Blogging Bayport Alameda

June 29, 2020

Nest fouling

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:09 am

As was promised at last Tuesday’s City Council meeting, staff has duly scheduled a special meeting for Monday with the sole purpose of unbundling the police.  From the staff report:

City Council also endorsed a framework for future discussions with the community, including the following topic areas:

1. Unbundling Services Currently Delivered by the Police Department

2. Systemic Racism

3. A Review of Police Department Policies and Practices

4. Police Department Accountability and Oversight

5. A Review of Laws that Criminalize Survival

6. Other Matters which may be Pertinent [including vacancies]

It is amazing that in less than 30 years we’ve gone from a community which, largely, made excuses for the bad behavior of police officers to a community that now expects — no, demands — action to be taken.   Perhaps we’ll finally get to have a real conversation about the institutions in Alameda which exist that have allowed systemic racism to persist because we’ve been unwilling to talk about these institutions in any meaningful way.

I was reading through a report on racial exclusion in the Bay Area which launched with a story about a Chinese American couple trying to move to South San Francisco in the 1950s but faced down the opposition of the community because they were ethnically Chinese.  As I looked at the black and white photo of the man and the tally board behind him with “Object” leading 174 votes to 28 I thought about the racial covenants that existed in Alameda’s neighborhoods and wondered if any person of color in Alameda had to ever suffer through such humiliation.  We hear these stories anecdotally about realtors refusing to show homes in certain neighborhoods to people of color, but we’ve failed to actually capture these stories to remember the problematic history of our past.

There was a great article in the New Yorker about confronting our past and it’s something that, I guess, is just uniquely American.  Which is, to say, that we don’t want to confront the historic realities of our past.  But we must.  From the New Yorker:

The lesson for Americans—particularly those involved in racial-justice work—is that “Nobody wants to look at the dark sides of their history,” she said. “It’s like finding out that your parents did something really horrible. There’s always going to be resistance. It’s normal, and it’s something we should expect.”

But, according to the piece, it took Germans a long time to come to terms with the Nazi stain and it took people “fouling” the nest:

A small and often controversial vanguard insisted on digging up history that older generations had refused to discuss. People called them Nestbeschmützer, or “nest-foulers.” But the process they set in motion—a process of uncovering the past and talking about it—eventually reverberated throughout German society.

I get why it’s nicer to have presentations about stained glass windows or Victorian houses rather than dwell on restrictive racial covenants, redlining, Japanese internment, etc.  Because these things happened not that long ago and it makes some people uncomfortable to know that, even if they may not have been complicit, they were certainly not fighting it.

It’s important that all the work that we do around these discussion of policing is viewed from this frame of systemic racism, but if we don’t confront our history, the history of Alameda, we’ll never truly be able to move forward.



  1. Lauren, Alameda was just one of many cities that had racial covenants. Doesn’t make it right, just letting you know.

    Comment by Tawney — June 29, 2020 @ 10:33 am

    • “Bothsiderism” is getting old.

      Comment by bayporter — June 29, 2020 @ 11:40 am

  2. We Alamedans are making many individual “demands” that have yet to become a coherent approach. We have much work ahead. The council will probably move slowly on this issue until the community can organize itself around specific demands which will take some leadership and coordinated work to pull together.

    We need some reconciliation with the city’s history and a fundamental review of what we want from the police. Many people still want protection. What does actual police protection look like? What we saw in the video of Mali Watkins’ arrest were police officers remaining loyal to their own power and control. The citizens on the street were ignored, which is quite troubling. Why didn’t the police listen to them? Don’t the officers trust or respect the people they serve? That is the basic question of accountability right there.

    Comment by Laura Thomas — June 29, 2020 @ 12:52 pm

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