I have a co-worker who is originally from Chicago. I told him that I visited Chicago and thought it was a great city. He told me that he likes Oakland better, because in Chicago people are divided into ethnic enclaves, even if you’re caucasian. There’s an Italian neighborhood, a Polish neighborhood, etc. Since I’ve lived in California my whole life, that’s hard for me to imagine. At this point I’m going to share a somewhat non-sequiter funny picture of a concert poster.
It’s a bear in sheep’s clothing. A riff on the California State flag.
Anyway, if it’s hard to imagine ethnic enclaves in California, it’s even harder to imagine them in Oakland, California. Oakland is eclectic. How eclectic?
I just went out for a coffee break. Down the street from where I work is a place called the Brown Coach Cafe. It is owned and operated by Muslims and the women behind the counter are wearing traditional headscarves. At one of the tables is a Caucasian woman conversing with an African American woman, next to a table with an Asian couple, next to a table with a Caucasian guy working on a laptop. The Brown Couch is right next door to an Afghan restaurant, run by Afghanis, which is across the street from a Japanese restaurant, run by Japanese, which is kitty-corner to a surf shop, run by a Caucasian surfer dude with blond hair. Two blocks away is Oakland’s Chinatown, which is as close as you can come to an ethnic enclave. People live there by choice, though, not because they aren’t integrated into the rest of the city. In fact, the current mayor of Oakland is of Chinese heritage.
Here’s a picture of a painting of Oakland’s shipping cranes that is hanging in the Brown Couch Cafe.
It was painted by a local artist named Dave Platford.
The thing is, everyone gets along just fine. As my co-worker and I walk back to the office (we’re both Caucasian) an African American lady who we don’t know walks past us and greets us and says good morning. If you lined up various cultural niches along a spectrum, Oakland would be at the far opposite end from the words “sectarian violence.”
I’m posting this today because my last post mentioned the tragic situation in Syria and Iraq.
There is hope for this world and for humanity. Oakland is one of the places on Earth where that hope resides in warmth and comfort, nurtured by people who have come here from all over the planet.
When you are feeling down and wonder what the world is coming to, visit us. It will make you feel a whole lot better.