This past summer, we experienced the largest period of nationwide protest in over 50 years. Centered around the experiences and leadership of black people, a multiracial rebellion took to the streets demanding that our country invest in public health and truly effective public safety rather than racist police violence and corporate greed. As November approaches, so many of us are seeking to advance these aspirations further with our votes. Yet we must work hard to discern which politicians are actually with us and which candidates are co-opting the spirit of the movement to gain power.

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In 2016 Cheryl Davila, a working class black woman, was elected by her West Berkeley community to become the most progressive voice on the Berkeley City Council. Today, she is challenged by Alex Sharenko, a young, white newcomer who positions himself as a Black Lives Matter candidate. Yet he is the preferred choice of big real estate in a historically black and rapidly gentrifying district. He has also opposed efforts to reallocate a truly meaningful portion of our city’s bloated police budget and has refused to hold the Berkeley Police Chief accountable for suppressing data on racial bias in the BPD. Most of all, Sharenko’s choice to run against the councilmember who most embodies this movement’s ethos should delegitimize his claim to represent it and his candidacy as a whole. At best, his presence in the race is an example of a class-privileged white man who falsely thinks he knows what’s good for a community that is not his own. Yet good intentions or not, his election would result in the maintenance of a status quo in which working class black residents have their own community stolen from them through mass eviction and incarceration. Sharenko’s central campaign tactic? Misrepresenting Davila’s positions, policies, votes, and impact on the district. …

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A neighborhood in Callaway, FL, after Hurricane Michael tore through the Florida Panhandle and other parts of the south. (Sonia Dixon/National Guard)

Submitted to the Northwest Florida Daily News and the Tallahassee Democrat.

Much of my family comes from the Florida panhandle. Each year this region, along with the rest of the south, faces intensifying hurricanes and economic insecurity.

In the wake of Hurricane Michael, political candidates should speak about the need for universal access to affordable, weatherized homes and a clean-energy economy with well-paying jobs. Instead, many tell us that the causes of our problems are so-called “criminal,” “job-stealing,” undocumented immigrants.

Over decades, the rich have taken control of our democracy. They have stripped workers of living wages and union rights, and have polluted our communities and climate with abandon. …


David Dean

Berkeley resident and core trainer at White Awake, a racial and economic justice political education center.

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