Part of the Bay Area News Group

Alameda: Taking a look at prejudice and stereotypes

By epearlman
Friday, November 21st, 2008 at 8:07 am in Island Life, Print columns, Schools.

The column I write for the Alameda Journal is up online now. This week it’s about some of the old stereotypes and prejudices that still impact our town.

[You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.]

  • bob

    Of course there’s class warfare and prejudice in Alameda. Its basically like the rest of the small, cute towns Bay Area: Squeaky clean, exclusive, and preeminently “white”. A lot of people would argue with me over this and claim that we’re oh-so ethnically diverse and tolerant. But reality shows a populace painfully wary and concerned about the neighbors across the estuary- our friends in West Oakland. Nobody will outright say it, but when the theater was being built, a lot of people expressed concern over the impact. Crime and the classic Alameda battle cry of “traffic” and so on were thrown about. Condensed down, it really meant that people were scared that we might possibly attract “Those” people from across the bridge to our white picket fence, cocker spaniel, baby stroller strewn back yards.

    I’ve lived in the Bay Area for 8-9 years now. Admittedly, it is more tolerant than most other areas. Racial relations are fairly healthy and people at least try to make an effort to be open minded. But the unspoken reality still remains that the area is still racially segregated: African Americans live in concentrated areas, as do Hispanics, Asians, and even Indians ( Fremont and parts of Berkeley). Perhaps its human nature to be around people who are… ” one of our own”. People seem to almost want to ignore this here. But let’s not fool ourselves. People are fairly protective of Alameda for more reasons than just to control traffic. Our insanely high home prices serves us well in that respect by keeping out the riff-raff. But there is also an underlying attitude that speaks of a sort of fear- again about the proximity the town has to a totally different kind of community which can be seen clearly at night when we look across that 100 foot wide strip of water.

  • james

    i guess eve pearlmans code for “west” in alameda means not white or not affluent as she is the only one spewing this hate. i have lived in alameda for over 50 years and all we hear about is race and sexual orientation from the day to day media. it seems to me that the ones keeping discrimination alive are the actual minorities as the white people i know have moved on long ago and accept people for who they are. I am not saying that all whites have moved on but you would think from the media that being white means being prejudiced and from my experience living here on the west end it has been quite the opposite. come on down to the encinal high area and see for your self how parents have taught there kids to act. its not too pretty.
    93% of the blacks vote for the black guy but that is seen as progress. Gays overwhelmingly support the gay candidates who are usually democrats that have no backbone when it comes to moral issues and that is seen as progress. Latinos overwhelmingly vote for the latino candidate and that is seen as progress and asians overwhelmingly vote for the asian candidate and that is seen as progress but if the white population were to overwhelmingly support white candidates and bypass the minorities that would be seen as racist. It is getting a little bit too silly. the haters of traditional marriage spew their lies about equality when it is quite simple everybody can marry but tradition religion and nature have established that marriage is between a man and a woman and no 5-4 ruling will ever change that reality. it might change the legality but will never change the true definition of the institution.
    eve pearlman should get a clue and try to bring about harmony instead of division and let peoples words speak for themselves instead of trying to put her ill-conceived notions into their words. it is a good thing the journal is free because i dont think many people would buy this biased publication

  • Missy

    Pearlman’s article makes me mad. I can’t put my finger on why exactly. I teach in San Leandro, and I don’t think any Alamedans would send their kids there, whichever end. The Obamas are, of course, sending their girls to a private school. The East Ender was not far off in his comment. I don’t think it was racist. Parents who make their kids their priority live in places where they can access the best schools (if they go public). The issue is not class or race, this issue is a parents’ priorities. If their child’s education comes first, then that child will succeed. Personally, I’m more worried about growing class sizes in the public schools.

    I just think Pearlman sounded a little too self-righteous, like maybe she hasn’t had enough real world experience to be writing about my racism or classism.

  • Eve Pearlman

    Hi, Missy. I appreciate your comments. I am sure you would agree that it’s an understatement to say these are complicated issues. We have in our country, for example, a legacy of slavery which destroyed families and culture. We have, too, current racism, which undermines freedom— from what apartment a family can rent to how they are sometimes perceived and treated by teachers or police or peers.

    I think the idea that a whole group of parents doesn’t care about their children is a dangerous one. I think context, from social history to current resources, need to be incorporated into our thinking to make a more complete portrait of circumstances. I’m not saying each individual is not responsible for their lives, but it’s a heck of a lot easier to protect and care for your children if, say, you come from a family with money, have had the the privilege of a good education, if you come from a family that values the things that the dominant culture values. People spend lives thinking about race and class and social interactions in our society, trying to make nuanced analyses of how we got where we are and how to make changes. My column is about taking exception to knee-jerk responses: all parents from this region, this race, this school are this way or that way. –Eve

  • Missy

    This is like saying that poor people can’t make education a priority. My husband grew up in the South where he was bussed across town to the black school where other students would jump him for his lunch money. He hated it growing up, but he thinks it made him tougher. He says he would still send his kids to any public school. He doesn’t think they learn much in school anyway. We disagree about that.

    As for the values of the dominant culture, that has to be a choice. Even in our Culturally Relevant Teaching programs kids are taught to code switch, which words are appropriate for which situation.

    I’ve taught all kinds of kids, ages 10-18, and I can’t come up with generalization about success and color or class. I can tell you, however, which families consistently have successful students. It’s the families who do more than just say that education is important. They have consequences and follow through when their child starts to slip. Their student’s student calendars are signed. Their kids do their homework. They came to Back to School Night. And, they were all different ethnicities and classes.

    I should have said that education has to be a priority for their children, not that children have to be the priority. Unless they’re substance abusers or crazy, I believe all parents care about their kids. I’m not sure they all care about school. Success for their kid might be something different.

    I guess I don’t like liberal theories about society that blame the system; you got it right when you implied my belief in individual responsibility.

    To tell you the truth, this is my first blog. I’m not good at confrontation, but I appriciate this chance to honestly say what I think.

  • carl halpern

    Eve,

    I commend you for taking on some of the underlying attitudes that shape Alameda political discussions.

    I live in Central Alameda (near Park and Otis). I work with the Alameda MultiCultural Center and the Alameda Peace Network.

    My daughter attended Paden elementary school, but has been homeschooled for the past 10 years. That is another story. My wife taught at Longfellow and volunteered at Paden.

    I agree with your basic point that generalizations like the ones you cited tend to constrict healthy policy discussions and narrow options. I’d like to believe the West End parent quote is wrong, but then I have the image in my mind of the long lines of parents queuing up to get their kids into Edison and only Edison.

    But your point is still correct, believing that East End parents will act that way incorrectly tarnishes the many East End parents who do not.

    Thanks again, for taking this on.

    Carl Halpern
    Laurel Street, Alameda

  • bob

    I’m sorry, but I have to step in and say something about the response from James, which as much as I hate to say it, reminds me of the attitude you get from the majority of older white people. James seems to be suggesting that we have surely progressed to a level that means we should assume that prejudice and past suffering of various ethnic groups should be put to rest.

    I myself am White and grew up in the rural South. There was quite a bit of prejudice and racial hate. But the same is true in the all-progressive Bay Area only that here, people ‘politely’ keep tight lipped about it and sweep the problems under the rug- or into the ghetto. Racism and stereotyping is still a major problem. Like I said- the Bay Area is full of inequality and the silent class warfare that pushes the poor further and further from the metro centers of the area are serious issues that have yet to be addressed, even though many people who consider themselves progressive would likely “agree” at least topically that such a problem existed. Sure- people here are open minded and progressive here, but only if its convenient for their lives.

    Lastly- the “marriage is between a man and woman” thing. Perhaps you’ve thought about what the Bible says, which is that sin is committed not only by physical act, but my the heart- meaning if you even think of a sinful act, then you have indeed sinned. Thus if the idea of gay marriage is to be stopped to somehow save all of us all (including gay people) for the judgment day, then too late- they’ve obviously thought about it, hence what is the point of stopping people from doing what they obviously want to do? In addition, how does a gay person getting married affect YOU personally? I might not be Gay, but I have many friends who are, and they are all people just like you or me and to deny them their rights as ordinary people is outright wrong. I’m sorry, but someone aught to say it.

  • james

    BOB–no one is denying anybody the right to marry but it is quite simple. Tradition nature and religion deem that marriage has always been between a man and a woman and when you see a man dressed as a woman or a woman dressed as a man to accept wedding vows it obviously shows a real problem with that persons acceptance with their own identity. when children ask whats going on iam glad you will be able to tell them that this is normal in your world but it says a lot about you and how you view reality. after that hopefully you will continue and tell them about what they do in the bedroom that you think is so cool and when they grow up they can join in the fun too. gay marriage effects all of society as it brings down the faltering morals of this world even more and confuses our children. i like you have many gay friends. ive worked lived and spent a lot of time with them in the last 40 years so dont think you are so righteous. it still doesnt make it normal.since you want to talk about the bible read leviticus some time and see what god says about a man laying with another man. it is very clear. in conclusion my problem is with the haters of traditional marriage who seek to redefine the institution to fit their emotional needs. come up with something else but stop attacking traditional marriage.

  • dave

    You begin by stating that “no one is denying anybody the right to marry” and then proceed to do just that.

    Your rhetorical skills rank even lower than your basic literacy, and that is an achievement indeed.

  • bob

    James,
    Your argument falls flat because for one, you’re assuming that all people in the US are Christians, religious, and follow the teachings of the Bible. I’m a Christian, but if I wasn’t, then nothing that you’re using as reasoning to deny Gay couples the same rights as you means anything to me. This goes back to a basic element of the constitution: Separation of Church and State. In other words, religious morality is not part of political obligation. I am an absolute firm believer in this.

    Your second part of your argument suggests that Gay couples in public are morally corrupting society. Furthermore, we must protect our children from their hideous displays of affection. Amazing. To me, this is not all that different from way back in the not-so-distant past when black children weren’t permitted to drink from White water fountains.

    How you raise your children is your business and responsibility. The world changes whether you do or not. Children gain their sense of morality and direction from their parents and from their own inner conscious. If you want to teach them that Gay people are bad, then that’s totally up to you. Taking away someone’s rights to “protect” your children is a slippery slope. If you’re going to go that far, then we might as well ban Television, Movies, the Internet, Books, and billboards. Why? Well- little Junior just might see something dirty and be damaged for life.

    Lastly, where do you get that just because I support Gay marriage that I must automatically hate straight marriage? I’m straight and married. What I don’t like is people who put Gay couples on a totally different plane and attempt to shove what they think is morally superior down their throats.

    In any regards, Gay marriage will eventually become legal nation-wide. It took years for racial inequality to be eradicated on a political level. The same will likely be true for Gays. This I can assure you.

  • bob

    Dave,
    If you have anything useful to add, feel free.

  • james

    BOB—so there you have it. two different views of whats going on. you dont accept my arguments and I along with the majority of californias voters see no validity in yours. i am willing to let the supreme court of this nation decide this issue are you? that is where we are headed and when it reaches that point i will accept the decision one way or another. iam just curious but did you listen to some of our great bay area politicians describe themselves last week? isnt it great that politicians like tom ammiano and carole migdon describe themselves as “queers”.. now that in your world is NORMAL but not in the world of the 5,300,000 california voters who rejected prop 8 and the voters of approx 30 other states who have voted it down—–nice talking to you hopefully you will someday value your marriage a little bit more and not try to change what it has stood for since the beginning of time

  • bob

    Again James,
    I think you’re awfully brash and out of line for assuming that because I support Gay marriage, I must not value my own. What are your grounds for saying something as stupid as that? Like I said and repeat: I am straight, I am married, I LOVE my marriage and respect other straight couples who are married… just as much as I respect Gay couples. I find it offensive that you suggest otherwise. How dare you make that kind of assumption about me? It really shows how ignorant you are.

    You obviously believe that being Gay is by definition a bad thing.There are also those who feel that being another Color or ethnic group is a bad thing. Its amazing that people like you don’t see the similarities. True- A majority of Californians voted for Prop 8. Then again, I grew up in the rural South and up until the 1960′s, a majority of the populace voted to keep schools segregated and Jim Crow laws intact. By your logic, those people were right.

    Then again, I’m obviously wasting my time discussing this with you. Like I said- I hear the same attitude from lots of older white people like yourself. This is the same with every passing generation, where those who’ve lived lives with the same old laws and ways of thinking for some reason fight tooth and nail to keep it exactly the same for their own comfort while ignoring the obvious tides of inevitable change.

    My Dad had a simple saying whenever I complained about having to do something different. All you can expect in life is change.

    As mentioned before, just because something might be law doesn’t mean it is necessarily right.

  • james

    BOB—you sound awful silly when you are trying to be intellectual and the continued mentioning of race in your statements shows you cant stick to the subject I raised which was gay marriage. they have absolutely nothing to do with one another. I realize that changing the subject is the normal ploy of you and other backers of prop 8 since it seems to be the only way you can try to support your position. once again I will say that gays trying to redefine the institution for their own personal gratification is what people object to. again I will say that anybody can marry regardless of who you are but marriage has always been between a man and a woman. Try supporting the institution that you signed on to whenever you were married. you will be a much better person for standing up for your commitment instead of trying to dumb down the morals of marriage in the name of inevitable change—-you sound silly(I can attack and belittle too)

  • bob

    James,
    Let me try and made it as simple for you to understand since its clear you really don’t get it: Discrimination wrong on all levels.

    What is the problem with people like you? You never answered my question either: HOW does gay marriage affect YOU personally? If you want to say that those who support gay marriage have no case and hide behind using historical comparisons ( which trust me- are entirely relevant and related) then I can definitely say that those who supported prop 8 have no case whatsoever. Just a vague statement that:

    “marriage has always been between a man and a woman.”

    My statement to that as well as most anyone with half a brain and an iota of intelligence is: SO WHAT. Who really cares what an “institution” is supposed to be when all that matters is what goes on in your life and not others.

    Personally, I really don’t care what other people think of me or my Wife. We love each other, care for each other, and live as we please. But if someone came up from behind and suddenly said that they did, you had better believe there would be hell to pay because its none of their god-damned business what I or anyone else does in my home.

    That’s really what it comes down to. It doesn’t affect you personally, so it isn’t any of your business. Its called freedom of choice and freedom from religious persecution, because whether you want to deny it or not, this is all about people like yourself, who believe that religious morality trumps established American laws, one of the oldest being that no religion is to be held over another, nor shall religion be used in government affairs.

    Either way, like I said, this law will be done away with. ALL citizens will have equal rights. That I can personally Guarantee you.

  • Theo

    gay marriage doesn’t affect anyone except for the couple involved

  • Jeff R. Thomason

    “gay marriage doesn’t affect anyone except for the couple involved”

    That is until you try teaching that disgusting crap in our schools … then it affects everyone.
    :-)