Race Wars

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Normally I don’t delve into this stuff because I’m spoiled by who I surround myself with, unless some rookie happens to get under my skin.

       For worse or for worse, Facebook has amplified a new range of voices. Shit, everyone’s a philosopher nowadays (why even go to school). I mean, it’s great that technology has encouraged a wave of intellectual awakenings, but watching people try to reinvent the wheel can be frustrating. Everyday now (or really every time I check the damn thing) people are sharing links and liking posts, positioning themselves alongside random internet gospel in an attempt to manufacture confidence in the beliefs they’ve duct-taped together. In discussions, all it comes out to be is a half-assed blurting of other people’s half-assed stuff to try and score ego points here and there in never-ending asinine back and forths (the equation for ignorance is half-ass^p, after all).

       The current trend is to invade discussions about solutions to racism. The banter usually boils down to talking about how we are not actually a post-race society; and how certain efforts are or are not successful at transforming us into that post-race society. On my view those efforts fall into a few different models: bruteforce solutions (over-compensatory), passive solutions (equilibratory) and role-modeling solutions (singular).

       On the brute force model, people attempt to manufacture equality by countering racism with anti-racism. Here, the plan is to force demands for equality down societies gullet through methods like protests and boycotts, thereby squeezing racism out of humanities butt-hole and hopefully reaping the benefits. One recent example is the Bay Bridge blockade. The other day my Uber passengers were unaware of why the Bay Bridge was being blocked off. I explained to them what the cause was, but they didn’t seem sure it worked. Of course, some will say nothing was accomplished (SF/Oakland is still seeing robberies in broad daylight, Flint isn’t now getting clean water and killer cops aren’t getting re-tried), while some say it served its purpose (by virtue of getting an aloof Uber-riding couple to talk about something other than getting drunk).

       Another example, Jada Pinkett-Smith was on record as saying she wants to boycott the Oscars. She wants to force the awareness of the blinding absence of minority representation within these kinds of events. Of course, some will argue avoiding the already all-white celebration is the right move (in order to avoid playing the token black woman and risk humiliation), while others will want to argue that merely being there helps to scrub away some of the white washing (Jada could be the one carrying the torch and she’d surely be a good fit to do it). I mean, can she (or the protestors) ever really win in people’s eyes? Jada, the people on the Bay Bridge, and others like them will always end up damned if they do (people will argue that nothing really changed) and damned if they don’t (people will argue that they did not help to bring awareness to issues at all).

       On the passive model, people try to create an idyllic piece of reality under the hope it will be embraced and dispersed by society itself. In other words, by behaving as if all things are equal and showing what equality can look like, the rest of society will follow suit and just make it happen. A popular example is Star Wars’ Black lead actor, John Boyega. On the one hand, he plays a Jedi (thumbs up…and spoiler?), while on the other he’s a servant and a galactic janitor (thumbs down). Some people say that Finn represents a billion(s) dollar invitation to Hollywood to put more minorities in lead roles, which will encourage the rest of the studios to catch on and do the same (emulating and propagating equality). Others argue that Finn is just status quo for Hollywood and that other studios will continue to mock minorities one way or another (sabotaging attempts at equality).

       A similar case is  Black Entertainment Television (BET), which is a channel (just like PBS, CNN and NBC) that produces its own content (just like Two Broke Girls, Big Bang Theory, and How I Met Your Mother). Yet, the channel is at once supported by a part of the community and also disdained by another. Some think it is necessary to keep the channel alive to maintain minority representation (else there wouldn’t be any to speak of; just having it up might inspire other bigwigs to put out more channels and content for minorities in a mostly white washed space). Some argue that merely having that channel running doesn’t do enough to provoke racial equality (citing endless reruns of syndicated shows and no unique, thought-provoking content; what good has really come of endless Lil Wayne music videos). Again, damned if you do (people say passive efforts carry some embedded racism anyway) and damned if you don’t (what examples of equality would there be if no one even attempts to show what it could look like).

       On the singular model, though, an individual places the burden on herself to encourage change with both passive and bruteforce methods. In other words, this is the “do work” solution. See, I was watching ESPN and Marlon Wayans was actually asked if he would boycott the Oscars (his friend Jada already said she would). Besides saying he wasn’t invited (in a joking way), he said that his primary concern is putting his head down and producing, writing and creating content. In this case, Marlon believes he carries the responsibility as an individual minority actor/filmmaker to represent other potential minority filmmakers (proving it is possible to succeed) and also help others to become creators (making others succeed). He is a classically trained actor (some would call him whitewashed) who produces pretty dumb movies (some would call him an Uncle Tom). No matter what, people are going argue about whether he is doing good or bad for equality. But no one can say he he hasn’t put in the work to demonstrate and encourage success (look at the commercial for his new movie and it is minority actors in the spotlight). Marlon wants to earn his right to get invited to the Oscars and decline if he so chooses, and is helping get others to the point where they can get invited to shows (and decline). Quite frankly, he doesn’t care what people think about his efforts, because he’s actually seeing a payoff (financial, familial and sociological success). There is no damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t in this case, because he has become who he wants to become and is helping others become who they want to be. Who can argue against that? 

       If you’re reading between the lines, the only “model” that matters is the singular individual effort a person makes towards ultimately becoming who they want to become and also helping others do the same. Talking about other people’s efforts (whether bruteforce or passive) does society no actual good (talk is cheap, after all). Each of those people on the Bay Bridge, Jada, John, and Marlon all have shifted society forward in some real way (look into Boyega’s eyes here and tell him he’s an Uncle Tom hurting our chances at equality). If you ask any of them, they’ll tell you they have seen change come about through their efforts and have seen success occur. I’m sure the dude said something like, “be the change that you wish to see in the world” not, “argue how SOMEONE ELSE is right or wrong without ever doing shit yourself.” I mean, maybe I haven’t changed the world by wanting to become some Mexican-Salvadorean,  Latino Honor Roll every year, ADHD researching, salutatorian (Kelly!), news article writing, Cal graduating double majoring, fitness coaching, businessman, tutoring, blogging kid from the Mission, but at least I’ve proven that anyone from the hood can do cool shit, too. There’s just no way I’m gonna let a sideline Facebook troll tell me I haven’t tried to put up my end of the bargain in this thing. 

 

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Top 5 Reasons (insert blog name here) Should Shut The Hell Up

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Top 5 Reasons (insert blog name here) Should Shut The Fuck Up
 
 
Shots bout to be fired. You know what’s good. It’s a hot summer. BOWBOW.
 
 
 
1. Brunch
 
 
 
Ok, all these weak ass “bottomless” brunch lists all sound the same. Boring as hell. Wannabe fancy shit. Boring. Come fuck with my Safeway, 10-bucks-for-a-fat-ass-bottle-of-Cooks BRUNCH. Unlimited for real. No 3pm time-limit weak shit, either. All day mimosa, son! On deck! No reservation needed (hell you really don’t even need clothes, to be honest). Just head to the fucking park and pass out if needed. No need to buy filling ass artisanal gluten-free French toast either (interferes with the drinking part). Just hit up that there Safeway and you’re golden, every day of the week. So suck on that.
 
 
 
2. Burritos
 
 
 
If I here y’all say Tacqueria Cancun one more time I’m gonna walk on over and snatch your MacBook, pussies. We ain’t no Burrito capitol. We out here eating hella different shit. The fuck is a burrito, anyway? Bunch a bullshit you could just get in a taco, like with a normal tortilla, but somehow the flour tortilla just elevates the experience into a bloggable phenomenon. Like you guys really spend all day wondering what famous person just ate a burrito where and shit. Lame square bears. Be productive. Like, eat some oatmeal. Y’all ever eat oatmeal? That right there is something to blog about. How about a top 5 favorite oatmeals? Why’s that not a thing yet? Because it really should be.
 
 
 
 
3. Art
 
 
Nope, those fake ass 3-D pictures are not poppin. Wack. Those silly maps y’all be makin of the city? Wack. Leaving little bullshit stickers and drawings and whatever other bullshit on the ground and taking a picture of that shit and pretending Van Gough blessed our city and that obscure little area and posting it on your blog it’s a worthwhile thing? Wack. Throw some doodles on that bitch. Preferably my doodles. Can’t even compete with my Goku doodles. Wanna take your little three-d pics of my Gokus and Vegetas? Nah you can’t. Suck my dick.
 
4. Honestly Just Fuck You
 
 
5. Innovation
 
 
Weak as fuck. Talk about cool shit for once. Talk about how over at Samy’s on 24th and Bryant they got a mother fucking office space in that bitch. In a liquor store! That’s some innovation shit right there. Something positive in the Mission. A god damn start up right smack dab next to the beer and chips. We gon make it for real. But no instead you gotta talk about some new ugly ass bar with whatever dumb sounding food and boring ass craft beer. Really don’t care about your favorite stupid NY burger-bagel-pizza-taco-toast-horseshit fusion shit. Eat some oatmeal.
 
 
Go ahead. Say something about there not being any Latin American Club margarita mentions here. Duds.

Finding Fault

 

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Topic has been beaten to death, revived and done over many times, but I did have a good discussion about what type of responsibility (ultimate or immediate) one should weigh as more responsible-er.

It is quite common to hear about people becoming resentful of their new neighbors. Whether it’s fair or not, I’m not sure yet. I’ve been going back and forth about who really holds the responsibility for the eviction of the middle-class problem, or whatever you want to call the disappearance of the local families and individuals in San Francisco. Ultimately, lots of different kinds of people are at fault; the more opportunistic individuals already living, or even native, to the city being the most at fault. That is, those San Franciscans who are successfully selling precious spaces in the city at increasingly higher prices, thereby trickling down certain expectations onto business owners (such as the one that people now living here can afford to pay more for stuff; $20 sandwiches, $15 PBR can, $300 dollar-a-month gym memberships, etc.), are the ones heavily catalyzing the shape-shifting of the city into one that fits snugly into the back pocket of the wealthy. Clearly, there is a real estate equivalent of a gold rush taking place within the city and the bidding wars for those precious spaces are tearing the city apart. Naturally, locals are increasingly resentful about the rise of living-space prices and the ensuing evictions. Some people seem to resent the newcomers moving into the city, while some would rather blame those who actually allow it to happen.

At first blush, some people might want to direct their resentment over the changes in the city towards the new neighbors coming in. In speaking with my friend, J, she admitted to blaming the “whitewashing” of the Mission on the newcomers themselves. That is, the evictions of loyal Mission families and the sprouting up of unwanted juice bars and random art galleries is totally the fault of the newcomers. She argues that, had these individuals not chosen to overcrowd the Mission, the local communities could have stuck together (and not disintegrate across all the greater bay area). On her view, the newcomers could easily have chosen to live or start business somewhere else, considering spaces in places like the Sunset neighborhood or even the Daly City outskirts are cheaper (and still mighty close to those hipcool Valencia Street bars). Basically, it does not make sense to want to crowd a place more than it already is unless you are simply trying to impose your greedy will on a situation (like forcing your way onto a severely overcrowded MUNI; making life harder for others, but at least getting what you want and getting to where you want to get to). It makes sense to want to resent the overcrowding on those who are ostensibly aware of the neighborhood and the dire situation, but still choose to compound the issue.

I would argue, though, that it would be somewhat irresponsible of those effected by the real estate rush to direct all of their resentment at the neighbors and none on the landlord. For example, my friend J lives in a building that is owned by a San Francisco family. Ironically enough, this family has a history of lucky strikes. They found gold back then and have lived off those profits ever since (even own a popular restaurant in the Mission). But now, in the second coming of the rush, they have taken notice of another opportunity to cash in. Let’s say J and her family pay approximately $700 a month for rent. J and her family are safe for now, thanks to the relationship between her mother and the landlord, but say the day comes when the mother and the landlord are no longer around. J believes the landlord’s heir would evict J and her family to make room for other, wealthier people willing to pay closer to $1500. In this case, it is clear to me that the blame should go to the landlord and not whomever actually moves in. It is a more clearly evil act to cash in on an opportunity that is guaranteed to betray people, whereas contributing to the overcrowding itself (as a human body taking up space) is merely a consequence of the evil act. In other words, it is worse to promote and instigate gentrification (as a landlord) than to play the role of a pawn (or newcomer) in the gentrification itself.

Now, those people directly moved or affected by the eviction problem have all the right to ration out their resent in any amounts and directions as they please. It just appears that maybe the greater share of the blame ought to be heaped on those eager to promote the availability of the Mission (all while undercutting the wellbeing of those already living here). The newcomers are merely the players in a game being refereed by the landlords. It’s a crappy game because the teams winning most of the time are the ones being protected by the refs.

 

16th and Protesto

helladowngentrification

When turning up gets political.

More and more frequently protests are propping up all around, mostly in the Mission. Some are less rowdy than others, but they seem to aim to escalate to a certain class of mob-like gathering. Just the other day (read a little about it: http://missionlocal.org/2014/01/mission-protesters-take-on-condo-dwellers-cops-cafes/) there was another protest, calling for people to “shoot the cops” and “burn the coffee shops”. The intent of this protest (and many others) is, of course, to engage in anti-gentrification catharsis, but the explicit reality is that it comes across as a crude and unfocused attempt to remark on the flaws of the current version of (Neo) San Francisco.

Firstly, to ignore the problem of burglary and instead aim vitriol at cops is sort of irresponsible. Some claim that the increased presence of officers on 16th and Mission (and other shady parts of the hood) can be attributed to the increased presence of richer folk. That might be true. At worst, the wealthy have proven that they can flex their influence and impose their will on the city by making things happen. At best, the wealthy’s influence has manifested itself in the form of increased police presence in places that might be dangerous for your girlfriends, mothers, and family to walk through on their way home from work late at night. Of course, it’s harder to walk around with a 40oz, but I think the trade off ultimately benefits more people than it hurts. Hell, I’ve been written up a time or two (stay away from 24th late at night fyi; cops be like grizzlies at the river hunching over for salmon) and even I’m ok with the increased police presence. I’ve come to terms with the fact that the city streets aren’t just my own personal playground (the streets are other people’s storefronts, baby-stroller lanes, pathway from work to home, etc.) and I’d rather more people feel safe than I feel free to debaucherize the town.

Secondly, to incite people to arson isn’t a safe idea for the community. Something about destroying property tends to lead to more property destruction. As was seen last year, some people don’t know how to do that shit right (supposed to burn Dodgers jerseys, not sacrifice MUNI buses). I can only imagine what would go wrong if people started burning places. I’m sure more than a few instances of friendly fire would piss people off (aim for Generic Coffee Shop, hit local mom and pop trinket store; misfire). Besides, what good is anyone’s brilliant creativity behind bars if convicted of arson? It would be like an infantry shooting themselves in the foot and taking themselves out of a war that needs as many soldiers as possible. Staying out of trouble is probably a wiser move.

Plus, this call for shootings and burnings could make the big-picture problem worse. If the new residents start seeing all this violence, they (with all that influence) are gonna call for even more police enforcement and then people are gonna feel they have to match that with even more violence. Eventually, the area would become a sterile no fun zone with a cop at every corner, thanks to the people who weren’t thinking hard enough about what could happen later if they continue all this irrational behavior. It’s like one gigantic party foul. Though, luckily, nothing too crazy has happened, it is wise to at least appreciate that nothing has, and to maintain that nothing will, happen. We don’t need to b martial law guinea pigs.

Protesting itself is not a problem, of course. I just think town hall type meetings would portray  a better image of the rebellion (rather than broken windows, death threats, etc.) and could actually squeeze compromise and creative solutions out of people a lot better than the rowdy rallies. For instance, the issue of the condos and the possible pros and cons that come with them. Some people argue that the condos would be a huge eye sore to the city. The condos could also displace other establishments that have been around for a long time. That car wash near 16th and Potrero doesn’t need to transform into a sun-blocking monolith representing the rise of the rich. Still, others could argue that the condos would allow certain people to move in there rather than displace families in other places by bidding on higher rent around the neighborhood. They could potentially block the rise of evictions (and serve to quarantine the rich). See, there are points of discussion here that I don’t think rallies always help to illuminate.

Rallies keep people occupied with doing the wrong things (threatening, throwing, drinking, etc.). Blogs can only do so much (fun to read, but not truly mobilizing). I’d rather meet with local business owners, neighbors and all relevant parties (maybe at the city college campus every Tuesday, or at Crepe House across the street) to come to an agreement about what’s the best way to articulate our worries with the City’s officials. It’s too easy to want to hate all cops, all coffee shops, all new residents, etc. It’s harder to focus that anger on the particular individuals themselves, simply because it costs mental energy to figure out who is actually at fault. But if people could meet and help each other understand who exactly should be called out, then the entire cause would become clearer and more legitimate.

Replies (Ride Share)

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Replies:

(1) “Woah woah, Mr. Escobar, you support the start-ups in the war on cabs (blue-collar workers)?

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(2) “Hey Eric, why would you prefer a private business over homegrown MUNI?”

… 

(1)

So, yeah I tend to think stuff like Lyft and Uber is revolutionary. It’s empowering for us people who have been screwed out of other jobs, to be able to contribute in some kind of way. I got a job at Postmates a while back (bad idea, considering my knee), because I wanted to try and make a little extra dough. Did it for only one day because my knee got way too sore after riding around town pretty fast. Nonetheless, that’s a great opportunity for people trying to get on their feet.

It might seem like blue-collar workers, like cab drivers who have been driving for decades, are getting the short end of the stick. But what’s wrong with competition? Remember wrestling? WWF versus WCW? Both companies were competing for your Monday night time. Back then, they were putting a great product on television. Ratings we’re reaching 7 million viewers a night. Meaning, there was a huge market for wrestling (at the time) and the two companies had to out-do each other for people’s business, putting in more work and keeping honest in their efforts. Now, wrestling draws 2-3 million viewers. The product, quite frankly, sucks. It’s not creative, performers are phoning it in, and the bosses don’t care to improve the working conditions of its workers (which, in turn, affects the quality of work). The reason the bosses don’t’ seem motivated to do better is because there’s just no competition. They can get away with weak efforts because no one is competing and keeping them on their toes.

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I’m not saying the cabby job market is in the same quagmire as the WWE (really, it sucks; watch it sometime), but I am willing to believe that competition can help, in the long term. Lyft gets great reviews all the time. Hell, look at this video (http://youtu.be/VNM7Z7hir_I). Doesn’t that make you wanna think Lyft rides are cooler than cab rides? Until cabbies earn that business back, I can’t be mad at others trying to generate inclusive business models. One day, cabs might turn out to cleanly win the war. Or one day, services like Lyft will win out. In which case, cab drivers could just become Lyft drivers (it is, after all not just inclusive for patrons, but also for potential drivers; rides for all and jobs for all). I don’t see a loss here.

(2)

Wouldn’t you agree that, hypothetically, a competition between, say, Google and MUNI would eventually lead to something better for all? As of right now, everyone hates MUNI (but conveniently use those bustops as a vector to carry anti-techie agendas; fickle). Everyone wants something faster than 8mph (sometimes even slower  than that). No one likes the yearly nickel-and-diming on the fares (I’ve paid my fair-share of 35 cents, 50 cents, 100 cents, 150, cents, 200 cents, 45 dollars, 72, dollars; you get the picture). Somehow, though, I see new buses rolling out yet again. What was wrong with the old ones? These new ones are still slugging along at 8mph according to my eyes. Maybe they’re a tad bit greener, but I’m not sure the trade off was/is worth the investment. Whatever money Mr. Lee is funneling into the buses isn’t dissolving anyone’s complaints. What probably would help are better routes (try catching the 27 around 5pm during rush hour), or automated fare checks (imagine a metal-detector style system at all doors that detects high-tech Clippers and reconciles check ins with the weight of the people getting on the bus; if the weight-to-check in ratio is off, the bus just shuts off on its own until the fare is collected or the people scan in; a high-tech honor system). Something, man. I could do so much with 10 billion fucking dollars.

Fact is, everyone is stuck on that MUNI going nowhere fast, getting left behind in the nation-wide war for public-trans supremacy. If a company like Google wants to take the challenge, I would welcome it. There is no reason to believe Google’s own workers (needed for other stuff) will be the one’s driving those public buses, therefore killing opportunity for blue collar drivers who would, hypothetically (at worst case) lose their jobs. I don’t see why that should be the case. In my possible reality, Google Buses becomes a thing, is a public service (or is cooperative effort with the SFMTA to redo MUNI; imagine the tech upgrade!) and hundreds, if not thousands, of jobs open up. Those blue-collar drivers get first dibs (either as part of a transfer program or because the SFMTA and Google would be in cahoots anyway). It’s a win-win in my eyes. Everyone gets a better product and those blue-collar drivers get cooler-looking jobs.

I believe in the upside.