Oakland!

September 25th, 2008  |  Published in Uncategorized

I’m in Oakland for the CR10 conference.  We flew in a day early and it was nice to have some time to chill before being at the conference and to get to think about the content of the dialog that Decarcerate Monroe County is participating in at the conference.  I went running this morning around Lake Merrit and it was really awesome.  I’ve realized recently that excercise really helps me feel more mentally sharp and less scatterbrained.  I love neighborhoods that have heavily trafficed public spaces and there were tons of people hanging out around the lake.  There just seemed to be all different kinds of people walking around and being active and enjoying the autum weather.  This was  a really different experience from when I went running on Defiance, Ohio tour in South Philly.  There, I felt so out of place, and I realized that, in many ways, even an activity that seems as accesible as running can be pretty classed.  I’ve ran, on and off, ever since I started running around my neighborhood in Boiling Springs to get ready for soccer season.  It feels startling to realize that something that you feel like you have a very intimate relationship with is really mediated by the places and cultures that you come from.  I guess this is a no-brainer, but it feels pretty profound when it feels like something that feels natural to you sets you apart from other people, or identifies you as an outsider.

Oakland has hella Asian people.  Being multiracial and growing up in a place where there were definitely not hella Asian people (or non-white people in general, for that matter), I know my exsperience is really different than a lot of the Asian people who live here, but somehow it’s still comforting.  At the supermarket, I paged through a book about Oakland’s Chinatown, and I thought about how many of the photos reminded me of photos of my grandparents.  It made me wonder what my dad’s life would have been like if he had grown up in a place less isolated from other Chinese Americans.

In the Bay Area, I think Chinese Americans have a huge and indelible role in the region’s history.   I tried to think about how Asians are perceived in Bloomington and didn’t come up with much.  I think they are largely assimilated into White culture or perceived as foreign students, having an akward and temporary relationship with the town.  One perception that came to mind out of nowhere though, was of an Asian family that owns a lot of property around town.  I don’t know how I get this feeling, and it’s hard to trace it to specific comments, but I just feel like there’s this expectation that, because the landlord isn’t white, he should be more down than white landlords.  Stingy, profiteering, condescending, or indifferent treatment that people seem to expect from your archetypical white “evil land owner” seems to be taken as a little bit worse from the Asian landlord.  This made me think about how whiteness is stereotyped and is, in many ways, is defined by a set of paradigms for success in our culture.  People of color seem to face additional barriers to this kind of success and also face additional criticism for aspiring to it or taking part in it.