Yesterday I posted a blog entry which contained set of videos from the YouTube channel of "EASTOAKLAND106", and contained scenes that were shocking. One showed two young black men basically exacting an ugly form of "street" justice on a white man in East Oakland. The other videos were created during "The Sideshow", an activity featuring muscle cars revved to full-throttle by their drivers, spinning donuts in the middle of the intersection of 106th and Mac Arthur Blvd. The YouTube channel contained other videos that together gave the viewer a real picture of what was going on (or "going down") in that part of Oakland.
I made the decision to create the blog to get the attention of the normally placid blog reader, tossed a steady diet of texts about celebrities, sports, and Erin Andrews. These videos showing the real life in East Oakland are there, but bloggers generally ignore them. I thought it was time to change that state of affairs, so I did.
The reaction on my blog Oakland Focus was basically normal, one email of concern about what's happening in that part of our city. But on SFGate.com, the website of the San Francisco Chronicle, it was different. At first, some were hostile, angry that I placed such videos up for public view (forgetting that the videos were already up and out in the open on YouTube), others accused me of trying to "glorify" what they saw as "black culture". Still, others said that by installing that blog post I was simply advancing how whites saw blacks. All of these views I take issue with to a degree.
Yes, I know the old saw that "if it bleeds, it leads" but my intent was to poke and prod at a system of local bloggers that has ignored East Oakland. While there's a blog called "Oakland North", which focuses on a part of our town that, considering the Rockridge scene, can be as sexy as it is charming, there's no blog called "Oakland East" or "East Oakland" for that matter, and some of the blogs that certain Oakland Councilmembers read give only one view of Oakland. And SFGate.com and the w Oakland Tribune website only report crimes that happen in East Oakland, but don't give one an idea of what it's like to be there. So, with the help of the SFGate staff, that all changed.
I thank the SFGate's Vlae Kershner for taking the daring leap of giving my post the visibility "above the fold" of the front page and in the face of the visitor. The result - in part because of this and because of Google News and the way I designed the post to trigger it - was 149 comments, and it was gratifying to see the outpouring of emotion, the dissension, and eventually the melding of views and ideas. People who started out far apart were able to find common ground: we agree that some set of policies must be enacted to change East Oakland beyond just "more cops" and even though some don't think anything we try will work, they agree something must be done.
I still favor a return to a manufacturing-based economy in East Oakland. I'm tired of seeing whole states like Alabama work to bring auto plants and steel plants to those areas, while people here who have low-skills struggle to find work while the government tells them to get "retrained" for jobs that others move here to get, and land them. California as a whole has forgotten how to compete for industry, and has become lazy: more willing to build prisons and lock people up than assure the maintenance of a well-funded education system and a great jobs-building economy. The objective should be "a job for everyone" and not "I will arrest you."
All that and we're surprised at what we saw in East Oakland, or for that matter, the riots after the shooting of Oscar Grant? That is us, not the black "us" or the white "us, or the Asian or Latino "us", but us as Americans, or as Oscar Goldman said to "The Six Million Dollar Man", Steve Autin, "This is your arm, Steve." We have to deal with the reality we face and change it.
Some lament the passing of "old media," and I certainly mourn the loss of giants like Walter Cronkite, but new media - open, in your face, connective of everyone, and rapid in motion - is the social mirror we've never had before. We can see who we are, talk about what needs to change, then go out and do it.