Social Media Brings Out Some Unneighborly Behavior in Oakland

Oakland residents are using the popular site Nextdoor.com to report 'suspicious activity' of their black neighbors. (Antti T. Nissinen/Flickr)

Comments on the crime and safety section of neighborhood watch website Nextdoor.com reveal that racial prejudices still exist, but are rarely spoken out loud. In East Bay Express’ Oct. 7 issue, Sam Levin writes about how Oakland residents in some neighborhoods are using the popular site to report “suspicious activity” by their black neighbors.

On Nextdoor and other online neighborhood groups — including Facebook pages and Yahoo and Google listservs — residents have called Black and Latino men suspicious for being near bus stops, standing in “shadows,” making U-turns, and hanging around outside coffee shops. Residents frequently warn each other to be on the look out for suspects with little more description than “Black” and “wearing a hoodie.”

We discussed the problematic nature of racial profiling on apps, neighborhood bulletin boards and Yahoo groups in the most recent episode of So Well Spoken.

In a post on the Nextdoor blog, Nextdoor.com CEO Nirav Tolia writes:

We are incredibly saddened that some neighbors have used Nextdoor in this way. Simply stated: we consider profiling of any kind to be unacceptable. Our product is about fostering healthy conversations amongst neighbors. We explicitly prohibit profiling in our Guidelines. Further, if we are notified that a member has violated these guidelines, we will take action and prohibit them from using Nextdoor.

Tolia says Nextdoor is investigating better ways to remind members of the guidelines when posting in the Crime and Safety section of the Nextdoor site. They are also looking into training and product feedback.

This issue is nothing new, and it certainly isn’t exclusive to the Oakland Hills.

On the show, we mentioned apps like GhettoTracker.com and Sketchfactor .

GhettoTracker invited users to vote which parts of town are “good” and which ones are “ghetto.” The site was taken down and rebranded as Good Part of Town, but that didn’t last too long either.

Sketchfactor was created in a similar vein, although it was geared more toward helping tourists avoid “sketchy” parts of town. The app was shut down earlier this year.

These apps demonstrate that America is nowhere near “postracial” and that the lasting impact of segregation and exclusion is still evident in Oakland, across the Bay Area and throughout the nation.

Social Media Brings Out Some Unneighborly Behavior in Oakland 30 June,2016Adizah Eghan

  • srcarruth

    There is a great thread on Reddit of (verified) law enforcement officials complaining, one after another, about all the white people calling 911 because a black person walks down their street and “clearly doesn’t belong here”. Racism is alive and well it just acts with more plausible deniability.

    • Oaklastic

      Link? Cops probably also joke about how often they investigate murders “the community” doesn’t want solved.

      • srcarruth
        • Oaklastic

          Thank you, but have you ever called OPD to report someone wearing all black with a black backpack jumping a fence of a business at 130am and the dispatcher challenged you that the person might have a legitimate reason to be there and to call back if anything further happens? Yeah, that happened and the business was robbed and the guy got away. So I’m not sure the thread applies to life in Oakland.

          • srcarruth

            I’m not defending the police, I was just mentioning that people are racist

  • eldh

    Excuse me! Is it wrong to survive in an atmosphere of the threat of attack! Why is someone standing in the shadows? Why is someone covering their head with a hoodie?
    I want to enjoy a life without the threat of harm! Statistics don’t lie . I will call the police anytime I feel threaten! I don’t care what their color is!

    • Lucina Sandoval

      There is statistics about crime rate and wearing hoodies? Please link.

      • Oaklastic

        Because crime suspects are so often described as (a race), (a height), (a weight) wearing a dark hoodie, dark jeans, that OPD has asked residents to try to remember what shoes the suspect was wearing as it’s now the only unique descriptor.

  • Lucina Sandoval

    Dumb people, smh….

  • Oaklastic

    So a KQED writer based her story on a poorly researched article in a local militant rag. This is no NPR.

    • Lucina Sandoval

      Did you listen to the full story?

      • Oaklastic

        Yes, but the issue is you want me to come to the same conclusions you did and only until I do will you believe I read AND understood the report.

      • 1mr0akland1

        He rarely does.

  • Oaklastic

    Some context for people not familiar with Oakland (including some Oaklanders) Chip Johnson runs through the numbers and points to maybe Oaklanders aren’t simply racist, but conditioned by their environment where 83% of violent crime is committed by 26% of the population. http://m.sfgate.com/bayarea/johnson/article/Oakland-crime-issue-goes-far-deeper-than-racial-5355633.php

    • densely

      In every community, not just Oakland, most of the violent crime is committed by fewer than 5% of the population. When you report someone you’re claiming that they’re part of a much smaller criminal minority.

      • Oaklastic

        Of course criminality is a sub set of any racial group. The fact still remains 83% of the time an Oaklander faces violence at the hands of someone who’s African American, so people develop prejudice. They don’t necessarily apply that prejudice to all African Americans, just people who dress, act like the person that victimized them.

        • densely

          100% of the time every Oaklander has some black neighbors who are peaceable and law-abiding. Reporting one of them for no reason other than that they’re in your neighborhood (which may well also be their neighborhood) is racist. It has no place in a civilized society.

  • I live near Piedmont Avenue and someone in the neighborhood used to post signs warning neighbors about people who were spotted in the neighborhood and might be up to no good. The alleged suspects were mostly Black or people of color and there was no basis to believe they had done anything or were involved with any crimes that actually happened. It was fear-mongering and racial profiling. They didn’t sign their name or say they were part of neighborhood watch. It was just crap. I’m not surprised people have moved from paper to the internet.

Author

Adizah Eghan

Adizah Eghan is a reporter at KQED News and a writer for KQED Arts. She caught the radio bug as an intern for PRI’s The World and landed in KQED’s newsroom after a stint teaching English in India. She covers culture, the arts, and global music in the Bay Area. This is where she tweets: @Adizah_E

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