Blogging Bayport Alameda

June 13, 2017

Guest blog: What would that Black man have said?

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

At last Tuesday’s City Council meeting, Mayor Trish Spencer ordered that the microphone be cut off for public speaker Rasheed Shabazz.  He has provided more context (and content) that expands on his comments from Tuesday night.

By Rasheed Shabazz

Since I only had three minutes to address the Council, and Mayor cut the mic off, I wanted to provide some context to my remarks and also state my main point.

Alameda has a fascinating legacy of thinly veiled exclusionary, or rather racist and classist rhetoric, particularly when debating the very emotional and complex issue of housing.

In the past, some so-called Alamedans would use “Oakland” as a code, a euphemism, a racial proxy rooted in exclusionary housing policies. For example, in 1992, when the City defied a court order and did not apply for state housing funds, a speaker at a council meeting received a standing ovation when stating low-income housing in Alameda would “create an East Alameda like East Oakland.” This comparison is rooted in racial segregation and stereotypes.

During the debates to establish a moratorium on no-cause evictions, landlords convinced the City to adopt the phrase “housing providers.” Although this phrase is also used by HUD, it appeared this term was used to provide a better image for landlords at a time when many renters faced skyrocketing rents and displacement.

Leading up to the November election, campaign mailers referred to renters as “criminals” and tenant organizers as “outsiders.” Psychologists have long documented the stereotype associating Black people with crime, or the race-crime association.

For some, this is referred to as “dog whistle politics,” the use of coded racial rhetoric that sounds innocent, but has clear intent and meaning to a particular audience. Lee Atwater’s “Southern strategy” is a clear example. With that context, I’d like to address the “respect the election”, “the people of Alameda have spoken” and “the will of the people” references to the November 2016 election of L1 and M1.

First, there are many factors we should consider in understanding the results of elections: low voter registration, low-voter turnout, and in the case of L1 and M1: undervoting. Why aren’t all Alamedans registered to vote? Why didn’t all registered Alamedans vote? (1 in 5 registered voters did not turnout). And why didn’t all registered Alamedans vote on both measures?

What really explained why people voted for and/or against one or both measures?

For instance, I voted against L1 and in favor of M1. Yet, if it was the only measure on the ballot, I likely would’ve voted in favor of it. However, between the two: I supported what I considered to be the stronger measure. Yet, I soon benefitted from the few protections that L1 offered. I was the first RRAC case after the election, and have a very different analysis of the outcome than your readers. Nonetheless, had M1 been on the ballot by itself, we can only speculate what the results may have been.

So there are nuanced reasons to explain why people voted.

It is also true that some “voters” confused the two measures, even if we don’t know how many exactly. I don’t like to point to the confusion some voting had between L1 and M1, as it seems to imply–for some–that those voting were stupid or ignorant. However, it’s clear that some people were confused. Case in point, a landlord’s correspondence to Council on Tuesday. The email subject is “City of Alameda Tax Payers have spoken….Do not change M1, Ord 3148.”

And what does “taxpayer” imply? That those of us “rental income providers” (my euphemism for tenants) pay no taxes? Or, because tenants do not (directly) pay property taxes to the assessors or since we do not own property we call home that we are “wannabe Alamedans” and we don’t deserve to vote?

There is precedent to the “taxpayer” and “will of the voter” rhetoric–and this is the main parallel I’d hope to make at the Council meeting.

In 1964, California’s voting majority adopted Proposition 14, a state initiative that sought to overturn the Rumford Fair Housing Act and change the state constitution. The “Citizens” (aka California’s white majority electorate) voted to legalize housing discrimination. The State Supreme Court declared Prop. 14 unconstitutional. Much of the rhetorical appeals were couched in language of “property rights.” And 73 percent of “Alamedans” voted in favor of Prop. 14. It was the “will of the people”, those “taxpayers” of Alameda, at that time, to practice housing discrimination.

In 2018, some landlords are banking on a low-voter turnout during the mid-term election to enshrine the “right” to displace tenants with no “just cause.” There’s just something dubious about “housing providers” wanting to force people out for no just reason.

Hopefully, when this effort is defeated, landlords will recognize the “will of the people” of Alameda, to truly have a city of sanctuary where everyone belongs, including the “silent majority” of renters.

For those interested, my entire undergrad thesis, Alameda is our Home: African Americans and the Struggle for Housing in Alameda, California, 1860-present” (2013) is available online. It’s my intention to publish an edited and updated version in 2018.

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22 Comments »

  1. Thank you, Rasheed!

    Comment by TK — June 13, 2017 @ 6:14 am

  2. To clarify a some facts about voter participation in November’s election.

    46,957 was the highest number of registered voters ever in Alameda.
    The 78% voter turnout was higher than the 2012 election.
    Under voting on L1 and M1 was 2600 and 2900. While under voting on school parcel tax was 2300 and K1 was 4000.

    Comment by Mike McMahon — June 13, 2017 @ 7:31 am

    • Thanks for sharing this Mr McMahon.

      I hope to look back at previous elections in Alameda–specifically 1964 (Prop 14), 1973 (Measure A), and 2016 (L1 & M1) and compare racial, economic census demographics and housing tenure at tract level vs voter turnout at precinct level, for a deeper analysis.

      Comment by Rasheed — June 13, 2017 @ 6:34 pm

  3. I would love to see another post from Rasheed about his perspective on possible solutions to the housing shortage. As someone who wants to see a multi-pronged approach to housing development, mass rapid transit, and job locations I’m also concerned about ensuring that folks who live in the Bay Area can get more opportunities to stay in the Bay Area.

    Comment by Angela — June 13, 2017 @ 8:03 am

    • Thank you for that charge. In (over)due time.

      Comment by Rasheed — June 21, 2017 @ 11:29 pm

  4. “For instance, I voted against L1 and in favor of M1. Yet, if it was the only measure on the ballot, I likely would’ve voted in favor of it.” Which one is “it”?

    “First, there are many factors we should are some factors we should consider” ??? Man, you write badly, Rasheed. How do you expect anyone to listen to you when you cannot express yourself clearly? I guess Lauren posted you because you make her sound competent.

    Comment by vigi — June 13, 2017 @ 9:54 am

    • Old Alameda speaks.

      Comment by BC — June 13, 2017 @ 11:07 am

      • Thanks for pointing out that error, vigi. Too “bad” you had to add your value judgment. I write badly, because i’m bad, right?

        And BC: Badly > Poorly 🙃

        Comment by Rasheed — June 13, 2017 @ 6:26 pm

        • Yeah, you bad Rasheed but we expect a touch better from a distinguished grad from our Alma Mater.

          Comment by jack — June 13, 2017 @ 6:44 pm

        • I followed the link to your thesis. Your scholarship would be more impressive if you weren’t acting as your own editor.

          “Alameda’s Rasheed Shabazz (aka the Alamedan formerly known as Reginald James)”

          I make no value judgments, sir. Jack & I are just old Cal grads, wondering what happened to our alma mater.

          Comment by vigi — June 14, 2017 @ 10:08 am

      • Old Crazy Alameda speaks.

        Comment by JohnP,trumpisnotmypresident. — June 13, 2017 @ 7:29 pm

        • John P. Trump, old Alameda who’s the epitome of the know-nothing movement crawled out of his cave to vomit his breakfast hash to the joy of…Before Christ?

          Comment by jack — June 13, 2017 @ 8:38 pm

        • Important qualification, I agree

          Comment by BC — June 14, 2017 @ 7:55 am

        • I forgot to add, “Old crazy White Alameda” speaks.

          Comment by JohnP,trumpisnotmypresident. — June 15, 2017 @ 10:46 am

    • I’m moving beyond disgust and straight on to pity here.

      Comment by BMac — June 13, 2017 @ 10:56 pm

  5. Mr. Shabazz, I am so glad to find your complete thoughts here. It was a shame that you were cutoff at the council meeting. Unfortunate that in the forum you have to deal with trolls as well.

    Comment by michonnekatana — June 14, 2017 @ 2:10 pm

    • Thank you, Michonne. It’s all good. I grew up here, and I’m used to ghosts, trolls & zombies.

      Comment by Rasheed Shabazz — June 16, 2017 @ 7:50 am

  6. Thank you for posting the link to your paper. I have just skimmed the first section, but hope to sit down and read all of it soon. I am sure you know that the book that everyone uses for Alameda history was Imelda Merlin’s masters thesis. I hope your future book will add to Alameda history for all.

    Comment by Kevis Brownson — June 14, 2017 @ 11:13 pm

    • Thanks, Kevis. Yes, I’ve read Merlin’s thesis a few times. While I can appreciate the effort and work put into that thesis (and book), it speaks negatively about the indigenous people of this land. Part of my work is pointing out the subtle–and not so subtle–racism in the “scholarship” about Alameda, and uplifting the stories that have been erased.

      Comment by Rasheed Shabazz — June 16, 2017 @ 7:49 am

      • Do you talk about Makassar Straits [a post-war housing project in Alameda] in your thesis, Rasheed/Reginald? I didn’t see it in a cursory review of the associated photos.

        Comment by vigi — June 16, 2017 @ 12:19 pm

        • Hi vigi.

          Briefly, in regards to it being the final wartime housing torn down, how Black and Filipino residents disproportionate impacted by demolition/displacement, how some Eatuary tenants had moved there, and how tenants organized to fight displacment.

          I could utilize photos, certainly.

          Call me Rasheed, not Reginald.

          Sadly, it was the abduction and murder of a child named Reginald that many considered the final straw before demolition.

          Comment by Rasheed — June 21, 2017 @ 11:28 pm

  7. There is a history that, although generally and hopefully moving in the right direction, continues. Even today, in year 2017, in Alameda, landlords can still receive – and, doing the right thing, push right back against – complaints about their tenants that seem or are motivated by bigotry. I also agree with the comment about “wannabe” Alamedans. It’s plainly wrong and absurd. But there were and are plenty of reasons unrelated to discrimination (and I get it that you are not trying to make a case directly equating the ballot measure L1 with discrimination) for favoring L1 over M1.

    Comment by MP — June 16, 2017 @ 12:54 pm


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