Blogging Bayport Alameda

October 13, 2015

The boy Next Door

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:03 am

The East Bay Express has a terrific piece on the Next Door social media platform and some of the pitfalls that come with (1) a relatively closed social media platform and (2) anything dealing with people’s neighborhoods.  I’ll be completely honest, one of the reasons I pulled back from my local Next Door message board was some of the discussions around “outsiders” that would make me super uncomfortable.

Although this is specific to Oakland neighborhoods, the types of discussions mentioned in the piece are not limited to Oakland neighborhoods, from the piece:

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.

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.

And, from first hand experience, this is true for people who speak up cautioning against blanket assumptions about unfamiliar faces:

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.”

The worst thing about this overly suspicious environment is that some people who may meet the definition in some people’s minds as suspicious have to change their own behavior in order to keep themselves out of danger.  Which reminds me of stories I’ve read about “the Talk” that parents have with their kids (and here).  It’s scary and depressing.  More from the EBX piece:

After seeing so many posts warning of dangerous Black men, Thompson, who grew up in the projects of East Oakland and has lived in Glenview for seventeen years, said he stopped wearing hoodies. “It’s sad because people are not seeing individuals. They’re just seeing profiles and they’re acting on it,” he said. “Even though this is my community and my home, they just see a silhouette.”

Thompson, an executive coach and leadership trainer, used to go jogging at 5:30 a.m. in his neighborhood, but he said residents would clearly get scared of him, and eventually he decided it was only a matter of time before someone called the police on him. He never runs in his neighborhood anymore. “How come I have to change to make you comfortable? I have to show you that I’m not threatening as opposed to you making the assumption that based on my behavior, I haven’t posed a threat?” he said with a loud sigh.

The entire piece is really worth a read and important for anyone participating in social media like Next Door to be aware of when posting about suspicious activity.  Data shows that rates of property crime and violent crime are at all time lows, but with social media and the amplification of people’s issues make it seem as though we are riding some crime wave and that we should be suspicious of everybody and anybody that “seems” suspicious however that is defined in that particular person’s mind.

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8 Comments

  1. Two things- if you live in Oakland you cherish the rich cultural diversity, but at the same time, you understand there is a high rate of crime due to poverty and the understaffed police force. . Take the time to get to know your neighbors. Then you can jog at 5:30 AM. In Oakland, there will be no police response to most civilian calls. Therefore, people have become paranoid. Neighborhood Watch actually works.

    Comment by Captain Obvious — October 13, 2015 @ 7:29 am

  2. #1 she isn’t talking about neighborhood watch but the website Nextdoor…which I have to agree with. There is good information on the site but there is also a lot of paranoia. One neighbor thought they needed to have full time police presents at In & Out because it “attracts” the sort of people from Oakland who will send doom and gloom to the neighborhood…people who want to call out the parking police…and put a fence around the community to keep the undesirables out…although this isn’t the majority.

    Comment by joelsf — October 13, 2015 @ 8:09 am

  3. the beauty of social media, people you would normally never allow into your inner circle communications get a front row seat and a bullhorn and our brains aren’t great at separating the wheat from the chaff.

    Comment by BMac — October 13, 2015 @ 8:28 am

  4. I don’t deny that Nextdoor can make it possible for reporting things based on racial prejudices or other racial reasons. But this article is so anecdotal. Like the black guy jogging in his neighborhood, “he said residents would clearly get scared of him”. And then that statement is substantiated by nothing. I really think this particular story is made up. Did people run from him? Did people visibly look scared? Did they pull out their phone and start calling? Did they call out to him and warn him? Did he see Nextdoor posts about himself? It’s like he’s reverse racially profiling the people he thinks are profiling him.

    Comment by AJ — October 13, 2015 @ 10:57 am

  5. 4. thank goodness someone stood up and pointed out the real racist here.

    Comment by BMac — October 13, 2015 @ 1:39 pm

  6. AJ, of course the account by the jogger is anecdotal, but to say it is “made up” just does no justice to the reality of being black male in America. Maybe this guy is paranoid, but what would be the circumstances which make him that way? I doubt he is paranoid at all, just steeped in the day to day reality of paranoid white people who are afraid of black people. I’m sure people visibly looked scared because of course they were.

    Comment by MI — October 13, 2015 @ 4:24 pm

  7. From cranky black man Ismael Reed http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/10/12/want-a-renewal-rid-your-city-of-blacks/

    The old police policy of quarantining blacks is alive in Berkeley and Oakland. In fact, an incident had occurred February 4, 2015, when a black man was talking to some women, who were seated outside of a restaurant. A waitress told him to “scram.” Since he was a well-known comedian, W. Kamau Bell, he had outlets like the Berkeley Planet, where he was able to express his views about the incident. He wrote this on his Facebook page:

    “One of them asks about the book I am holding. I show her the book. Seconds later there is a loud series of knocks on the window of the Elmwood Cafe. They are coming from inside of the restaurant. I look up and see one of their employees staring daggers at me. The employee then jerks her head to her left aggressively, and I see her mouth say something to the effect of SCRAM!”

    He wrote:

    “Umm…actually a black man being told to leave a restaurant because the restaurant believes that his presence is harassing four white women and their kids, even though there is literally no evidence to support that is TEXTBOOK racism.”

    Comment by MI — October 13, 2015 @ 7:09 pm

  8. 6. Yes, I’m sure he had a lot of time and very clear vision at 5:30 in the morning to clearly see things and determine peoples faces, judge varying response expressions, and determine their thoughts. When it’s dark out and virtually no one is outside and you can’t see people’s faces, to quickly discern as he ran by that people were frightened. And not only that, but their split second shock of seeing him run up in the dark was pure racial prejudice and hatred instead of surprise. It’s a stretch.

    Comment by AJ — October 14, 2015 @ 5:25 pm


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