All of us know it. That pregnant pause after you tell someone you live in Oakland. “Nice weather over there, right?” You then have to tell them how long you’ve lived here and how little you’ve been shot at. “Yeah, I always hear about how dirty Oakland is, with crime and…” Depending on the person, this could either end right here or they could go into an anti-Oakland diatribe, excluding you from it because, you know, you are from the “nice part” of the town.
People in the Bay Area love to diss Oakland. It’s as much a pastime as is complaining about parking in the City, or getting your lunches from the Whole Foods buffet. The majority of the disses are fueled by the media. The news never talks about Oakland unless there’s a murder or a protest to report. Even my sister in Illinois calls me when they hear about the latest Occupy events. “Are you OK?!” “Yeah, just a couple dozen protesters for a few hours, no biggie.” “How many people died?!”
The rest of the disses come from people who don’t even know. They fear Oakland because that’s what you do in the Bay Area. It’s like we are the Boo Radley of the neighborhood, and nobody even dares to knock on our door because some guy one time told a friend that people in Oakland hate puppies and practice dark magic.
And you know what? I love this! People who don’t even want to get to know Oakland are making my rent cheaper and my neighborhoods cooler. Our diverse and delicious food will be appreciated only by the adventuresome; our beautiful lake and parks will be enjoyed only by the fun and free-spirited; and our festivals and celebrations will be genuine and organic.
You don’t like Oakland? Good, stay out, we don’t want you.
You obviously don’t have the appreciation for natural beauty that we cherish here. Oakland isn’t perfect (and even I, a local, know that International Boulevard past High Street makes me automatically become more religious), but that’s what makes Oakland great: because it’s flawed you fall in love with it harder than if it were Stepford. It takes time to know our town, but the rewards are priceless. It’s like you join a really select, but really cool and friendly club, and you don’t care what others are murmuring. Oaklanders are proud of Oakland because it’s real.
People are welcome to actually get to know Oakland, but honestly, if you are not curious, we are not gonna beg. It’s really not our style; maybe try Walnut Creek.
Jaime Zepeda is a proud Oaklander who doesn’t mind geese poop around the lake. He’s a project manager for a consulting firm in San Francisco, and writes random musings on his blog: jayrzee.wordpress.com.
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