People often ask me, a long-time border advocate, how I can stand to live in leftist Berkeley CA, surrounded by so many loony America-haters. And besides that, what about the worsening Mexifornication?
My friend Rick Oltman, who as a grassroots organizer has seen a lot of demographic change in the country, assures me that Berkeley will remain an island of English-speaking citizens in an increasingly Mexicanized California. But the waves are lapping higher all the time.
As a college town, home to one of the country's most highly rated public universities, Berkeley has deceptive stability. The major industry is not about to box itself up and move offshore. Housing is expensive and keeps out the riff-raff. Prop 13, the 1978 citizen revolt against skyrocketing property taxes that was the granddaddy of many California initiatives, has served to keep many in their houses also.
My best friend from college, who lived here in the 1970's, recently moved back from Austin, and said she liked how little Berkeley has changed—particularly compared with central Texas. Part of that situation is physical: the city was built out by the 1920s, and has no place to construct suburbs. There is the San Francisco Bay on the west, Tilden Park on the east and other towns north and south. Preservationist ideas are strong, and people appreciate the great natural beauty all around.
A few years ago, the San Francisco Chronicle presented a series of puff pieces about desirable Bay Area neighborhoods, including mine. The sly hook about one popular area: the large number of white people [Claremont-Elmwood: Homogeneity in Berkeley? Well, yeah, by Rona Marech, May 24, 2002].
Ms. Marech clearly sought out some black folks to interrogate, perhaps hoping to discover some diversity dissonance because of what the Chronicle deemed excessive whiteness. However, the colorful persons interviewed did not cooperate by complaining: all were happy to live in a pleasant and safe area.
"In diversity-crazy Berkeley, this state of affairs might be expected to elicit a certain sheepishness or some frustration from the small number of blacks, Asians and other nonwhites who live here. But to the contrary, residents don't seem particularly perturbed…
"'In my life, off the top of my head, this is the No.1 or 2 place I've lived that I've ever felt this comfortable and happy,' said Lynn Sykes, who is African American. 'Nothing in the world is more important to me than safety. As long as I and my family are safe, it could be 150 percent white.'"
The idea of diversity is applauded, but in real life, people prefer not be socially engineered according to multicultural ideology. I've never heard anyone express a desire for more diversity in the area either.
The demographics of the city as a whole now show 61 percent white, with Asians second at 17 percent. To find the real growth point of diversity within the city limits, you have to go to the University.
Take a walk on the UC Berkeley campus today, and you might think you had wandered into China. It sure doesn't look like Mario Savio's university, where he and others engaged in the Free Speech Movement on campus a few decades ago. The Sixties were not diverse.
New York Times' Timothy Egan noticed the same thing in an article called Little Asia on the Hill (Jan 7, 2007):
" 'Here, many people speak Chinese as their primary language," says Mr. Hu, a sophomore. 'It's nice. You really feel like you don't stand out…'
"I ask Mr. Hu what it's like to be on a campus that is overwhelmingly Asian — what it's like to be of the demographic moment. This fall and last, the number of Asian freshmen at Berkeley has been at a record high, about 46 percent. The overall undergraduate population is 41 percent Asian. On this golden campus, where a creek runs through a redwood grove, there are residence halls with Asian themes; good dim sum is never more than a five-minute walk away; heaping, spicy bowls of pho are served up in the Bear's Lair cafeteria; and numerous social clubs are linked by common ancestry to countries far across the Pacific.
"Mr. Hu shrugs, saying there is a fair amount of 'selective self-racial segregation,' which is not unusual at a university this size: about 24,000 undergraduates. 'The different ethnic groups don't really interact that much,' he says. 'There's definitely a sense of sticking with your community.' But, he quickly adds, [I bet he does! BW] 'People of my generation don't look at race as that big of a deal. People here, the freshmen and sophomores, they're pretty much like your average American teenagers.'…
"But as the only son of professionals born in China, Mr. Hu fits the profile of Asians at Berkeley in at least one way: they are predominantly first-generation American. About 95 percent of Asian freshmen come from a family in which one or both parents were born outside the United States."
Emphasis added. In other words, recent immigration is rapidly displacing long-time Californians from their top public educational institution.
Interestingly, UCB's Chancellor Robert Bergenau has complained of a "diversity crisis" on the Berkeley campus. He completely ignores the success of Asian students, as if they were some odd variety of whites.
UC Berkeley has plenty of diversity; it just doesn't correspond to the quota-driven palette popular in some quarters. In the 2007 freshman class, 29.6 percent were Caucasian; 41.6 percent Asian, 11.7 percent Latino and 3.1 percent black. Put another way, 70 percent were non-white. But that's not enough for the diversity police.
University honchos have tried to evade the mandate of Prop 209, the 1996 voter initiative that ended affirmative action. There was something of a scandal in 2003 when it was revealed that the University had admitted unqualified students. But judging from the walk-around-the-campus test, there are few non-Asian diverse students these days.
Nevertheless, tribe advocacy organizations like Chinese for Affirmative Action continue to pursue race-based benefits. They shamelessly claim victimhood, even though Asians have an average median household income 117 percent that of white households and Asian students are succeeding brilliantly in college.
And, as I type away in my third-floor home office, when I hear a foreign language spoken outside it isn't Chinese, but Spanish. Not by the neighbors, but by the roofers up at treetop level. The Dot-Com bubble brought in a gaggle of foreign workers who never left. Berkeley used to have a lot of hippie gardeners who liked working outside in an unstressful gig, But I haven't seen any since the Mexicans with business cards arrived en masse. (Those paper items go straight to my recycling bin.)
Berkeley the city might continue to muddle along in its goofy and often obnoxious left-wing way. But it cannot escape being a part of California. The refusal of Sacramento to deal responsibly with the budget is filtering down already. The pain has only just begun. The state's leaders intend to cause distress to the point where voters will ask for higher taxes. And Sacramento is too much in bed with Mexico to cut the benefits so welcoming to illegal aliens that figure largely in the budget deficit as well as the worsening failure of schools.
No borders, no peace. America cannot welcome the world's myriads, dysfunction and functional alike, without splattering the shreds of social fabric we have left.
Brenda Walker (email her) lives in Northern California and publishes two websites, LimitsToGrowth.org and ImmigrationsHumanCost.org. she recently re-registered as a Republican in order to vote for Duncan Hunter, so her Berkeley Democrat cred is shot full of holes. (She has always been pro-gun and pro-border as well as pro-tree anyway.)