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Joe Debro on racism in construction, Part 18

April 30, 2018

A study of the manpower implications of small business financing

by Joseph Debro

A 1968 book-length report, titled “A Study of the Manpower Implications of Small Business Financing: A Survey of 149 Minority and 202 Anglo-Owned Small Businesses in Oakland, California,” was sent to the Bay View by its author, Joseph Debro, prior to his death in November 2013, and his family has kindly permitted the Bay View to publish it. The survey it’s based on was conducted by the Oakland Small Business Development Center, which Debro headed, “in cooperation with the small businessmen of Oakland, supported in part by a grant, No. 91-05-67-29, from the U.S. Department of Labor, Manpower Administration, Office of Manpower, Policy, Evaluation and Research.” Project co-directors were Jack Brown and Joseph Debro, and survey coordinator was Agustin Jimenez. The Bay View is publishing the report as a series. A prolog appeared in the December 2013 Bay View, Part 1 in January 2014, Part 2 in February 2014, Part 3 in April 2014, Part 4 in May 2014, Part 5 in June 2014, Part 6 in August 2014, Part 7 in October 2014, Part 8 in November 2014, Part 9 in January 2015, Part 10 in March 2015, Part 11 in May 2015, Part 12 in October 2015, Part 13 in December 2015, Part 14 in May 2016, Part 15 in February 2017, Part 16 in March 2017, Part 17 in November 2017, and this is Part 18 of the report.

Labor-management views of minority employment (continued)

Crime

One of the inescapable affiliates of poverty, unemployment, poor education, and low levels of economic and cultural opportunities is presence of a high crime rate. In 1964, 65 percent of the Oakland police workload was centered in the Target Areas where 41 percent of the city’s population resides (DHR, 1964:6). Table XI shows the arrest figures for the entire city of Oakland from 1962 to 1967.

The total number of juvenile arrests has risen from 5,751 in 1962 to 8,797 in 1967. When expressed as a percentage of total arrests for those two years, the rise was from 18.8 to 25.6 percent. Using 1962 percentages as a unit for comparison, the 1967 juvenile arrest coefficient was 1.53 (1.53 times as many juvenile arrests in 1967 as in 1962, presuming total population of juveniles remained constant, that number of police officers remained constant, and that no significantly new types of crime emerged which were not illegal in 1962 but became so in 1967).

During this same period, Caucasian (including Mexican American) juvenile arrests rose from 6-8 percent to 7.5 percent (coefficient = 1.1), while Negro arrests rose from 10.4 percent to 15.6 percent (coefficient = 1.50). Whereas in 1962 there were 24,809 adult arrests, accounting for 81.2 percent of all apprehensions in the year, the number rose to 25,515 while the percent of adult arrests of the total of all arrests fell to 74.4 percent in 1967 (coefficient = 0.92). The percentage and number of Caucasian arrests declined, whereas the percentage and number of Negro adult arrests increased in the six-year period.

The increased number and percentage of Negro adult and juvenile arrests has brought alarm to the city fathers and police department alike. The nearly all Anglo police departments have over-reacted to suspected crime in Oakland, and in recent months a policy of “shoot first and ask questions later” has been ushered in.

As a result, about a dozen Mexican American and Negro youths were shot and killed while allegedly fleeing the scene of a crime, during the first four months of 1968. In every case, the penalty for the crime allegedly committed would have fallen far short of death.

The nearly all Anglo police departments have over-reacted to suspected crime in Oakland, and in recent months a policy of “shoot first and ask questions later” has been ushered in. In every case, the penalty for the crime allegedly committed would have fallen far short of death.

By permitting Oakland policemen to handle offenses involving property by meting out death in this fashion, the department insulates itself from ever being able to obtain cooperation from the minority community in stemming the tide of crime. Harassment is a common charge lodged by Negroes and Mexican Americans against the police department.

Blacks and other dark-skinned persons are arrested routinely on suspicion of having committed a crime, although most of the time there is no conviction. As a consequence of such arrests, almost every ghetto Negro has a police record.

By permitting Oakland policemen to handle offenses involving property by meting out death in this fashion, the department insulates itself from ever being able to obtain cooperation from the minority community in stemming the tide of crime.

This contrasts sharply with the pattern of Anglo arrests and convictions, in which no arrests are made unless there is substantial evidence that a crime has been committed. The number of incidences of police entry into homes without a proper search warrant undoubtedly has risen from year to year, although there are no reliable statistics available, and there are innumerable charges of police brutality. No effective mechanisms for handling complaints against police have been developed.

Lil Bobby Hutton, at age 16 the first person to join the Black Panther Party, and BPP co-founder Bobby Seale lead Panthers carrying loaded rifles in a provocative protest at the state Capitol in Sacramento in May 1967, just seven months after the Black Panther Party was founded. Less than a year later, on April 6, 1968, two days after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Lil Bobby was gunned down and murdered by Oakland police. – Photo: Wade Sharrer, Sacramento Bee

The arrests of prominent Black Panther leaders such as Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale have compounded the polarity between white and Black communities in the Oakland area further, especially since the charges against them are widely held to be spurious and founded in racism. The police shooting of another Black Panther, Bobby Hutton, in the wake of Martin Luther King’s death, will not soon be forgotten by militant Oakland Blacks.

The whole area of police-community relations is archaic in terms of the role positions which each group has been conditioned to see the other play. As a result, a constant, abrasive relationship exists between the minority community and law enforcement authorities.

The city fathers and the police department have habitually blocked a police review board from being formed. Nothing has been done to establish an integrated Oakland police force as noted by the Kerner report (1968:321-2).

The police department has recently permitted a series of long, in depth newspaper articles outlining the desperate needs for more men on the force (Oakland Tribune, April 1, 1968). Yet no efforts are being made to train minority young men hungering for work.

The whole area of police-community relations is archaic in terms of the role positions which each group has been conditioned to see the other play. As a result, a constant, abrasive relationship exists between the minority community and law enforcement authorities.

The credibility abyss continues between the police department’s insistence that it is an equal opportunity employer and the fact that only 27 out of a total of 658 sworn policemen were non-white. Rather than learn from the tragic experiences of Newark, Chicago and Detroit, it is apparent that Oakland will make the same violent, sanguinary mistakes.

The evidence from the handling of civil disobedience in the recent anti-draft protests at the Army Induction Center, and the little publicized police-Black student skirmishes during the fall of 1966 in East Oakland, indicate that this city’s police may well continue to counter disorder with increasing use of white citizens trained as sharpshooters, the employment of heavy military equipment, and the eventual reduction of the area to a garrison state.

Social and political involvement

As in most other American cities, Oakland’s Negroes and Mexican Americans do not share in the city’s cultural, social and political activities to a degree which their relative representation in the population would merit. Few Negroes attend public lectures or art shows, programs of classical music or drama in the Bay Area. On the other hand, sports events and programs of popular music, including the several varieties of jazz, are well attended by Negroes and Mexican Americans, as well as Anglos.

The failure of the predominantly white, European, classical veneer of culture to penetrate and become part of the ghetto way of life serves to widen the gap between Hill people and Flatlands people. This separation is reinforced by residential segregation, nearly totally segregated schools, a remarkably different family economic basis with women in the dominant roles as providers, a distinctly negative view of justice and the law, a higher incidence of dependence upon public assistance, and degeneration in the ability of the poorest Flatlanders to identify themselves as responsible members of the society. The anomie which this configuration of poverty and despair engenders is certainly a major touchstone in sparking social unrest.

There are five members of the Alameda County Board of Supervisors and nine councilmen. No Negroes and no Mexican Americans are on the board and only one Negro and no Mexican Americans on the City Council. Only with the recently formed Oakland Economic Development Council, an arm of the Anti-Poverty Program, have minority peoples begun to make an impact on the city government.

Since 1964, minority representatives have been selected to key positions in the Economic Development Administration, public housing posts, Model Cities projects, Department of Labor positions, and so on. In these positions, more apparent power than ever before is falling into the hands of those who have never had an equitable share, but until elected positions are captured, the poor of Oakland will remain unrepresented in this city.

Joseph Debro, born Nov. 27, 1928, in Jackson, Miss., and a pillar of Oakland until his death on Nov. 5, 2013, was president of Bay Area Black Builders and of Transbay Builders, a general engineering contractor, former director of the Oakland Small Business Development Center and the California Office of Small Business, co-founder of the National Association of Minority Contractors and a bio-chemical engineer.

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