All these limited ways that we define identity are what’s causing us so many problems. When we stop having a “white” everybody can have a cultural identity and heritage. Then we can have some real conversations. Until we do it is always going to be: white is the norm and everything else is abnormal.
Black presence means that we don’t have to ask permission to be visible. It also means that we see each other. Like when you see another black person and you nod your head or say something. It’s recognition. It’s how we say, “I see you. You’re present. You’re here. We’re not alone.”
I think about the black presence here in San Francisco and it can’t be all numbers. It has to be qualitative, not quantitative. It has to be about how black people are represented, understood and respected by each other and by those outside of black spaces and black community. There needs to be more black spaces. How do we create those? How do we find each other? How do we say, “What’s up?” when we don’t even see each other sometimes.
It’s been interesting seeing how much the city has changed. It’s become more and more gentrified. But not even gentrified— segregated. I think people don’t know each other anymore. When I was growing up I knew my neighbors. I don’t think people know who their neighbors are.
We have to remember that there is a history of intergroup organizing that’s always existed among different communities. Where there’s been tension, there’s also been a lot of unity and working together. San Francisco has really produced some of the most radical changes that we’ve seen in our society in modern times. How many firsts has San Francisco accomplished in terms of political mobilization or organizing? So I think this city still remains a place where we can produce radical change. The question is: will we do it bringing everyone along for the ride or will we displace so many people that it will no longer be that place of radical transformation but a new place of neoliberal bullshit?”
Dr. Andrew Jolivette
Chair of American Indian Studies, SF State