Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Is Oakland turning Brown?

Our city council always talks proudly about Oakland as a green city yet increasingly our town seems to be turning brown. An article in today's Tribune "Fruitvale's African-Americans sense declining clout" lifts up the reflection that the historically dominant African-American population in the Fruitvale district is disappearing or turning brown, being replaced in large part by Latino and Asian (predominantly Chinese-American) populations.

A quote from a resident in the article states "These residents say they see signs everywhere of what they describe as black being eclipsed by brown." I too remark such changes. The church I serve as pastor distributes food twice a month. 6+ years when I came here to serve the dominant population in those that were seeking food assistance and help were African-American today it is visibly Asian and increasingly Chinese speaking. Now that could be the result of several things: 1) it confirms the browning theory of Oakland, or 2) it's our context and immediate neighborhood, or 3) it's a result of the populations and people that know about food ministry, and/or 4) it's a combination of all of the above. Another large reflection of this browning is what I notice every time I go down and around Eastmont Mall: increasing numbers of signs and notices in Spanish in what was historically one of the large African-American Centers of our city.

Sociologists and urban planners remind us that cities are living things AND I wonder what that means for Oakland.


Oz said...

I thought I'd be able to confidently say that I always thought the lower Fruitvale area was brown, but after reading this article, it makes me wonder how blind I am. Though living in the Dimond for over 5, I was pretty sure that International and Fruitvale was (no offense to the residents or like parties) "Little Mexico"

I'm just slightly oblivious I guess? None the less, I'm not upset by this apparent shift. I find the area quite cute.

I've accepted that the Caucasian population in Oakland is or will be very soon the minority a long time ago, and what ever colors seems to shifting around, I'm fine sitting down here at the bottom and enjoying Oakland for all its (at times crazy) diversity.

In other words, what's the fuss about?

Oz said...

My apologies, Though living in the Dimond for over 5, should be

Though living in the Dimond for over 5 years,

I can haz proofreading skillz

Monte said...

I was surprised too by the descriptions of the historic racial/cultural dominance of the Fruitvale. I've always seen it as more brown/latino like you have.

I love the dynamism of Oakland - how you can see change happening (for good and for bad) - that the city is alive, needing our help to intervene to work for equality, improvement for all, advancement for the community and celebration of all of our diversity. It is crazy. Things will be left out, forgotten and marginalized - as happens in any system. I guess what mainly struck me in the article was the call to remember the historic in the ways in which we live in the present and work to build the future Oakland today.