Oakland and The SF Bay Area Slowly Becoming More Racist Than The South
In practice, racism takes forms such as racial prejudice, segregation or subordination (subjugation). Racism can more narrowly refer to a legalized system of domination by one ethnic group over another, such as in institutional racism. Racial prejudice refers to a pre-formed notion of individuals based on their perceived racial heritage. It involves hasty generalizations about members of a group based on the perceived characteristics of one or more members of the group. Generalizations include beliefs that every member of a group has the same personality traits, interests, language, culture, ideas, norms and attitudes. Racial prejudices are sometimes promoted by the mainstream media. Racism has started wars and slavery. It is, however, interesting to note, that racism can be so influential, that even the victim can learn to hate his own group, thus we see what is called "self hatred" which leads to many in the oppressed group oppressing themselves and thoughts of freedom. Once the physical chains are removed, the mental chains may still remain.
Racial discrimination is treating people differently based on their race. Period.
Racial discrimination and racial segregation is rampant in the Bay Area, and it goes largely unchecked, save for people like me, who have no problem pointing it out. When I do, some misguided Bay Area fool comes up and says that I'm being racist, which doesn't fit the definition of what racism is. All of this happens cheek-by-jowl with a period of increased interethnic / interracial marriage and dating in the same region, creating a terrible mix of people -- integrationists who have to deal with the ugly prejudice of the segregationist they may live next door to.
But the worst offenders -- the most terrible segregationists -- are the ones who will tell you they "don't think about race" which is totally hilarious. Take the Yoshi's CD problem. You know, where the Oakland -- Oakland -- jazz club some how makes a CD compilation of performers at the club, but leaves out every and any Black person who picked up a mic there. You wonder how that could happen? So did I. In my case, I wrote this email to Peter Williams, the Yoshi's person who's responsible for the act of weirdness:
As one of the people who advocated for, and worked behind the scenes
to help Yoshi's get, the loan that created the new Yoshi's at Jack
London Square, I'm very disappointed and indeed shocked that someone
could be so myopic and yes, institutionally racist as to exclude black
jazz performers from a CD of jazz music at Yoshi's.
I've never met you before, but when I read your comment "I don't see
race..." my first thought was "He's white." My second thought was "I
hope I'm wrong."
I wasn't. (I checked the Yoshi's website)
Peter, the very definition of insitutional racism is such that people
who carry out the act don't do so with any predetermined thought, but
out of habit. People in my experience who do this generally don't
have black friends. And by this, I mean people they invite over to
their homes, who raise and sit with their kids, and who are totally
integrated in American society.
But beyond that, is this -- jazz and the Black experience -- are joined
at the hip. To even stand by what you did is criminal. It's
terrible. It's shameful.
By now, you're undoubtly on the defensive, and this means you will not
learn. You will privately complain about people who are Black
"wining" as you may use the term about this problem. But the moment
you do that, if you do it, you really are being racist and that's
harmful to everyone.
Oakland is supposed to be a city where people "get with the program"
and not do what you did. But it's apparent we've got to start all
over again and make "thinking diverse" a part of Oakland's official
In the hope that you don't harm anyone in this way again, my prayers
and best to you.
I see that and I still can't believe Yoshi's allowed this to happen. Yes, they appologized, but man, for God's sakes what were they thinking? I know plenty of people who are White and not Black who'd never ever make that kind of error in judgment, but for some reason Yoshi's has allowed itself not to be part of that group. What's so scary is that Jazz is an expression of the African American contribution to American Culture. To leave out Blacks especially when there are still so many talented African Americans who've graced Yoshi's stage over the years is a criminal act, in my view.
Worst, still is the recent action of the San Francisco Opera. Boy, if you think Yoshi's is bad, check that one out. It's a doozy. It's also ruffled the feathers of some people I know who are connected with the Opera. But -- as I've explained to each of them -- it seems like the classic Bay Area case of "We really don't want to tell you our real feelings, so we'll just pretend like we like you until the last possible minute." This is what happened to Hope Briggs, a very popular -- and African American -- singer cast for the role of Donna Anna in Don Giovanni.
Becky O’Malley of the Berkeley Daily Planet put it this way:
"And as a cynical old-school veteran of the civil rights movement, I can’t help but wonder if there isn’t a (perhaps subconscious) subtext here. This production is going on TV: it will be simulcast to a number of venues. Hope is a big, handsome dark-skinned woman, with strong African features—quite beautiful, but not exactly like most faces you see in romantic roles on TV these days.
Elza van den Heever, her replacement, whom I’ve heard many times and who also has a lovely voice, is a young South African woman of Dutch descent. She’s tall and pretty in a conventional European way, certainly destined for future stardom. I’m not willing to say that conventional racism affected (Opera Director David) Gockley’s decision to substitute her into the role, but by the standards of Texas, his last home base, Elza might be considered more telegenic, even though both are good singers."
In other words, Hope was not white, and therefore in Gockley's mind it seems, not right for the role. I personally believe that's what led to the last-minute decision, and while Gockley would never admit that, I'd bet a $1,000 that a tour through his mind would reveal such prejudice. What other way to explain that decision?
Indeed, what's the explaination behind the death of the Lorraine Hansberry Theater, the only Black theater in the Bay Area? According to their website "The Academy of Art University is in the process of acquiring the Landmark building at 620 Sutter Street, formerly the YWCA and current longtime home of the award-winning African American theatre."
I contacted The Academy of Art University's President Dr. Elisa Stephens, but received no reply. This is an outrageous and insensitive move on the part of the Academy, and coldly they just keep right along. I can't see the need to replace a cultural treasure that's -- art -- with a gym.
But if you read this entire article again and again, it's difficult not to conclude that there's a systemic rubbing out of the Black portion of American Culture in the Bay Area. It seems to go with the steady decline of the Black population here, but it also smacks of a kind of instituional and anti-intellectual racism that really should be identified and destroyed. In my opinion, It's ruining the flavor of life in this area.