Where the white women at?

According to a retired navy guy that I met today, they shouldn’t live in West Oakland (Blazing Saddles reference in case you are curious).

Trying to confirm the destination of the ferry today, I asked a group of people if they were waiting in line for the boat to Oakland. They responded “yes, but why do you want to go there?” I enthusiastically said “because I live there.”

Surprised at my answer, I asked them where they lived, and they told me Sacramento. Then the old white man looked at the black woman next to me and motioned for me to go to the other side of the gangway so he could chat with me there. He went on to tell me he lived in Oakland in the 50s and 60s, “when it was nice.” I’m not sure what the point of him sharing this information, but I responded that there are nice areas in  Oakland, and the city is changing again, etc., but I didn’t go too far into this conversation.

It’s the kind of conspiratorial conversation you get as a white person, when people think you are sympathetic to their prejudice. But what make it stick out more to me today was that it happened as I was coming off the high of training capoeira. I was even still wearing my capoeira shirt, so if he would have had any idea about what capoeira is, he might have figured out that I wasn’t into hearing generalizations, let alone racist statements, about black people, or anyone else for that matter.

Maybe sensing my feelings, he toned it down, and said that he knows some nice black people, even lives near some, but “they” bring “riff-raff” into Oakland, which in itself isn’t a strong statement, but the subtext was there.

But there’s no way I’m going to school a man in his late 80s about being a bigot. So I reminded him that there are good and bad people of all kinds and they live everywhere. I took the opportunity of people knocking on the gangway door to excuse myself from the conversation and walked away.

It wasn’t any great stand for racial equality. It wasn’t any political statement. Just another day in the land of the free.


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