Scenes from the aftermath in Oakland:
stories of victims, survivors and healers.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Quan's Curious Comment

We were gathered in a small, crowded clubhouse full of ghosts and old trophies and banners hanging from the rafters celebrating old, forgotten youth programs ("Filling Playgrounds Not Prisons"). The clubhouse was in an East Oakland park called "Sunnyside," but that's not its official name. 

Halfway through the event to mark the kick-off of a new and promising gang intervention program, I was encouraged and even impressed to see Mayor Quan standing among the standing-room-only audience. The mayor even took the microphone and said a few words. 

She was received politely but with no warmth or enthusiasm. As she often does, she misjudged the tenor of the gathering, and spoke about her ("we," she said, without defining "we") efforts years ago to get certain Oakland gangs to agree to a series of DMZs near schools, so that their little brothers and sisters could learn. It was not entirely irrelevant to the event, but it felt self-serving and, as so often when an older generation discusses today's troubles, hollow in its nostalgia.

Later, when she took the microphone again, Quan did talk about today; but her comment was curious, borderline nonsensical, her choice of words unfortunate.

"If it hadn't been for the Oikos thing," she said, "we'd be at the lowest point in a decade."

I know she was trying to keep her comment brief, but the use of the term, "the Oikos thing," seemed dismissive and diminishing and like she wished it to just go away. 

Worse than that -- assuming she was referring to the amount of violence in Oakland -- on the day she made her comment, minus the seven April killings at Oikos, Oakland had already suffered 36 homicides in 2012. (Since then there have been 4 more.) At the same time in 2011 we'd had 35; on the same date in 2010 we'd had 29; in 2009 we'd had 35. Maybe I was the one misinterpreting, misreading what she meant by "lowest point." Because I would call 36 the highest point in homicides. 

Maybe I missed a word, and what she really said was, "Even without the Oikos thing, we'd be at the lowest point in a decade." Maybe she meant, the lowest point of effectiveness in protecting our citizens, or the lowest point in our spirits, our morale, from all this killing. 

Certainly we are at the lowest point of something.

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