Letters for the week of January 5-11, 2005 

Response to the Perata package, more letters about UC Berkeley's African American Studies Department, and reflections on college sports.

"Bottom Feeder's Xmas Shopping List," 12/22

Six to ten years of bliss
Bottom Feeder: Yes.
The Monkey

"Don Perata: The Man. The Machine. The Investigation," Feature, 12/8

You call that a machine?
Thank you for the informative articles on Don Perata and his current tribulations. I have to ask: You call that a machine? A half-dozen overpaid civil servants, exemplars of the Peter Principle, who couldn't lose an election (unless their name was Elihu) if they tried, running things in a single-party hegemony that would make the Politburo blush?

The state of politics in the East Bay has become so inbred and stultifying that Tom Bates and his wife can switch seats and nobody complains, Dion Aroner can serve two terms and nobody notices, Ron Dellums can resign midterm so his selected successors can play musical chairs, and Jerry Brown can steamroll the entire city of Oakland while a chump like Perata becomes kingmaker.

The only reason for even caring is that these people handle millions of our tax dollars and apparently some have found clever methods of pocketing some along the way. Where are the Panthers now that we need them?
Hank Chapot, Oakland

Bigotry of the left
I thought the articles on Don Perata were comprehensive and interesting, having been born in Alameda and raised in the Fruitvale, where my parents still live. In fact, the Peratas were our neighbors when we lived in Alameda. What I did not like was the casual racism in Chris Thompson's piece.

Chris says, "Gentrification may have ethnically cleansed whole city blocks. ..." First, the term "ethnic cleansing" refers to wholesale murder. The whites and Asians who are buying homes in East Oakland aren't killing black folks. In fact, many urban blacks are selling their homes to whites and Asians so they can move to larger homes in the fringe cities like Antioch or retire to Lake County. Chris seems to suggest that people have no business moving into areas where people of other races live, that everyone should all be divided up into ethnic cantonments.

"But it also has produced a new middle class that will demand accountability from its leaders. ... Tens of thousands of white and second-generation Asian professionals, who intuitively expect clean streets and clean politics, will continue to settle in the old proletarian bungalows."

Here, Chris suggests that expecting clean streets and politics is a racial trait native to Asians and whites but not blacks. So then the logical extension of his argument is that blacks must "intuitively" expect squalor and dirty politics.

How ironic that these days such ethnic bigotry comes from the left.
Patrick Carroll, San Francisco

Wanted: clean politics
Thank you for your editorial courage in running "Don Perata: The Man. The Machine. The Investigation," along with the report on his legislative batting average in Sacramento.

What you presented confirms my deep conviction, as a longtime East Oakland neighborhood activist, that machine politics, backroom dealing, corruption, waste, and unaccountability at City Hall have kept Oakland from realizing its potential as a truly great, vibrant, and eminently livable city.

We do not need an endless stream of new parcel taxes and PR hype to make Oakland a good place to call home. We do need clean politics and accountability at City Hall, and also at the county level.
Ken Bowers, Oakland

"Dude, Where's My Black Studies Department?" Feature Sidebar, 12/1

The admissions double standard
The good professor rightly complains that African Americans are being pushed aside in favor of less qualified Africans from Africa and the Caribbean. That's the price of being PC. Let's get rid of all racial barriers in admissions and hiring, and we will have a campus that is made up of the most qualified students and faculty available. Of course, the left won't like it because Cal will be almost exclusively Jewish and Asian, but hey -- you can't have it both ways; you can't complain that less-qualified people are taking your job or spot in the university when you yourself got there because of affirmative action.
Mike Wallin, Santa Monica

Authentic xenophobia
Your article sounds like you are a bitter professor, blaming others for being unable to keep your position. How dare you say that foreign-born blacks lack authenticity? Perhaps instead of reading English scholarship you should branch off into history/diasporic studies so that you can gain an appreciation or in your case perhaps just an understanding of what it means to be of African descent and belonging to the greater African diaspora.

We are not living in the '60s or '70s; we are at the brink of 2005. This country was, is, and will always be a country of immigrants. In fact, a large percentage of black Americans who live here are descendants of blacks in the Caribbean (and I'm not referring to migration that has taken place in the last fifty years). I find it disturbingly tragic that a black professor would write such a scathing article about other black professors.

Your article is problematic in so many ways, but I will focus on your use of the term "authentic." As a professor, before using a word as part of your critique, you should first define it: What is authentic, who defines authenticity, what does it mean to be authentic, does authenticity exist, what makes you as a black American male more authentic than a black West Indian male or a black African male or a black South American male or a black British male or a black Australian male? Perhaps UC Berkeley should begin a mandatory history/diasporic workshop for the faculty so you and other narrow-minded "African-American" professors can attend. Perhaps the workshop will assist you in being less like the stereotypical backwoods racist who hates everything not born on American soil.

I would like to add that the issues raised are worthy of discussion; however, the manner in which you address fellow black professors and black students overshadows the deeper issues. The article bespeaks the need for more education even on the part of those who supposedly have already received a higher education. While black people are not monolithic, we all, especially black males, share similar experiences. I find it tragic that a black male would direct such animosity toward other blacks. Intraracial division overshadowed the greater issues that should have been addressed in this article.
D. Jackson, Philadelphia


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