OP-ED: Too Important to Fail


We must deem Oakland “too important to fail” and take immediate action to restore order in our City

This past weekend, 12 people were shot in Oakland. The reverberations from these horrifying acts are sending shockwaves through Oakland. In one daytime incident, four people were shot at 17th & Telegraph. Even in a city where the murder count will likely reach unprecedented levels this year, this brash display of gun play and attendant violence stands out.

Tensions among our residents have reached a boiling point and the time has come to move beyond outrage to action. This action must both account for the need to immediately curb this current rash of shootings, and include an honest examination of the deeper, systemic reasons, these shootings are occurring.

Approximately 80% of shootings in Oakland involve a black or brown person shooting another black or brown person. The truth is, that race still matters in society. These “black on black” shootings have been occurring for some time, with no real moral outrage. This fact, underscores the ongoing truth of this narrative. The shooting at 17th & Telegraph brings needed attention to this issue. That is, shootings are not just an East or West Oakland issue; if left unchecked, these shootings are an entire Oakland city issue.
The truth is that inner cities in America are failing people of color all over our country. Oakland is no different. Unemployment rates in East and West Oakland have sailed to over 30%. Our education system, particularly in these areas, is in a similarly poor condition. When you combine an uncertain job future, with an education system that is failing our residents of color, many exist in an environment of hopelessness.
We must realize, that unless we restore hope, these acts of violence, robberies and shootings will continue to pose problems for Oakland as whole. In this regard, an analogy to the federal stimulus package is appropriate. We must have declared, all of Oakland, but particularly, East and West Oakland, “too important to fail”. In so doing, we can begin the long term process of rebuilding these areas, and in so doing, Oakland as a whole. Without a strong urban core, our middle class will continue to disappear.
We should demand the same type of stimulus package, given by the Feds to the big banks, for Oakland and our urban core. This stimulus package must provide aid for businesses and job creation, and also focus on bringing up our schools, particularly, in East and West Oakland, to acceptable standards.
In the interim, we need actions that can immediately curb the gun violence in our City. Some of these items may be unpopular. However, given the state of our City, we should not remove anything from the discussion. We must be innovative and decisive in our actions, yet the protection of our resident’s civil liberties must remain our top priority.
Actions for consideration should include: requesting the Governor declare a state of emergency (and sending additional police); potential use of anti-loitering laws and gang injunctions; resources to engage in a far reaching gun buyback program; and creating a tighter alignment with the faith community.
I am ready to stand with my fellow residents of Oakland and demand these solutions. Will you stand with me?

Bryan R. Parker, Oakland Port Commissioner and 2014 for Candidate of Mayor of Oakland


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