Today's tribune has an article "The Plight of being Oakland" that lifts up some of the realities that we face every day as residents: fears of safety, suspicion of intentions, expectation of crime, struggling/failing public schools, limited shopping options and overwhelmed civic structures. When I meet new people and say where I'm from, often I'm asked if I've been robbed and how many times it's happened. There is a negative vision of our city from "outsiders" who are often pleasantly surprised to discover for themselves how great the city is through the experience of local parks, the people, shopping options, going out opportunities and the views/weather.
I wonder if the problem isn't more people within Oakland who give our community a bad rap. No, I'm not placing the blame on the BART police officer, but on many of us who live here (at least at night when we're home) but live anywhere else during the day. A majority of people that live in the Dimond and Laurel districts have never been there. They do all their shopping non-locally in Montclair (which is actually Oakland - not another city or inner-east-bay-suburb), Emeryville or Walnut Creek. It's one of the things I've noticed when shopping at Trader Joe's by the lake, or hanging out (as I often do) at the Peet's Coffee in the Dimond. I see a lot of people that I didn't use to see. I had a heated (at least on my side) e-debate with someone last year who was really upset that I was talking about an event on the border of the Laurel/Maxwell Park in a Redwood Heights forum even thought it directly concerened a majority of RH community members. They kept saying, that's not my neighborhood, that's not our context. I argued that it is. Maybe that's our problem. We're so often - at least if we can, or think we can, move socio-economically up the hills to the golden land of Montclair - quick to move up, to bigger and better, to go elsewhere to find what we think we want as opposed to helping make it happen where we wish we could be. It's even in our language. I ate at Bellanico's (great find) last night on Park Blvd. On yelp, it's described as being located in Oakland's "lower hills" neighborhood. I'm not sure that exists....but it sure seems to be a vocabulary twist aimed to get people to eat there as opposed to simply keeping the car in 4th gear and driving up to Montclair. Maybe the perception that Oakland sucks, is perpetuated (at least in part - I admit it's complicated) because we just might actually think it does suck.