Follow the links below to navigate the Oakland Equity Indicators website.
Oakland has a long history of activism around issues of justice and equity. Both oppression and this resistance to oppression have shaped the city’s past and the lives of its residents to this day. It is, therefore, not surprising that Oakland was chosen in 2017 to be among the first cohort of five cities to develop local Equity Indicators tools in partnership with the City University of New York’s Institute for State and Local Governance (CUNY ISLG) and with funding from the Rockefeller Foundation.
The Equity Indicators Report originated as an action in the Resilient Oakland Playbook (funded by and created in partnership with 100 Resilient Cities—pioneered by the Rockefeller Foundation). Joining the CUNY ISLG cohort allowed Oakland to implement this action while also learning and collaborating with other cities around the country around best practices in measuring and tracking progress toward increasing equity. The Department of Race and Equity collaborated on the development of this report because access to data is critical to Oakland’s progress toward addressing inequity through systemic, transformational change.
The purpose of Oakland’s Equity Indicators Report is to develop a baseline quantitative framework that can be used by City staff and community members alike to better understand the impacts of race and measure inequities. It will enable City departments and staff to make data-driven decisions about programs and policies to address these inequities and ensure people have equitable access to opportunities and services that we administer or deliver, directly or by contract. It will enable community members to monitor our progress or setbacks and advise improvement. Future reports will measure change in the disparities for different groups over time and will offer an opportunity for City staff and community members to work in collaboration to devise and implement course correction and to celebrate progress.
A Brief Racial History of Oakland
Social inequities in life outcomes that are predictable by race are the inevitable result of our nation's history. Oakland is today one of the most racially and ethnically diverse cities in the country. Before the arrival of European explorers, it was the home of one group, the Ohlone, one of the many indigenous tribes who populated the territory that became California. In the late 1700s, California was home to more than 300,000 native people in more than 200 tribes, by 1848, disease spread by contact with outsiders had reduced California's native population by more than two-thirds. This catastrophic decline disrupted families, communities, and trading networks, weakening native resistance to Spanish, Mexican, and American intrusion.
By 1860, the state's native population had been reduced to 30,000, decimated by disease, removal from their land, starvation, poverty, bounty hunters, and other historical mistreatment. Just 40 years later, in 1900, this native population had plummeted to 20,000. Ultimately the fate of local tribes mirrored that of indigenous groups across the country, leading to the commonly unnamed disparity of underrepresentation in the general population, when at one time they were the majority population.
In more recent history, Oakland was the place where laws like the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act (the first law to prevent a specific ethnic group from immigrating to the United States) was first tested and where in 1927 William Parker (a known KKK member) was elected to City Council.
In Oakland, as in cities across the nation, people of color were impacted by the 1940/50s federal housing redlining policy, which excluded communities of color from the wealth building opportunity of homeownership. Their neighborhoods were abandoned to urban decay after “White flight” to the suburbs. Highway 17 (now I-880 or Nimitz Freeway) was built through the heart of the African American community, disrupting community cohesion, and economic viability by cutting it off from Downtown. Many homes and businesses were destroyed to build the Cypress Viaduct and the rest of the Nimitz Freeway. Further urban renewal caused the destruction of the area around Market and 7th streets to make way for the Acorn High Rise apartments. This urban renewal thrust in West Oakland continued into the 1960s with the construction of BART and the Main Post Office Building at 1675 7th Street. Many African American and Latino families were displaced from West Oakland during this period. African Americans relocated to East Oakland (especially the Elmhurst district and surrounding areas) and Latinos moved into the Fruitvale neighborhood.
The people of Oakland pushed back. Oakland was at the center of the general strike during the first week of December 1946, one of six cities across the country that experienced such a strike after World War II and marked the beginning of the labor movement. In the 1960s, when massive demonstrations and civil unrest resulted in the Civil Rights Acts (which made it a federal crime to discriminate against someone based on their race, color, sex, religion, or national origin in employment and housing), Oakland was again at the center of change. Community groups born in the 1960s like the Black Panther Party, Oakland Community Organizations (OCO), Unity Council, Intertribal Friendship House and many others continued to organize and demand protections and equal access to jobs, housing, employment, transportation and services. These laws and policies helped people to address injustice at an individual level, but it was soon realized that more needed to be done to address the deep inequities created by years of blatantly discriminatory policies and practices and to change the systems that created oppression.
In the 1980s and 1990s, community organizations started new efforts to influence and encourage local governments to explore how to undo the legacy of institutionalized racism. In Oakland, PolicyLink, the Green Lining Institute and the Center for Racial Justice Innovation (Race Forward) amongst others led these efforts. By the early 2000s racial equity initiatives and tools began to be used by local government staff and elected government officials to figure out how to change the inequities in outcomes impacting communities of color in multiple cities across the country. In 2016 the City of Oakland launched its own Department of Race and Equity to advance equity change action in the City government. A growing number of local government institutions are realizing the need to measure and account for their progress towards equity and to embrace their responsibility to ensure that their programs serve all populations. Using disparity data to evaluate the impact of activities, set equity outcome goals and do racial equity impact analyses is critical to advancing equitable outcomes for communities of color. Although we cannot change the past, we can learn from it to change the future. By focusing on the impacts of race, implementing intentional strategies to address disparities and measuring our progress we can eliminate rather than deepen disparities in our communities. If Oakland’s history of struggle to achieve equity teaches us anything, it is that we cannot do this in isolation. We understand the need to work side by side with the community and partner institutions to undo the legacy of racism to create an Oakland where there is equity in opportunity that results in equitable outcomes for all.