I’m looking at you, my fellow locals. And only you. Although, just to be clear, when I say “locals” I mean my peers, my friends, the other people of color who were born in the Bay Area, and raised in the Bay Area, who have family here, and connections, and a history, and a home.
Please don’t leave me. I can’t take it anymore. You are breaking my heart when you leave, because you are abandoning me here, and I feel so fucking lonely now.
Look, I know it’s hard here. I know there are a million reasons to leave. So many of our friends died in that fire, and now the city doesn’t feel the same anymore. There are no fun underground parties. It’s getting really expensive to live here, but we still can’t find jobs that will help us keep our homes. We’re being boxed in by interlopers who look at us like Oakland savages that should be kept in a cage so they can ogle us whenever it’s convenient for them. The homelessness is out of control, although it’s not that homelessness in and of itself is a bad thing, but it seems to be symbolic of the internalized stress of the housing crisis in Oakland. It’s the class divide on our doorsteps. The police force is falling apart, which (if you’re an anarchist like me) isn’t necessarily the worst thing on the list but it is emblematic of the chaos and mismanagement that seems to be engulfing this city.
I know why you’re leaving. Over the past five years, this town has gotten worse and worse and worse. They have taken the things we loved about this city and replaced it with wan, benign pseudo-culture. The changes that happen rarely seem to benefit us or welcome us. This place doesn’t feel like home anymore.
So we ask ourselves: how did we let this happen? How did we fail each other? And for many people, the only way they know how to answer those questions is to leave.
I am not leaving.
Which is why I wish you wouldn’t leave either. I have decided to stay here, even through the bad times. Even though I barely like being here because I don’t recognize this city as my home anymore. I feel like an outsider in the city where I was born. I have decided that I am going to stick this out. I am going to fight for something better. I think that this can become home, again. I think that there is something I can do or say to make at least some of this better. So we can stop feeling like we are constantly at odds with each other. So that we can support each other and find solace here again. So that this city looks like us again, and not them. This is our city. We deserve it. And if it’s in shambles, we should fix it.
I know. This is hard. In fact, for some of us it’s impossible. That’s what gentrification has done to us: some of us have to leave. Some of us are necessarily displaced and don’t have a choice. I am lucky enough to have a choice. I choose Oakland.
I don’t care if this fight kills me. It probably will. I already feel weary from being here. Which is why I want to say: I need you. Please don’t leave me. I can’t do this without you.