people) feel “less than”. Yes, East Oakland is dangerous, however a lot of people live here, including myself. The article conveys that we don’t count; the only people who are important, the only people who need to be protected, are “her” people. We are Other. These are the kinds of things that contribute to unconscious bias.
the perception (that is based on actual crime rates but then blown up by negative media) that oakland is dangerous is pervasive.
i do have friends who are scared of setting foot in the Town ask, Isn’t Oakland dangerous? and among friends who are fellow oaklanders, we can semi-joke on July 4th, “Not sure if fireworks.. or gunshots”.
when introducing newbie friends to oakland, i sort of agree that west and east oakland are probably the most crime-ridden parts of town, but add in that shootings can occur anywhere. and recently in north oakland, lots of inattentive people have been getting their iphones stolen. (which probably doesn’t allay their fears.. haha.. until I take them to a local bar and they relax a bit and can feel the awesome, chill vibe that emanates in oakland.)
it is a pretty general “principle” to “avoid” east and west oakland, unless you live there, of course. but then don’t just blatantly dismiss those areas! most people would want to introduce their friends to the best spots and give a good impression of their city, and that’s understandable. but you could later go explore east and west oakland instead continuing to suffocate yourself in your little white person bubble.
there’s so much rich history in oakland, especially in west oakland. to just pretend three-quarters of the city doesn’t exist is offensive. I totally stand with Davey-D’s comment: If you just want to hold tight to your negative perceptions (that may be false) and not try to learn and understand people who are different from yourself, GTFO of Oakland—don’t come here at all!