Oakland’s Color Lines

I’m reading W.E. DuBois right now. I was led there through West and Asante. I blame them for raising my curiosity enough to want to buy and read some very old, very intense, very amazing writing from a long way back. While I wouldn’t recommend The Souls of Black Folk to most readers, it is some stunning work and paints such an incredibly detailed picture of a world in the south one hundred plus years ago.

I’m working on some redistricting problems for the City of Oakland
’s process and struggling to consider all the important aspects of building cohesive council districts that meet all the ideal requirements, it’s not easy. Contiguous districts, not breaking neighborhoods nor cracking the vote of communities of interest and much, much more needs to be understood.

For a simple exercise in “let’s just see if we can make a single, hills-bound council district in Oakland” I attempted to include only hills neighborhoods and those above the 580- the usual poverty split standard. When you do that you realize that you can get to a maximum population of perhaps 44,000 – we need to be closer to 55,000 in order to not have large variation- unless you can justify why that variation must exist. I had been looking at the data on the black voting population to see if this idea would break or include diverse communities and when I was done I panned down to look at areas to pull in population from the lower Rockridge areas and was stunned to see something that I’ve honestly seen hundreds of times on maps- Oakland’s Color Line running strong down Telegraph Ave.

The redder tones indicate high proportions of black voting age population in the population of citizens only.

Dubois refers to this concept as a Color Line that he observed in Georgia initially where communities of whites were completely distinct and segregated.  Seeing this data in Oakland in 2013 was a stark reminder as to how far we have not come from those early days of emancipation.

And that hills only district? Even including the entire hills, down to upper Rockridge still doesn’t give close to an even district population around 55,000….

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