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"Easy" - New Replacement Of "Fifth Amendment" Seems Hostile To African American Men

Is this the Oakland of the future? A place where black men are singled out and treated in less-than-human ways? It sure seems that way with the opening of "Easy", a restaurant and bar that opened in the space once used by the legendary Fifth Amendment on Lakeshore Avenue and in the business district that includes establishments such as Pete's Coffee and Arzimendi's.

Thursday, June 15th was the opening of "Easy" and to those not familar with Oakland lore, it was an occasion to be observed. Long time Oaklanders -- like me -- wandered in to see how this new place was going to treat the neighborhood. Look. I understand more than anyone the need for owners to close an establishment at 2 AM. I also know that many bars have "after 2 AM parties" for friends, and whomever. Some of these gatherings feature the use of drugs, so it's better to sweep out the clientele before 2 AM so they can have real fun.

Without naming names, there's one business not far from "Easy" which has such a reputation.

"Easy" has several men not of color who tell you it's "time to go" when closing time is near. The trouble is that a patron -- like me -- still has a credit card open. In my case I was waiting for the bar patron to close my "tab" when this young, bespecacled white man rushes up and yells in my ear "You have to go. Now. Go!"

Now the setting was such that I was standing next to a Latina who was also waiting for her "tab" -- but this guy, who's name's "Jim" didn't even say a thing to her. He's zeroed in on me. (Indeed, she -- Raquel -- pointed out Jim's terrible behavior to the lone "Easy" owner, to no avail.) I didn't like that at all. Since I was the only black man waiting for my credit card -- and Jim didn't even single out one white person -- I immediately suspected a hate crime in the making.

Jim's behavior comes at a time when reported hate crimes against blacks around the World are at an all time high over the past 30 years. For example there have been a reported 5,000 hate crimes in Russia alone this year-to-date, according to an NRP report and
this BBC article. That's just over 700 per month. And FIFA -- the producers of the popular World Cup series -- has taken the stance that a hate crime against a team of color or a fan of color will result in the halting of the entire World Cup match for several days. The head of FIFA said "If this is the way society is heading, then we need to fix the problem."

Oakland's got a similar crisis on its hands. "Easy" has no black male staffers who work the door at all. And Jim seemed to want to pick a fight with me -- for nothing. I only had one cocktail and was sitting down. Then, when they announced they were closing, I got up and went over to the main table to close my credit card; I gave them $7 for the one beverage.

Jim's behavior was such that I was planning to conduct a citizens arrest, and so told him I worked with the Oakland Police. The point was to get him to stop. Jim said "Don't come at me like that." To which I informed him that his behavior warranted my questions. I finally said to the owners to let him go as he was a liability. They didn't seem to listen. But they did agree he was being "hyper."

I asked the owners then -- and I ask them now -- to fire this person from his job.

Oakland can't afford to turn in this dark direction. It's true that the city's population is reaching "balance" but it doesn't mean that racial problems must rear their heads. If it's true that "Oakland's Not For Burning" then we need to have a good civic talk about the future of Oakland. What Iv'e seen is a slow increase in negative encounters between white staffers of cetain establishments and black men. In the case of "Easy" the staffers would all puff up their chest when talking to me; it was totally pavolvian.


I'm not returning to "Easy." Not at all. I hope other black men get this message.

I also hope the Oakland Tribune takes a stance on this massive problem of the seeds of hate crimes.
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