In 2007, I moved to San Francisco from Stockton – a place once named the most miserable city in Forbes, a place where empty storefronts and people hanging out in front of liquor stores are fairly familiar scenes. I attended the journalism program at SFSU and lived in the Sunset, but was immediately drawn to the Fillmore. I eventually started covering and writing stories about the Fillmore for my reporting class. While I researched the area’s rich history – including the disastrous urban renewal program, which pushed out many of the city’s African Americans in the 1940s through the 1970s – I began to understand why there aren’t many of us in San Francisco’s historically black neighborhood. Partly it’s because there just aren’t many black people here in the city these days (according to the 2010 census, African Americans make up 5.8 percent of SF).
It wasn’t until I graduated college that I realized that while I was writing about black businesses and black people, all my friends were white. This wasn’t a brand new concept to me. I spent my days in high school listening to indie rock and punk music. In Stockton, I was used to being the only black person at rock shows, and I was one of only two black girls in my graduating high school class. The racism I experienced in my hometown, while sparse, was overt and by strangers. But there was something different going on here in SF. Partying with the hipster white dudes in the Mission would start out fun, but our hangouts would end with me feeling conflicted. If these people were my friends, why did I feel so bad when I hung out with them?
Before all the hate mail rolls in, I’m not saying that San Francisco is racist and my experiences with assholes in the Mission can’t possibly be a statement about this city as a whole. That deserves a larger article. However, in this city that prides itself in being so progressive, it feels like we need to go back and master something both simple as well as incredibly complex – each other. We can learn to embrace our differences without making them a joke or a spectacle. It might take more effort than making bourbon ice cream, but I feel like we can do it."
— Crystal Sykes, “I’m Not Your ‘Black Friend’,” The Bold Italic 2/5/13