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The city of Oakland, California, was one of the case studies Browning, Marshall and Tabb picked in their book Protest Is not Enough (1984) as a significant example of successful liberal black-and-white coalitions, leading to strong black incorporation. Yet over the past 40 years, the balance of power has dramatically changed in the city of Oakland. After several decades of experience with African-American mayors and changing demographics, we need to reflect on the adequacy of this paradigm in light of the contemporary situation. The city once governed by a black mayor with a majority black city council in a traditional white progressive-black coalition has now become intrinsically multicultural, leading to the election of former Governor Jerry Brown as a Mayor in 1998. Despite Ron Dellums's election in 2006, the black hold and control over the city seems to be more tenuous and fragile than it was 15 years ago. This article raises the question of the future of black urban political power in cities undergoing demographic and political changes. Our main findings are that black urban power in Oakland is still predominantly coalition-based but involves new coalition partners with the demographic growth and the electoral mobilization of Hispanics and Asians. While the black-led coalition still relies on white progressive support, this support has weakened, mostly because of the broadening of the progressives' agenda. Finally, the black community seems less likely to vote on pure identity grounds and seems increasingly inclined to vote along issues and interests.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Paris 8

Publication date: 01 August 2009

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