We must deem Oakland "too important to fail" and take immediate action to restore order in our city
Last weekend, 12 people were shot in Oakland. The reverberations from these horrifying acts are sending shock waves through Oakland. In one daytime incident, four people were shot at 17th and Telegraph. Even in a city where the murder count likely will reach unprecedented levels this year, this brash display of gunplay and attendant violence stands out. Tensions among our residents have reached a boiling point, and the time has come to move beyond outrage to action.
This action must account for the need to immediately curb this current rash of shootings and include an honest examination of the deeper, systemic reasons these shootings are occurring.
Approximately 80 percent of shootings in Oakland involve a black or brown person shooting another black or brown person. The truth is that race still matters in society. These "black on black" shootings have been occurring for some time, with no real moral outrage. This fact underscores the ongoing truth of this narrative.
The shooting at 17th and Telegraph brings needed attention to this issue. That is, shootings are not just an East or West Oakland issue; if left unchecked, these shootings are an entire Oakland city issue.
The truth is that inner cities in America are failing people of color all over our country. Oakland is no different. Unemployment rates in East and West Oakland have sailed above 30 percent. Our education system, particularly in these areas, is in poor condition. When you combine an uncertain job future with an education system that is failing our residents of color, many exist in an environment of hopelessness.
We must realize that unless we restore hope, these acts of violence, robberies and shootings will continue to pose problems for Oakland as whole. In this regard, an analogy to the federal stimulus package is appropriate.
We must have declared all of Oakland, but particularly East and West Oakland, "too important to fail." In so doing, we can begin the long-term process of rebuilding these areas, and in so doing rebuild Oakland as a whole.
Without a strong urban core, our middle class will continue to disappear. We should demand for Oakland and our urban core the same type of stimulus package, given by the Feds to the big banks. This stimulus package must provide aid for businesses and job creation and focus on bringing up our schools, particularly in East and West Oakland, to acceptable standards.
In the interim, we need actions that immediately can curb the gun violence in our city. Some of these items may be unpopular. Given the state of our city, however, we should not remove anything from the discussion.
We must be innovative and decisive in our actions, yet the protection of our resident's civil liberties must remain our top priority. Actions for consideration should include: requesting the governor declare a state of emergency (and send additional police); potential use of anti-loitering laws and gang injunctions; resources to engage in a far-reaching gun buyback program; and creating a tighter alignment with the faith community.
Bryan R. Parker is an Oakland Port Commissioner.