Oakland State Of Mind: A Response To Blavity's Sunken Place Article

Many of the gentrifiers look just like the people they’re pushing out.

So, I was just sitting here in my beautiful city, Oakland, CA. I stumbled across an article saying that California was now in the “Sunken Place.” Take a look at the article but just in case you don’t, a Black person that moved to California from Seattle two years ago wrote an article disappointed that the Black culture here wasn’t what she saw in movies like “Think Like a Man.” Now, I didn’t want to write something based on emotion but the level of hubris in that article from a Black person that just got here, as the author said, “2 years ago” is just disrespectful. It’s disrespectful to the history of this place, and it’s disrespectful to the very real struggle Black Oakland in particular is facing right now. I live in Oakland, I’m sure the L.A. homies will write their own articles. So, I don’t want to be a proponent of Black-on-Black beef over the interwebs. You may be an incredible person that just happened to be detached from an authentic place. That’s not meant to be condescending either. We all make mistakes, so I am going to do my best to address that article with as much Black love as possible.

That “sunken place” comment is an insult. Listen, I love ‘Get Out’ as much as the next Black man. It was one of the best movies I saw, and it had a profound impact on me. The term “sunken place” is now in the lexicon of our culture and has become a cousin to terms such as “house negro.” So when you make that claim, the way some of us hear it (even if it’s not your intention) is that we’ve allowed white folks to come into our conscious. We rep our Black here quite loud and proud. Don’t forget; you’re in the home of the Panthers. That’s in our blood.

You are, in fact, a gentrifier. Part of the reason you see fewer Black folks is because people outside of our communities decide that Oakland or Compton is the up-and-coming place with the dope Black culture and then they move in. Real estate in its current form is pretty zero-sum, meaning that for that person to move in, a Black or Brown person got pushed out. They drove us out so folks from Seattle can move in, have some avocado toast, take a Snap at one of our rallies and then discuss how we aren’t Black enough. All the gentrifiers ain’t white either. Many of them look just like the people they’re pushing out. They may have the melanin but are lacking the homegrown culture that attracted them in the first place.

You built your image of our Blackness from Hollywood movies. That just wasn’t cool. That’s like me saying everyone in Seattle has bad hairlines, is still stuck on Grunge music and playing hacky-sack while they try to remind everybody outside of Seattle that they had Starbucks first. But I know better than to think that and cast that as my expectation of a full city. Oakland and L.A. have different swags nonetheless, but we’d be lock and step on this issue. You set your expectations for our state on movies?? That’s only OK if you’re under 12 years old.

The state hasn’t all but given up on us; it never rocked with us! That’s partially why we’re such a bastion of Black excellence. See my comment about the Panthers. We’ve always had to build our own and do for self. That’s not new. We have resistance in our blood; it’s just harder now because the culture-holders keep getting pushed out so folks from Seattle can feel comfortable.

You just got here! You’re still a guest in our house. Take your shoes off on our carpet. Listen, this is where I extend the olive branch. Obviously, I want to see you flourish. It’s written into my Black DNA, and on some level, I kinda understand what you were trying to do. You’re here now, so you have to decide if you want to be part of our growing problem or if you will work to appreciate our history and overall dopeness. There’s a reason we are one of the most desired places to live in the world. The Black and Brown folks coupled with fantastic weather is what attracts folks like you here. Right now, you’re tracking mud on our brand new rug while going in my refrigerator to see what I got to drink. Take your shoes off and respect our crib. You’re a bit too familiar right now.

From Oakland, with love.