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Open Letter to the Mayor and City Council Regarding Racial Discrimination and Equity From Brotherhood of Elders Network`

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It is undeniable that the community’s sense of safety, wellbeing, and opportunity been historically marred by the actions of agents and agencies of Oakland’s City government. There is in fact, no ongoing scrutiny or corrective action given for the often clandestine discriminatory actions of the agencies responsible for zoning code enforcement, housing, planning, public works, fire inspection`, contracting street cleaning, or garbage/recycling pickup. More openly egregious activities include the foreclosure crisis which forced many to leave Oakland while others became unhoused; and the unacceptable police practices, both disproportionately affect black and brown residents. The fourth ever Oakland black elected official was tripped, thrown on the floor of the Zoning Department, and arrested for exercising his rights while-black. Unfortunately, his experience illustrates how city departments work together in failing the African American community: denial of service, proper assertion of your complaint, followed by arrest. While some have the ability to avail themselves of a defense lawyer, the majority of African Americans are powerless to the shakedown orchestrated by city hall.

Evidence of racial disparities have been asserted and verified at many levels, specifically, law enforcement from traffic stops to drug-related arrests to excessive use of force. Experts document systemic problems as well as the implicit biases that can have life-altering implications. Oakland’s rich history is infected from top to bottom with governmental discriminatory actions targeted at African Americans, LatinX, Native Americans, Asians, poor people, the differently-abled, and non-violent civil protesters. Enumerable incidents, known and unknown, take place every year, throughout the City, perpetrated by the Police Department and by other agencies of the City.

It is unforgivable that administrative and political leaders of Oakland, knowing the hugely detrimental impacts of inequity on the social and economic wellbeing of us all, collectively and individually have taken such paltry actions to correct the situation. That any elected official in Oakland could ask if Oakland has a race problem defies logic! Case in point, for more than five decades the racial/ethnic plurality of the populations that have been in persistent poverty tend to be African Americans, Native Americans, and Hispanic. However, by far, African Americans are disproportionately impacted and overrepresented. Moreover, the historical roots of residential segregation; key determinants of health illuminated by inequitable health outcomes; and the extreme unemployment in high-density African American neighborhoods and low-income communities of color continue to make Oakland’s proposed vision of equity a mirage.

In November of 2016, over 83% Oakland Voters approved of a newly designed Police Commission, giving it the authority to “…oversee the Police Department’s policies and procedures, and a Community Police Review Agency to investigate complaints of police misconduct and recommend discipline.”, however, the Commission is crippled, underfunded and unduly influenced by the Mayor and the Council. The Department of Race and Equity has heroically begun the process of addressing inequity with limited funds and severely limited staff; we demand that the City fully fund and the resource the Department of Equity, allowing them to support Oakland’s Departments and Agencies in the implementation of appropriate changes to policies and practices. Despite a fifteen-year court order, court oversight of OPD and the expenditure of millions of dollars, we see little change in the Police Department. The Police Departments’ recent assistance of ICE raids with no disciplinary actions taken is another example of city leadership turning a blind eye to the expressed will of the people.

The undersigned are ashamed of the City administrative and political leadership that seems to be aware of the tragic consequences of this inequitable treatment yet are unwilling or unable to take sufficient action. For the sake of our families and our community, present and future, we call on you to discard petty political bickering and empower city staff to perform their civic duty.

  • Fully empower and make independent the Police Commission to:
    • Increase their disciplinary authority
    • Expedite the investigation and the resolution of cases
    • Reduce or eliminate the number of appointments by the Mayor
    • Allow community members to choose the Executive Director
  • Fully fund and staff the Department of Race and Equity so that effectively work towards correcting the institutional racism and inequities perpetrated by City agencies.
  • Fully fund and staff the Department of Violence Prevention so that our City can be unified across race and class to accomplish grassroots-based problem-solving.

If you like to support this campaign and get further engaged, email support@brotherhoodofelders.net and we will follow-up with you.


The undersigned will not wait any longer.
     

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