I AM OSCAR GRANT
ARTICLES FROM RACE, POVERTY & THE ENVIRONMENT
PRIDE & PREJUDICE
BLACK POLITICAL POWER: Mayors, Municipalities, And Money
BRINGING BACK THE BLACK
MUDDYING OAKLAND'S WATERS
THE VAN HOOL CONNECTION
OVERFLOW CROWD MOURNS CHAUNCEY BAILEY AT EAST OAKLAND FUNERAL
ARTICLES FROM ALTERNET
THE NOTORIOUS S.I.D.
ESSAYS, COVER STORIES AND NEWS ARTICLES FROM METRO NEWSPAPER
OAKLAND UNWRAPPED COLUMNS
AWARDS AND RECOGNITIONS
CALIFORNIA NEWSPAPER PUBLISHERS ASSOCIATION BETTER NEWSPAPERS CONTEST
2005 Second Place Award, Columns
PENINSULA PRESS CLUB
ASSOCIATION OF ALTERNATIVE NEWSWEEKLIES
CALIFORNIA TEACHERS ASSOCIATION
CERTIFICATE OF MERIT WINNER
JOURNALIST OF THE YEAR
Miscellaneous Reactions To Things I Have Written
ATTORNEY GENERAL MOONBEAM?
When the United States Census Bureau released its first 2010 census data for California in early March, the news that got immediate attention in the Bay Area was the steep drop in the number of African Americans in the city of Oakland in the last 10 years.
According to the data, Oakland’s African American population plummeted from 142,000 (38 percent) in 2000 to 109,000 (28 percent) in 2010. Even if you included all mixed-race (a new category this census) Oakland residents with some Black ancestry—something which often happens in real life—the number of African Americans in Oakland would only increase by 9,000, or two more percentage points.
Both of the Bay Area’s daily papers emphasized the de-African-Americanization of Oakland in their census coverage. The Oakland Tribune story was headlined, “Census: Blacks Leaving Urban Core For East Bay Suburbs,” while the San Francisco Chronicle led with “25% Drop In African American Population In Oakland.”
While the actual census figures qualified as news, the trend of African Americans leaving Oakland has been obvious for a while to anyone paying attention. One sign was the growing Black population in North Bay cities like Antioch and Hercules with Oakland exiles. Another was the replacement of African American households with whites over broad swaths of West Oakland and with Latinos in East Oakland neighborhoods. Moreover, it’s hardly a ‘new’ trend in a city once considered ‘Black.’
Oakland’s 30-Year Black Exodus
Between 1970 and 1990, Oakland may have actually been a majority-Black city, with the typically undercounted African American population at an official high of 47 percent during the 1980 census. During that period, African Americans also achieved virtual dominance of Oakland’s political offices with a majority-Black City Council and School Board and an African American mayor. But the drop in Oakland’s Black population began in the 1980s. By the time of the 1990 census, the percentage of African Americans was down to 44.
The Chronicle speculated that “[a] lower cost of living, the lure of jobs, frustration with schools and the search for safer communities all played key roles” in the Black flight from Oakland. Speaking to the Tribune of a similar trend in nearby Richmond, the Rev. Andre Shumake, president of the Richmond Improvement Association, put it more succinctly: “From what I’ve observed over the past 10 years, I think it’s redevelopment and violence.” By redevelopment, he was referring to the reconstruction of Black neighborhoods in the Richmond and Oakland flatlands, which bumped up housing prices to a point where moderate-income African Americans could no longer afford them.
Significantly missing from the list of reasons was Oakland’s uneasy relationship with its African American youth. Many young Black people feel that there is no place for them in Oakland and are moving away as soon as they are old enough to do so. Also missing from the media discussion was the question of what steps Oakland was taking to preserve the diversity that it—quite justly—is so proud of.