Category Archives: news

Parking Regulations? Or Racist, Classist Policing?

On a sunny day this Spring Break, I decided to drive to a BART station to make my way to San Francisco and catch up with a friend. A rare opportunity, especially since—as people who don’t live in the area struggle to understand—the gulf between the City and the Town is much larger than just a bay.

I made my way to West Oakland BART, anticipating spending time on parking either in the parking lot or in the surrounding neighborhood. I thought about how my new resolution in the middle of this year should be to make no more financial contributions to the City of Oakland Parking Citation “Assistance” Center. I recently paid one of the most aggravating tickets because the tail of my car was in red paint. I told myself I would pay those $2/hour parking fees to save what amounted to probably two hundred dollars that I’ve spent most years on tickets.

(On a side-note about my adventure, while I snaked through 6th Street next to the 880 highway, I noticed a bright blue sign about the length of an entire building, which was meant to be read from the freeway as folks commuted. It read something along the lines of “Oakland Police is hiring” and boasted of the great salary and benefits. (And of course this is readable from the freeway, begging the question of why so many of Oakland’s cops are from out of the city.))

When I did finally arrive to the BART station, there were no parking spaces and I was forced to drive in circles through the neighborhood. I noticed the newly renovated Victorians, and I could tell if the occupants were gentrifiers based on the number of succulent plants growing in those beautiful bay windows. Then I noticed more maddening things like how every street had a 2-hour limit sign. If I didn’t move my car in two hours, I would be ticketed. I became hyperaware when I turned onto a street with two police cars flashing lights. I drove between them and a connection formed in my mind: for every car in this neighborhood that plans on parking here like normal people do for more than 2 hours at a time, people must apply for a parking permit with the city. Let me say that again: city parking permits and policing. It makes total sense for a city bent on controlling its “colorful” elements and protecting wealthier, whiter newcomers.

In case you missed these recent and not-so-recent developments, West Oakland is a historically Black neighborhood, and let’s be frank—Oakland is a historically Black town. There are reasons linked to the U.S. military industrial complex and racism that led to this, which I won’t get into now. In the last few years the neighborhood, as well as the city of Oakland overall, has become home increasingly to white renters and homeowners. Check out reports like the great work done by Causa Justa, linking economics, race, and public health. (A nice summary of points can be read here.)

And now, by limiting and ticketing neighbors for parking without permits, the city has another way to track and criminalize people, making it harder to live in West Oakland. (You can find more information about the process here.) Essentially, this means that the city has your residential information, car registration, and driver’s license. Another database for your searchable, personal facts. Another way to pull a dragnet across the areas closest to the BART station, areas that not-so-coincidentally are in the middle- to late-stages of gentrification and displacement of current residents.

Now, some folks might argue that forcing people to register with the city means being able to limit violence with access to information. However, this process makes me wonder about the increased difficulties with attaining such permits so that one’s life can be safe and comfortable. Since getting a permit requires a utility bill or current rental agreement, what challenges are presented to people of color who share living spaces with family and friends? These informal living arrangements provide important communal support in tough, racist and economic times and help people survive. And what happens when struggling families receive parking tickets upwards of $70? If this parking regulation suggests safety, what does it mean for the rest of the city that does not get the supposed benefits of this policy?

What is further frustrating is that the 2-hour limit parking signs labeled streets in the area as far as a 3- to 4- block radius out from the BART station and out from the 8th street strip of stores. It is a rare and rushed trip for any BART user to commute anywhere and be back in 2 hours. The limit does not serve commuters nor the nearby businesses. If anything, these hourly parking limits discourage BART riders from using the station and thus, it limits their shopping at neighborhood stores while passing by. For a city that is so concerned with economic growth, letting people use this station as a commuter-hub may bring more shoppers than stringent rules about parking.

Beyond West Oakland, parking regulation and enforcement in Oakland exhibit an even more racist and classist bent. I recently moved to a middle-to-upper class area by Lake Merritt and was surprised when my landlord mentioned there were no street-sweeping times posted. This is different from my former neighborhood in the Fruitvale where I had to move my car almost everyday. In other words, my current, wealthier neighborhood does not limit parking and so risks of receiving a parking ticket are lower here than in poorer neighborhoods. The lack of parking regulation itself is not a problem, but the obviously inequitable enforcement and unjust impact of parking regulations cannot be excused. (Not to mention how street lights are brighter in this wealthier area and neighbors jump at any sign of mugging or robbery statistics. As if this city wasn’t already bending to their every whim.)

Anyways, you may think I am overly-anxious writer ranting about parking, but that’s not the point. The point is how these subtle regulations contribute to a larger and more nuanced system that makes living as a free and liberated person much more difficult for poor and working-class people of color. These policies that embed themselves into accepted ways of performing our lives in this city have real and lasting impacts. An example of what I mean is, as I walked in San Francisco later that day, I thought about the parallel struggle of the I-Hotel and the burgeoning of the Asian-American movement. Although it was and has been a movement about many intersecting issues, the original campaign was about valuing the poor and elderly Asian members of the community inhabiting the hotel and the rich and white business interests of the proposed parking center for what eventually became the Financial District of San Francisco. Business interests, including parking, changed SF Manilatown–and today threaten to change Chinatown– into the business district of the city. Parking might seem mundane, but therein lays its power to be used to support a wealthy class, to push people out of neighborhoods, and furthermore, to perpetuate racist capitalism.

So what do we do? First there is a big mayoral race in Oakland and we must enter that with open eyes and tough questions about gentrification and development in our Town. Second, the thing no one likes to hear: keep up the long-term struggle to study, act, and reflect. Whether you are a contractor, a bus-rider, a schoolteacher, or a paid organizer, working to gain consciousness and to challenge these structures is lifelong, collective work. All this leads to number three: you tell me. There is surely more involved in the growth and development of Oakland than what I am aware of or can mention in an essay.

What has been your experience with parking and ticketing in Oakland? In your city? Have your noticed any funky, racist discrepancies with parking regulation and enforcement? You tell me.


Map of Gentrification Stages from Causa Justa’s report


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Filed under essays, news, race, violence

Third World Women’s Rights— tinged with Imperialism

Last week one of New York Times’ most shared article was “The Women’s Crusade” by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, a philanthropist. While I was pleased that the piece raised the issue of women rights, the tone of First World benevolence bothered me. Does anyone else see it too?

A few examples include that while the article is entitled “The Women’s Crusade,” the subtitle is the first thing you see in larger print reading: “Saving the World’s Women.” This places the writers of this essay and their audience in the position of those doing the “saving” of women, not the women themselves.

Kristof and WuDunn highlight the story of Saima Muhammad, who turns her life around with a $65 microloan to start a business. Great news. Yet her present life seems to a reification of sexism. I think of women’s “double shift” as I read her obligation to support her family and community while running her business.

When economist Esther Duflo is quoted saying, “When women command greater power, child health and nutrition improves,” I fear this portion of the article reinforces ideas that women are inherently better caretakers than men. The idea that men and women are born innately different undergirds sexism.

The discussion of the illogical spending of (brown/Third World) men, who are portrayed as the enemy, led me to recall Gayatri Spivak’s essay, “Can the Subaltern Speak?”, in which she discusses at length the British abolition of the Indian practice of widow sacrifice. She writes, “The abolition of this rite by the British has been generally understood as a case of ‘White men saving brown women from brown men.’” Spivak points out the paradox of anti-sexist work in the Third World. While she regards the abolition of widow sacrifice as admirable, the British law pre-determines the women’s Indian cultural self (as Subject).

And finally, the desire to do “good” in “Western intellectual production is, in many ways, complicit with Western international economic interests,” tied to our capitalism and imperialism. This line is fitting considering how women’s rights is becoming a new approach to US foreign affairs, particularly as a way to fight terrorism. Is it wrong?


Filed under essays, gender, news, race, third world

Leaving and links

“Not home but… Home” – Bourdain on his No Reservations trip in VN

I’m taking off for a month to Vietnam and am feeling more and more ambivalent. It scares me that French American Anthony Bourdain can articulate my feelings about returning home. I realized whatever reasons I made up for needing to go to Vietnam were just that— pretend. I wanted to fit in there as if the word immigration never existed. But the image of myself as a clumsy, arrogant outsider (a Westerner, in particular) makes that impossible. I would be lying to act as if that was my life. I am frustrated at my own audacity of calling that snake-shaped country home. And further frustrated that I must be frustrated… I am scared that I might simply have to make peace with my difference, my disconnect from relatives. Blood thicker than water? It may not be thicker than the salt water that parts us. Maybe I will finally accept that my ragged American-ness tangles with tradition, causes too many arguments, leaves behind people… Maybe this will be good.

Be back in a month. Until then, some links and ideas that I did not have time to write posts about:

Koreatown Label Irks Some Residents

A tricky line to walk: Oakland needs business revenue but people need to be respected and acknowledged in that endeavor. These developments scare me. I don’t think riots will start over it, but I think if the label of Koreatown stays and more Asian businesses move in, black flight from Oakland will only increase. When will “development” include all poor people of color?

Obama and “Africa Speech”:
Most problematic line for me: “But the West is not responsible for the destruction of the Zimbabwean economy over the last decade, or wars in which children are enlisted as combatants.” (emphasis mine)

Victor Goode defends Obama’s “Tough Love” and boils it down to holding policy accountable:

The point is will the Obama administration change the neo-liberal economic policies of the Clinton years? Or is his promise to support development that “enriches people’s lives” and partners with Africa in “new ways” going to be a new direction for American policy? As with so many of the lofty promises of this new administration, the answers remain to be seen. 

While Goode presents a significant point, I want to highlight Aisha Brown’s take. Brown reminds us of the existence of neo-colonialism in Africa by writing, “President Obama’s speech to Africa, although imbued with hope, still reflected the same arrogance, blame shifting, and paternalism Western leaders have shown since the continent’s independent nations began to emerge.” If we are pushing for a “new direction,” we need to understand the role the U.S., IMF, World Bank, and specifically Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs) have played in the (under)development of Third World countries.

Obama’s NAACP speech
I am more satisfied with this one. He implicitly counters post-racial claims by publicizing economic, health, and education disparities between blacks and whites. His ideals are still solidly resting on problematic American ideas of meritocracy, but at least he doesn’t outright lie about history like in his Ghana speech. So bravo big O on the balancing act. “Yes, government must be a force for opportunity. Yes, government must be a force for equality. But ultimately, if we are to be true to our past, then we also have to seize our own future, each and every day.”


Filed under asian americans, immigrant, news, prose, race, third world, viet nam

The Reality of Racism

Obama- In case you live in a cave and didn’t realize this amazing man and amazing speech existed. “A More Perfect Union.” You can find a video on Youtube and one his site.

Tibet- I’m hoping for a boycotted 2008 China Olympics. If globalization is good for anything, it creates international pressure for human rights.

I promised I would write about racism in the Dominican Republic. I waited until after working on a few bateys and visiting Haiti, where I was this past Easter break.

I’ll start backwards. I went to Cap Haitien with 5 other CIEE students and my Haitian friend Karly. After crossing the border and going through both countries’ customs, we walked to the bus station and got on a guagua (a mini-bus). Though Karly’s passport had been checked twice by each country’s immigration office, the money collector insisted on checking it again. (A money collector or cobrador rides with the driver to help direct people, move luggage and collect ticket fees.) We get into our seats and some other guy comes and checks the passport of every black person on the bus. Then another one comes by to check. None of them were immigration officials nor military officials. They start making trouble with one Haitian and the two of them go outside behind the bus. I’m positive the Haitian man bribed the money collector so he wouldn’t be bothered anymore.

They say money whitens so think about this: 1) Karly uses his school ID instead of his passport. PUCMM as a top private school pulls some weight. 2) He and Kaylee, who’s blond and blue-eyed, are sitting together and talking during the ride. By the end of the ride the money collector calls Karly “moreno.” On an objective level, you would call Karly “negro” in Spanish to describe his dark skin. But he’s now moreno (a lighter black) because of his social position: being friends with 6 americans, a few of whom are “rubias” (white with light colored hair, objectively speaking).

Dominican racism and corruption go hand in hand. All the Haitians had to be ready to bribe their way out of things, which means that the movement of Haitians throughout the DR is limited by how much money one has. Haitians, Dominico-Haitians (Dominicans with Haitian backgrounds), or simply dark skinned people may be asked anywhere for their passport or documents. Even if one has everything in order or is even a Dominican citizen, that official, police officer, or soldier might just take it from you or make you bribe him so he’ll release you. And even though there are laws that say children born on Dominican soil have citizenship, racist nurses have been known to deny Haitian, Dominico-Haitian and dark Dominican parents birth certificates. Without these certificates, the right to schooling is denied (even there is a law that states one can go to grade school without all the necessary papers). If you try to apply for papers? The process is complicated, expensive, and rejection by racist officials may end your efforts to apply for a birth certificate or national ID. And deportation? Stories exist of dark Dominicans being deported to the other side of the border with nothing but the clothes on their back. Want to bring your case to court? Many judges are corrupted too.

Back to the guagua, I am fuming mad but trying to calm down. I know that in foreign countries, I am out of my realm and could be in danger in a matter of seconds if I’m not careful. The only thing protecting me? My US citizenship. Lucky me. I start staring down the money collector. He looks at me suspiciously for a while and then asks for my passport. HAH! I handed it to him, with the US seal facing up. He hands it right back to me without checking it. “Chequealo,” I demanded him. I could only be defiant because of that seal and its weight in the world. I don’t curse but believe me, I cursed on that bus ride back to the DR. And worse, I was finishing up reading for my Dominican-Haitian Relations class. Reading about a past of racist Dominican policies while you’re traveling back from Haiti doesn’t make that ride a very happy one.

We went through at least 5 military checkpoints after that, on a trip that runs about 2 hours without traffic. At the first stop, I watched from my window as the money collector slipped a bribe into the hands of a soldier so he wouldn’t check the bus.

Needless to say, after four days in Haiti I wasn’t happy about returning to the DR. Haiti is the poorest country in the western hemisphere. It’s also home to some 9,000 UN peace officers. Ok, so the world knows that. What else is Haiti? It’s home to the amazing history of the first black republic, home to the Citadel which we hiked up to see, beautiful beaches that we visited, delicious (SPICY!) food that we ate, and Konpa (Haitian music) that we danced to. Karly was a different person in Haiti. He was so happy to be home. He’s moving to Canada because he can’t handle the BS he gets in the DR, including at PUCMM.

I was impressed by the people. I know there are problems that are unseen and unheard by me. I know I was there for less than four days and only in Cap Haitien. With that in mind, I still felt their strength. One evening, after dinner, we walked back to our hotel and passed a basketball court. The outdoor court was all cement, set before a backdrop of a crumbling building. And like you could find anywhere in the world, men in Jason Kidd and LeBron James jerseys were playing basketball like nobody’s business.

Nonetheless, the trip was bittersweet. It opened my eyes to the reality of corruption and racism, poverty, and the resilience of people. I feel horrible to even write about the strength of the Haitian people. They amazed me with their hope, but why do they need to exhibit that strength everyday? Their struggle makes their resilience visible and it’s not fair to have to be that strong daily.

If you’re interested, I’m linking a report from Human Rights Watch about Haitian rights in the DR. “Ilegal Peoples.”

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Filed under dominican republic, essays, haiti, news, prose, race, study abroad, third world

more politics and pictures

Someone was quoted in the NYTimes last week saying that this is the most exciting Presidential election in a LONG time. At least for me, I know that I read my Times and Washington Post emails to stay updated on how Clinton and Obama are doing in the primaries.

Obama’s political narrative

Asian America and Obama:
Obama’s Asian Problem?
Some response from Racialious

Speaking of politics, the Dominican Republic’s presidential election is in May. According to my Political Process professor, Dominicans are fanatics for their preferred candidate. There are street parties on Sundays that stop traffic to rally support in communities. I think that’s really cool. The only problem is that each party seems to have the same ideals and according to my professor none have proposed specific plans for the economy, improving politics, anything…

Referring back to my previous post where I mentioned liberal arts education, a friend from Amherst emailed me saying that the real problem is how those that can change the country leave. (BTW, I love responses and criticism so send some more.) I tried to figure out the number of Dominicans immigrating out of the DR but I don’t have anything from a reputable source. I’m sure immigration adds to the weakness of the economy though. My professor here defines the DR’s economy with 3 points: 1) tourism, 2) free trade zones (la zona francas), where foreign companies do not pay tariffs to the country for having factories or importing materials; and 3) remittances ($ from American relatives sent to the country). The communality: foreigners. The economy is controlled by outsiders.

The real point of debate with this friend comes down to a chicken and egg question. Change education first to change the people? Or change the people first, who can later change the education? It’s not so clear-cut for sure. I say we’re both right. But either way, the change has to come willingly from the people… And that is why more and more, I am convinced that gobalization does not benefit the Third World. How can the people truly decide for themselves when some of the strongest intellectual/cultural forces are from outsiders? The import of ideas can be a good thing, but the ideology and interests of capitalism is not good at all when countries are not ready for the pressures of global market.

Switching to socialism, Castro resigned. Whether or not it changes much from a new president, this makes Cuba an even more interesting case. I wonder how Castro has prepared the country for this? And particularly for me, Cuba interests me because of the ideas of 1) how can socialism work? 2) the incorporation of multiple facets of identities. Last night, I was talking to Jenny, an independent Canadian study abroad student about Cuban life. She spent her last semester in Cuba and was telling me how strong the Cuban celebration of AfroCaribbean roots are, ESPECIALLY compared to the DR. And I’m want to learn more about Cuba’s role in the world… I’ll get my chance soon.

Oh yes, more pics… ack. I need to do my HW….

This is a Methodist church (in a Catholic country). It was founded by former African American slaves who were invited to live in the country when Haiti controlled the entire island during Presdient Boyer in 1822. They still speak English in the region today.

We stayed at a ridiculous resort that trapped us in the role of tourists… not what I wanted. But the group did go whale watching… The whale is in this picture, I swear. Some of us also met this great Dominican biology student on the boat. Now me and the other two girls who talked to him must scheme to win his heart… haha we liked him a lot, ok? He might even be the Dominican feminist we all want.



Filed under dominican republic, news, pictures, race, study abroad, third world

the blog RUNS

I finally found a place where internet doesn’t run at a snail’ pace…. sooooo here’s a quick, quick blog before class….

Some strains of a huge blog debate on gender and race in the presidential race and generally as a question of social change. Something to think about. I’ll write about gender and race in the DR some other time, I promise.

NYT Gloria Steinem’s article: “Women are Never Front Runners”

Reappropriate’s response: “Pitting Race Against Gender”

Racialicious’ response: “Politics and Intersectionality”

More on the presidential race: How should Asian Americans vote?

80/20’s initiative to defeat Obama

Why you shouldn’t blindly support “affinity group” decisions

That’s right… the beach in January.


Filed under asian americans, gender, news, pictures, race, study abroad