Monday, May 19, 2008

Oakland's Better Half

I know this probably makes me a blog-poseur, but my favorite city in the east bay is Piedmont. Few urban areas in the country boast the sort of exclave relationship shared by Oakland and Piedmont.

Piedmont is great because it puts the lie to pretty much every Leftist preconceptions that people like to throw around. Combine Piedmont and Montclair, and you have the perfect case-in-point.

Let's look at some of the facts. Piedmont schools boast one of the lowest suspension rates in the area. Oakland claims its is 7 percent, which seems relatively low until you look at some of the individual schools. One Oakland charter school suspended 150% of its students this year (however you do that).

And, I have it on good authority from a couple teacher friends that Oakland purposely keeps its suspension rate low by discouraging school administrators from handing out suspensions. They're willing to "live with" a moderate hum of violence, so long as it doesn't get too bad.

Leftists will give you all kinds of justifications for this disparity. Geography obviously isn't to blame, nor are pollution and all the other ills that go along with a person's physical location.

The next target is usually racism. After all, Piedmont is largely white and Asian. Unfortunately for this argument, if you take a look at the state API reports for Thornhill elementary in Oakland, you'll find that the black kids there do very, very well. Their average test scores aren't much lower than those in Piedmont.

That's odd. How can a black student do well in a society riddled by institutional racism?

But I digress. One look at the latest homicide map will tell you there is a great divide running through our area. It goes down along the 580 freeway, and east along the 24 to the county line.

Everyone knows this line exists, but no one likes to talk about it. When I bring it up, people recoil in shock. When I ask why Oakland has no quality high schools while Piedmont High sends laundry lists of students to top colleges each year, they usually dub me evil and move on.

Another possible explanation for this boundary is a wealth gap. One certainly exists, but a look at census data and Zillow will tell you that poverty extends far further to the north and south than do Oakland's killing fields. Berkeley and San Leandro in particular are far safer cities.

This is the mystery of Oakland, brought to light by the shining success story at its center. Why is Oakland so terrible?

I don't pretend to have the solutions. But I suspect the problem is fundamental and systemic. It is probably not a problem that can be solved by adding a few more police to the force.

In my opinion, the fundamental problem in Oakland is it has been overrun with Leftists who view it as a perfect testbed for their theories. Rather than making the city an uncomfortable place for those antisocial people around us, Leftists view them as a constant.

In so doing, they create for themselves the opportunity (they would say "obligation") to save these people. If I'm right about this, this approach has made Oakland a magnet for such people. As such, literally nothing our government does will help.

And, while I appreciate the kudos being bestowed on our leaders for the recent moves toward a fully staffed police department, I suspect it's just more action in the wrong direction.

I'd be interested in others' thoughts on this. It's a serious discussion, and one which is next-to-impossible to have with Leftists. This type of talk is grounds for immediate ostracism.

In the meantime, I remain glad I live in Oakland's "safe zone." Not in Piedmont, but close enough to know what we're missing.


  1. I have to admit I used to be pretty liberal, but living in Oakland has changed me. My husband and I see the problem pretty much as you do. There are tons of guilty white people here in Oakland and because of their guilt they feel that it is wrong to ask anything from people of color. So people of color here don't have to adhere to any laws, they can't be expected to do well in school or ever support themselves financially. All kinds of anti-social behaviors are accepted because many Oaklanders feel that we can't possibly expect poor minorities to function well in our racist society.

    Frankly, if we had understood this crazy attitude we would never have moved to Oakland, but that is certainly water under the bridge.

    However, I am supportive of more cops. Until we get the crime rate under control we will never be able to sell our house, get our financial investment out of this town and move someplace normal.

    Thanks for writing about this subject, in the past I have only discussed this with my husband as Oaklanders are way too politically correct to talk about this subject, which can't happen soon enough for me.

  2. [...] past couple days I’ve been considering the question I posed in the previous posting, about what Oakland can do to change the nature of its killing [...]

  3. I think you've definitely got half the problem right: A manifestly knee jerk and faith based progressivism ladeled up with generous helpings of guilt. But the thing that separates Oakland from cities like Berkeley (which take already absurd progressivism of Oakland and raise it to theatrical levels) is that they don't have the critical mass of persistent urban poverty. The combination of the two is civic catastrophe. Berkeley can get away with the Code Pink loonies and Zachary Running Wolf faction because their slice of the flat land blight scape is proportionately small. Oakland has no such luxury. Still, without the liberal contagion, Oakland could and would be world class; plenty of other cities do it: Chicago, New York, Los Angeles. Oakland itself did it too, before the socialists took over. Oakland is unique, in cities with a large section of urban pathology, in that its official policy actually implements the nonsense that city leaders in those other cities only pay lip service to. Daley in Chicago talks the progressive game, but when push comes to shove, he knows which part of town is paying the bills. As we prove over and over again, the only thing worse than the idea of a socialist government (or what Dellums likes to call the 'burdens of governance'--anyone know when he's going to actually take a stab at it?) is the actual practice of it.