Three Signs That Gentrification Is Coming To Your Neighborhood

Long-term residents reflect on losing their communities to rising rents and cultural whitewashing

09.22.2017•5:00 PM
This article originally appeared on AlterNet.

When she returned one evening from what I thought was a routine dog walk around the neighborhood, my partner was nearly in tears. Perplexed and concerned, I probed for an answer.

She explained the sinking feeling of watching her hometown of Oakland, California, become unrecognizable: The urban farm and playground that recently popped up on Peralta Street had not a person of color in sight. Tent encampments with dozens of newly shelterless black people sprawled out beneath freeway overpasses. White neighbors shot quizzical or fearful looks as she passed. Walking the dog — a practice that once brought her joy and rejuvenation — now left her feeling deflated, angry and seemingly powerless. Her home, her community, had vanished. It had all been building up over the past few years, and in those moments as she walked, it became too much to take.

A news search of “gentrification” will land you with thousands of perspectives both for and against. Though the debate has emerged most vocally in the past several years, for residents born and raised in major cities, the ongoing loss of home is felt deeply.

“It is a feeling of powerlessness,” says Bie Aweh, who was raised in the Roxbury and Brighton neighborhoods of Boston. “You’re already vulnerable because of poverty, and it makes you feel like you have no power because capitalism talks the loudest.”

While many in support of urban renewal and development cite decreased crime rates and increased revenue as benefits, long-term residents from coast to coast echo concerns about the impact of gentrification on historically poor, predominantly of color neighborhoods.

Each of the people I spoke to were raised in historically black, poor communities now experiencing continued or more recent waves of gentrification. Noni Galloway, of Oakland, defines gentrification as, “when an environment or culture is taken over or redefined by another culture.”

On a surface level, the changes that come with gentrification are physical — new beer gardens, condominiums and bike lanes — and happen seemingly overnight. Many residents are left to grapple with what, where and whom to call “home.”

1. Shifts in demographics: ‘White people jogging was the first sign.’
When I first moved to Berkeley as a teenager in the early oughts, my peers had endless warnings for me about the neighboring city of Oakland. People living outside of Oakland, many of them white and/or middle to upper class, generalized it as “sketch,” “dangerous” and “crime-infested.”

The neighborhoods they cautioned me against visiting are now, over 10 years later, spaces where young professionals are flocking to, often describing them as “up-and-coming.”

When asked to reflect on the first signs of gentrification they saw in their cities, three of four interviewees specifically mentioned “white people jogging,” especially in areas they previously would not have set foot in. The influx of white and middle-class newcomers on its own is not the issue; rather the loss of culture and diversity that comes when a city’s long-term inhabitants can no longer afford to stay.

“We used to be a Mecca for black home ownership. Now reports that thousands of illegal foreclosures take place in Wayne County,” said Will, an activist from Detroit. “The discussion of so-called ‘improvement’ should not be separated from the misery being created for tens of thousands of Detroiters.”

Much of the conversation in support of gentrification is coded in a racist and classist belief system that blames the residents themselves for crime rates, rather than lawmakers, local politicians and complicit newcomers who are disinvested from solving the causes of poverty.

The increase of white and/or middle-class new residents to traditionally poor neighborhoods tends to follow or reflect changes in infrastructure, another highly discussed symptom of gentrification.

2. Shifts in infrastructure: ‘Government housing began to disappear.’
“Government housing began to disappear and the projects were being torn down,” said Crystal Lay, of Chicago. “People were being displaced to other areas and put in these quickly built homes.”

The shifts that happen to city landscapes undergoing gentrification are more than physical, they are symbolic of efforts to “improve” an area for incoming residents.

For those who have called these cities home since childhood, there are some strange contradictions: new bike lanes and rent-a-bike programs on streets riddled with potholes; sleek, market-rate apartments popping up beside historic Victorians; urban gardens and beautification in prior dumping grounds.

Oakland’s Noni Galloway summarizes the complex feelings that arise from witnessing these shifts overtime: “I have mixed emotions because … there were much-needed upgrades to the area that I feel didn’t happen until the gentrification started,” she said. “But it hurts to see my old neighborhood turn into the hot spot for someone else to enjoy.”

Another undeniable impact of the skyrocketing housing market is the increase in individuals without shelter, some of them former residents who have been recently evicted. In Oakland, homelessness increased by over 25%, and complaints went up by 600% between 2011 and 2016.

When developers are allowed to build housing starting at $3,000 a month in a neighborhood with a median family income of $35,000, what is being improved? Where can a family call home after their house becomes unrecognizable and unaffordable? What is the cost of gentrification? And who pays?
“Whites and the rich benefit the most,” said Crystal Lay. “I believe poor people and people of color lose. I think any mom-and-pop businesses also lose their customer base and those familiar faces.”

3. Shifts in safety measures: ‘Police make areas safer for suburbanites.’
“We saw blue lights go up in high-crime areas; it was like a sign for people to stay out of those areas. I feel like it was the early 2000s when they began,” said Lay.

Creating the perceived sense of safety associated with suburban areas, including policing, is part of what facilitates the process of demographic changes in major cities.

Sites such as Nextdoor and SeeClickFix encourage residents to report various issues, from car break-ins to graffiti, for resolution. These methods rely heavily on collaboration with law enforcement and public works officials, but also limit community members’ ability to resolve and express concerns together.
The desire to live in an environment that is free of violence, building decay and trash is obviously not unreasonable. I am certain that many long-term residents in urban areas have long wanted to see these changes. The issue is that local governments only invest in these changes when the demographics shift, and that the strategies of “safety” fit the new demographic as well.

The presence of law enforcement does not equal safety in many inner cities, but in urban environments undergoing gentrification, it is common to witness increased policing.

Not only does gentrification push residents out of their homes, it can make them feel unwelcome, or even feared, on their own streets. “

I’m going to have a shirt made,” my partner said, once again returning from walking the dogs, “that says, ‘I’m not a criminal, I’m just from here.’”
Although interview participants overall were not optimistic about the possibility of stopping gentrification, they did have words, advice and requests for new residents.

“Are you moving into the community with the intentions of contributing to the existing culture, by supporting our businesses, or are you coming to disrupt it?” asked Bie Aweh of Boston. “If the answer is disrupt, then please don’t move here.”

“Consider the history of the neighborhood; understand the relationships that are among the neighbors,” Oakland’s Galloway concluded.




Black Empowerment Market

Hosted by Nefertina Abrams




Sunday, February 26, 2017 2-6pm

4313 Piedmont Ave, Oakland, CA 
Email Nefertina Abrams:

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First look: Oakland project from Texas developer would add 225 units in Auto Row


First look: Oakland project from Texas developer would add 225 units in Auto Row
Feb 19, 2016, 2:42pm PST Updated Feb 19, 2016, 2:50pm PST
INDUSTRIES & TAGS Commercial Real Estate, Residential Real Estate, Construction, East Bay

Roland Li, Reporter
San Francisco Business Times

The Hanover Company is moving forward with a new 225-unit residential building in Oakland’s hot Broadway-Valdez area, even as opponents continue to fight another project by the same developer across the street.

Oakland’s planning department will hold public hearings in the coming months on the Hanover Co.’s proposed seven-story project at 2400 Valdez St. The Houston, Texas-based developer also plans 23,000 square feet of retail, which is consistent with the city’s push for more shopping destinations in the area, which has historically been an Auto Row.

The project would replace a narrow parking lot that currently spans 24th to 27th streets. The site is just west of another large housing proposal on the same block by Holland Partner Group on what is currently an Acura dealership.
The developer didn’t immediately return requests for comment. TCA Architects is designing the project.

City planning staff stated in a report released this week that the project is a “well thought design concept” and released the project’s first renderings. But the staff had some design concerns regarding the project’s facade on 27th Street and recommended that the city planning’s Design Review Committee study the project further.

The Hanover Co. also received approval from the city’s planning commission in January for 256 units at 2630 Broadway, a site a block away from the proposal at 2400 Valdez St. But construction of the project would require demolition of the historic Biff’s coffee shop, which has been vacant for years and would require significant renovations. Local preservationists have filed an appeal against the approvals that will require the project to go to a vote by the city council, possibly in April.

Opponents argue that the Hanover Co. can save the historic building and build a taller tower that only occupies part of the parcel. “There is actually plenty of room for lots of housing on the property as well as great commercial space along Broadway and keeping Biff’s,” said Leal Charonnat, an architect and preservationist who is one of the opponents filing an appeal.
But the Hanover Co. has stated that repairing the historic building would be too expensive.

It’s the second time in the last month that opponents have filed appeals against newly approved projects. Last week, community groups and neighbors also appealed the approval of a 126-unit Oakland tower at 250 14th St. in part because they want the developer to pay for the replacement of a mural that would be blocked by construction of the project.

Roland Li covers real estate and economic development

Source: San Francisco Business Times

The Post News Group: Super Bold Panthers Fiftieth Anniversary of Super Bowl and the Black Panther Party


By Kevin D Sawyer

San Quentin News Journalist

This week’s 50th Anniversary of the National Football League’s Super Bowl game pits the Carolina Panthers against the Denver Broncos. This year also marks the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Black Panther Party.

These two historical celebrations boast leading persons whose names are similar. Cam Newton is the leader and quarterback of the North Carolina Panthers. Huey Newton is the co-founder, along with Bobby Seale, of the Black Panther Party, which was founded in 1966 in Oakland, California.

Perhaps no one has taken notice of the symbolic meaning of these two events. Fifty years ago the Black Panther Party for Self Defense, led by Newton, was originally named and organized to “combat police violence in Negro neighborhoods.”

Meanwhile, today the same issues exist as we view the recent demonstrations and outrage over police killings and lawlessness.

As the world focuses on the 50th Super Bowl game, they will see the Carolina Panthers, led by Cam Newton, who is a prime candidate to be named as the league’s most valuable player for his offensive and bold skills, also boasts a strong defense.

How ironic. While Huey Newton is no longer with us, there is a symbolic reference to his bold legacy and the Black Panthers. It is the Carolina Panthers’ Black quarterback Cam Newton who bears some resemblance to Huey. He is also bold in his style of play.

For many, Black History has come full circle in the last 50 years, from the 1965 Watts riots to the 1992 uprising in Los Angeles after the verdict of the Rodney King police beating trial, to the Ferguson, Missouri police killing of Michael Brown.

Seemingly, from Newton to Newton, not much has changed.

Perhaps the 50th anniversary of the Super Bowl will not do anything to remedy any of the wrongs of the past and present, but while sitting in a prison cell at San Quentin State Prison, the image of Cam Newton coming to the Bay Area with his Carolina Panthers will give me more of a reason to reflect on the symbolism this game represents.

Editor’s note: Post Publisher Paul Cobb has visited the San Quentin Newspaper staff and he sponsors their membership in the Society of Professional Journalists. Many of their writings have appeared in the Post News Group’s publications. Cobb spoke with the inmates about Black History, the Civil Rights movement and how he had attended elementary school with Mr. Newton and attended Black History classes with Newton and Seale at the Afro-American Association.

Kevin Sawyer, born in 1963, began focusing on writing 19 years ago while awaiting trial in jail. Some of his writings have been published.

Prior to incarceration, he worked 14 years for several telecommunications corporations. He has a B.A. Degree in Mass Communications from Cal State Hayward. He also has a diploma as a paralegal assistant from Blackstone Career Institute. He is a certified electrician through the National Center for Construction Education and Research and an accomplished guitar and piano player.

Credit: The Post News Group

ALL POWER TO THE PEOPLE: The Black Panther Party of Self Defense Turns 50


October 2016 marks the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Black Panther Party(for Self Defense). History will surely recognize the Party as having organized the single greatest effort by Blacks in the United States for freedom.
Now, former members of the Black Panther Party have come together in Oakland, California, home base of the Party,as the host Committee for the 50th Anniversary Commemoration of the founding of the Black Panther Party. We invite the whole world to Oakland on October 20,21,22,and 23,2016,to participate in reviewing the Party’s history and celebrating its significance toward answering the question Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,raised so long ago “Where do we go from here”

TCXPI Afrocentric Young Scholars SSP


Please spread the word!

On January 16, 2016, TCXPI Afrocentric Young Scholars Saturday School Program began its First Session,  at Impact Hub Oakland. Eleven young scholars from community schools have enrolled in engaging awareness of African history and its many contributions made by African descendants to World and Human Civilization.

Held on Saturdays, TCXPI SSP brings Afrocentric Education to the Bay Area community, education that is not normally seen in our public school curriculum.

The Chinue X Project, Inc. (TCXPI) is the creation of Cynthia Chinue X Cornelius, MA.Ed. As an Oakland native, a product of the OPS, and mother to the same, Cynthia is all too familiar with the curriculum and how it has omitted, distorted and negated the many contributions made by people of African descent. She holds a Bachelors in Africana Studies, and a Masters in Equity and Social Justice in Education both from San Francisco State University. In 2011, she establish a 501(c)3 in  Maryland as a vehicle to disseminate Black History Facts and to bring awareness to African and African American History. She has a following on Facebook and features a page that focuses soley on Daily African/Black History Facts entitled On This Day In TCXPI History. Cynthia believes that the time is now for our nation’s public school systems to become culturally relevant and inclusive in what is taught in schools.

TCXPI’s goal for 2016 is to hold FOUR FREE six-week sessions beginning the second Saturdays of the months of January, April, July, and October. Each session will include engaging African-centred or Afrocentric activities that will facilitate instruction to each scholar in the history of their heritage and culture.

2016-01-16 13.07.42
First Session Young Scholars

To stay updated or to become a part of our program please contact Cynthia; to”Like and Join” our fb pages please visit: TCXPI Afrocentric Young Scholars Saturday School ProgramChinue X Rising, The Chinue X Project, Inc. (TCXPI), and I Love Oakland, CA. ILOC.

If a race has no history, if it has no worthwhile tradition, it becomes a negligible factor in the thought of the world, and it stands in danger of being exterminated.

Dr. Carter G. Woodson




The Oakland Promise


Oakland pledges to fund college for poor

“From Cradle to Career”

Oakland will launch a citywide effort Thursday to triple the number of college graduates coming out of public schools, an ambitious and expensive “cradle to career” plan that aims to reverse cycles of poverty and hopelessness by raising expectations that all children can thrive in school.

The centerpiece of the Oakland Promise initiative is an infusion of grants, ranging from $500 college savings accounts for children born into poverty to college scholarships of up to $16,000 for low-income students. The money is intended to provide both real and symbolic support, signaling to kids and their families that there’s an investment in their future.

According to officials, who have spent six months developing the initiative and will announce the details Thursday at Oakland High School, it will cost $38 million to ramp up the program over the first four years and up to $35 million annually to sustain it. The money is coming from sources including foundations, philanthropists, the city and the school district.

The effort is something of an experiment, because no other place in the country has this kind of comprehensive, long-term strategy to send more kids to college, city officials said. But the need is great in Oakland, where 10 percent of the city’s public-school ninth graders graduate college.

“Yes, this initiative is ambitious,” said Mayor Libby Schaaf. “All my life I’ve seen this as the one thing that has held Oakland back.”

Over the next 10 years, officials said, Oakland Promise plans to open 55,000 college savings accounts, provide $100 million in college scholarships and serve 200,000 students and families. Every City Council and school board member has endorsed it, as have 100 community organizations, two dozen university officials and 200 leaders including the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom.

$25 million raised

While sustained funding is the central challenge, Oakland officials say they raised $25 million to launch the effort. The school district is expected to cover $1 million annually, and the city has committed $150,000, a number that may increase now that the initiative has begun, officials said.

The East Bay College Fund plans to contribute $1.5 million per year, while Kaiser Permanente and Pacific Gas and Electric Co. are giving $3 million and $1 million, respectively, to start up the program. Organizers will need $18 million more to cover the costs through 2020, an amount they say is reachable.

“It will be on us to make the case that eventually this would be one of the smartest public investments that any city could make,” Schaaf said.

That investment includes the $500 college fund for each child born into poverty — with eligibility tied to the same government standards that apply to free and reduced-price school lunches — as well as a $100 college account for every kindergartner, high school counseling centers and up to $16,000 in scholarships that come with individual mentors and support through college.

Belief in all kids

Oakland Promise combines successful initiatives from across the country, with a focus on disadvantaged youth and building “a culture of a college-bound city,” said David Silver, the mayor’s education director. Research shows that a child who has a college savings account of at least $500 is four times more likely to graduate college, he noted.

Middle-class families generally consider college a given, said city schools Superintendent Antwan Wilson. Poor children and families don’t — and they often don’t believe in the system. A $500 college account, he said, tells them the city believes in them and their future.

“Hope is extremely important. It’s called privilege, and the way privilege works is it gives you the ability to take things for granted,” Wilson said. “Odds are, a young person born into poverty in Oakland will live a life of poverty and have a shorter life.”

The prescription to change that, however, is expensive. The city’s plan is to ramp up the number of children served over the next four years and fully implement each piece within 10 years.

By this fall, 250 babies born into poverty will have $500 in the bank for college, according to the timeline, stepping up to 1,000 per year by 2020, and all 2,200 within a decade. Their parents will be also be eligible for up to $500 to support their child’s development. That will cost an estimated $5 million over the first four years.

In addition, every child entering kindergarten in a public school — about 4,600 each fall — will have $100 for college by 2020, and more in matching funds if their parents put in money. That will cost $2.9 million over four years.

In the same period, roughly $3.6 million will go to “future centers” at high schools to support applications for college and financial aid, with all slated to be open within 10 years.

College scholarships are the most expensive part of the plan, which calls for $1,000 to $16,000 to go to every financially and academically eligible student, with mentors assigned to them to ensure they get their degree. That will cost $25.5 million to scale up, with a goal of supporting 1,600 scholarship students per year within a decade.

To read full article, please visit source SF Gate.

Website: Oakland Promise

Become A Champion

Facebook: Oakland Promise

Oakland: Body camera shows man screamed “I can’t breathe” before death

By Dan Lawton

OAKLAND — Face down with police pressing him to the sidewalk, 51-year-old Hernan Jaramillo wailed two refrains over and over before he died.

“They’re killing me!” he howled 20 times in a 4-minute stretch.

“I can’t breathe,” he moaned again and again.

As the minutes passed, the cries grew softer until Jaramillo fell silent.

Jaramillo’s last moments, captured on a police body camera in 2013 and unveiled this week, are a macabre tableau in which he can be heard imploring Oakland officers to let him up as his sister watched tearfully.

The video — exclusively obtained by this newspaper but never released by police — shows officers ignoring Jaramillo’s pleas for help and continuing to restrain him, a tactic associated with in-custody deaths and sharply criticized after the 2014 death of Eric Garner in New York. Garner’s family settled a lawsuit last year for $5.9 million.

It raises questions about how Jaramillo — who was never a suspect and has no criminal record in Alameda County — ended up bloody, unconscious and eventually dead.

The police department did not respond to questions about the incident, including whether an internal investigation was conducted and if the department has policies on restraint and medical treatment.

Last week, Oakland settled a wrongful-death lawsuit for $450,000. The city attorney’s office referred questions about the settlement to the City Council.

Jaramillo’s death was induced by a bizarre and disastrous chain of events

The catalyst was his sister calling police on July 8, 2013, at about 1:40 a.m. and reporting that she believed an intruder was trying to kill her brother.

When officers arrived, they found Jaramillo in a bedroom and no one else besides his sister present. When Jaramillo didn’t obey commands to let them in, they handcuffed him.

In court filings, the city attorney argued that Jaramillo resisted when police attempted to put him in the squad car, refusing 20 requests by the officers.

Officers detained him because Jaramillo had blocked their efforts to investigate the incident and appeared to be having a mental health episode, the city argued.

In his deposition, Officer Ira Anderson said that while attempting to force Jaramillo into the car, he suddenly saw the man’s hands were no longer handcuffed behind his back but out in front.

“I grabbed him by the shirt,” Anderson said. “I brought him away from the car … did a leg sweep and put him on the sidewalk.”

Once Jaramillo hit the asphalt, the exact manner and length of restraint is unclear.

Officers said they held Jaramillo down by his arms and wrists.

But three witnesses said they saw an officer pressing a knee into Jaramillo’s back.

John Peters, a former police officer and president of the Institute for the Prevention of In-Custody Deaths, said that when a suspect complains of breathing difficulties, restraint should immediately stop and medical treatment should begin.

“When a person is having a medical emergency, law enforcement needs to transfer that person from a suspect to a patient,” Peters said.

On the body camera video, at least 6 minutes pass from when Jaramillo last yells and when medics arrive and begin CPR.

According to the paramedics’ report, Jaramillo was in handcuffs and nonresponsive, with vomit in his airways, when they reached him.

He never regained consciousness.

An autopsy, conducted by Thomas Rogers, a doctor with the coroner’s office, found the cause of death to be multiple drug intoxication associated with physical exertion.

Rogers said he found evidence of cocaine metabolites and alcohol in Jaramillo’s blood.

He testified that there was no evidence of internal injuries and that Jaramillo had a compromised heart because of hardening arteries.

Attorney John Burris, who represented Jaramillo’s relatives in the wrongful death lawsuit, said that an independent pathologist rejected that drugs were at play. He also said there was no evidence that Jaramillo had used cocaine that evening and that he believes the use of force by police killed him.

“People have been taught that you don’t get on somebody’s back and press down,” Burris said.

The three officers named in the complaint were Anderson, Carlos Navarro and Steven Stout.

The Alameda County District Attorney does not investigate in-custody deaths that don’t involve shootings.

To view video, please go to source: Contra Costa Times

Racial Profiling Via

The strange glances are starting to become more frequent. James Fisher, a fourteen-year-old freshman at Oakland Charter High School, has noticed that as he gets older, more people on the street eye him with suspicious or fearful stares. “Some of them just look at me, and then they’ll look away,” he said. “Or sometimes, I go into stores, and they look at me like they think I’m going to do something bad.”


James is a Black teenager who is soft-spoken and looks about three years older than his actual age. On a recent afternoon last month, I chatted with him and Emma, his thirteen-year-old sister, at their house in the Upper Dimond neighborhood in the Oakland hills. The two siblings told me about their first weeks of high school and how they have enjoyed the freedom at times to walk around Oakland’s Chinatown district without their parents.

But they never walk around their own neighborhood alone.

The tree-lined residential street of large single-family homes where the Fishers live more closely resembles suburbia than a densely populated city. Positioned at the top of a steep hill near Dimond Canyon Park, their house feels worlds away from the busy urban bustle of MacArthur Boulevard and the Fruitvale district just to the southwest. On the surface, their block looks like an ideal place to raise kids — safe, family-friendly, and quiet. Although their individual street is very diverse — with about ten Black or mixed-race kids now living nearby — white residents are by far the largest racial group in the surrounding area. And it’s in this neighborhood, perhaps more so than any other part of Oakland, that James feels most like a target for the uncomfortable glances that are becoming increasingly common in his life.

Emma and James Fisher don’t walk around the Upper Dimond due to concerns about racial profiling.

But he and his parents are not just worried about hurtful stares from neighbors or passersby. Over the last two years, their neighborhood has become overrun with racial profiling — but not by police, rather by mostly white residents incorrectly assuming that people of color who are walking, driving, hanging out, or living in the neighborhood are criminal suspects. These residents often don’t recognize that they may have long held racial prejudices or unconscious biases, but recently, they’ve been able to instantly broadcast their unsubstantiated suspicions to thousands of their neighbors with the click of a mouse., a website that bills itself as the “private social network for neighborhoods,” offers a free web platform on which members can blast a wide variety of messages to people who live in their immediate neighborhood. A San Francisco-based company founded in 2010, Nextdoor’s user-friendly site has exploded in popularity over the last two years in Oakland. As of this fall, a total of 176 Oakland neighborhoods have Nextdoor groups — and 20 percent of all households in the city use the site, according to the company.

On Nextdoor, people give away free furniture or fruit from their backyards. Users reunite lost dogs with their owners. Members organize community meetings and share tips about babysitters and plumbers. But under the “Crime and Safety” section of the site, the tone is much less neighborly. There, residents frequently post unsubstantiated “suspicious activity” warnings that result in calls to the police on Black citizens who have done nothing wrong. In recent months, people from across the city have shared with me Nextdoor posts labeling Black people as suspects simply for walking down the street, driving a car, or knocking on a door. Users have suggested that Black salesmen and mail carriers may be burglars. One Nextdoor member posted a photo of a young Black boy who failed to pick up dog poop and suggested that his neighbors call the police on him.

White residents have also used Nextdoor to complain and organize calls to police about Black residents being too noisy in public parks and bars — raising concerns that the site amplifies the harmful impacts of gentrification. On Nextdoor and other online neighborhood groups — including Facebook pages and Yahoo and Google listservs — residents have called Black and Latino men suspicious for being near bus stops, standing in “shadows,” making U-turns, and hanging around outside coffee shops. Residents frequently warn each other to be on the look out for suspects with little more description than “Black” and “wearing a hoodie.”

“These posts cast such a wide net on our young Black men,” said Shikira Porter, an Upper Dimond resident, who is Black. “You start seeing this over and over again, and you understand quickly that, oh, it’s the Black body that they’re afraid of.”

In some Nextdoor groups, when people ask their neighbors to think twice before labeling someone suspicious, other users attack them for playing the “race card” and being the “political correctness police.” Some groups have even actively silenced and banned the few vocal voices of color speaking up on the websites, according to records that I reviewed.

This sometimes toxic virtual environment has real-world impacts. Residents encourage each other to call police, share tips on how to reach law enforcement, and sometimes even alert cops and security guards about suspicious activity they’ve only read secondhand from other commenters. I spoke to longtime Oaklanders who say the profiling is getting worse, noting that they have recently had neighbors question them on their block or in their own driveway — suspicious of whether they might be up to no good. People of color described stories of white residents running away from them, screaming at them to leave a shared garden space, and calling police on young children in their own home. In some areas, the profiling is further exacerbated by the growing presence of private patrol officers whom residents have hired to guard the streets.

Even high-ranking officials with OPD, which has a formal partnership with Nextdoor, have admitted that the department is sometimes forced to respond to baseless suspicions about residents of color — the kind of profiling that can go unchecked in online groups. “If … they’re all feeding off of the same bias, then that could be harmful,” said OPD Assistant Chief Paul Figueroa. He later added, “Fear can really drive the application of bias.”

Now, a group of Oakland residents calling themselves Neighbors for Racial Justice is trying to fight back against the rampant profiling online and in their neighborhoods. But Nextdoor officials and the white residents who control and dominate the online groups do not appear to be taking their concerns seriously or willing to make substantive changes.

And as long as the profiling and prejudiced online posts persist, Mitsu Fisher, the father of James and Emma, is not letting his kids play outside or walk the streets of their own neighborhood without supervision. Mitsu made that an official policy in February 2014 after a patrol officer in the Oakmore neighborhood — who was working for a private security company and was not supposed to be armed — chased and shot a Black teenage boy suspected of committing a burglary, according to police. The fact that a private guard shot a young suspect was upsetting enough to Mitsu, but it was the response from his neighbors online that led him to truly fear for his own kids’ safety…


Source: Please click for the full text at East Bay Express