In two words or less describe East Oakland. I'll wait.
I am going to bet the first words that come to mind do not include "white people."
Based on the majority of news coverage of the area, your answer would more likely refer to black people and crime. Let's look a little wider and a little deeper.
For many who don't live here, and probably for many who do, you might be surprised to know citywide, person's described as white make up 34.5 percent of Oakland's population while African Americans just 28 percent, this according to 2010 U.S. Census figures.
These percentages break down differently district to district, but it is fair to say, Oakland's demographics are changing and with them, the makeup of East Oakland neighborhoods like Maxwell Park, where I live.
Dena Proctor _ a 51-year-old woman of English and Irish ancestry has lived in East Oakland the past nine years. She moved there from Berkeley to live with her partner when he bought his first home there in 2003.
Proctor lives in a modest single family house on the crest of a foothill Maxwell Park, an area loosely bordered between High Street and 55th Avenue, just below Interstate 580 and extending west to about Brookdale Avenue.
"It's not slick — there's an un-slick element," Proctor said of her neighborhood. "But I really quite like it."
It has its problems, like the guy who apparently operates as an unlicensed car dealer and keeps at least four junky vehicles parked around her house at any given time.
And serious crime has hit close to home, including a home burglary across the street from her house. A woman was robbed at gunpoint down the street as she was coming home from work.
It helps that the neighborhood has a strong community group, Proctor said, although she doesn't participate in it. She said she has a "waving relationship" with most of her neighbors. Since getting a dog a few years ago, she's befriended an Italian-American woman in the neighborhood who runs a dog day care business, and she's gotten to know other dog owners in the neighborhood.
Does Proctor ever experience any racial hostility? "Kind of, yeah," she admitted, "but not in any direct way." There was a road rage incident on MacArthur Boulevard when a black motorist called her a "white (expletive)." But in those situations, people will just pick out any identifiable characteristic to hurl a cheap insult at you, she said.
Intellectually, she knows too much can be read into appearances, but a young black male strolling through the neighborhood, wearing dreads and his pants cinched at the groin, still puts her on alert.
Proctor does have black friends, and in fact her partner is black. She's also friendly with the interracial couple (African American and Asian-American) across the street.
And she frequently talks to an elderly African American woman in the neighborhood who slowly makes it up the street with her walker every day, looking to get a little air and a break from her dialysis.
What about gentrification?
"If gentrification means people getting shot while driving in the neighborhood," Proctor dryly retorted, referencing a shooting that occurred about a week ago, a couple of blocks away from her home. "We haven't seen any gentrification or any big changes since the market bottomed out," she said. "One black family moved in the neighborhood within the past year. And even when things were looking up, High Street" -- a major artery bordering Maxwell Park -- "didn't look any better."
One of Proctor's favorite places in East Oakland is the Sausal Creek Trail near Fruitvale Avenue in the Dimond district. She often takes her dog, Kate, there and they disappear into a lush, storybook forest that no one would believe is in the middle of a concrete jungle.
The best thing about East Oakland? "Just having a home, your own space," Proctor said. "It's an affordable neighborhood where, overall, the good outweighs the bad."