Re: Bring on the Bayview (An Open Letter to Sarah Burchard)

Tanea Lynx & Juana Teresa Tello

On April 13th, the SF Sounds newspaper made the mistake of publishing an article written by Sarah Burchard, entitled Bring on the Bayview. From what we’ve gathered, Sarah Burchard is a white person who is not from San Francisco. As people born and raised in San Francisco and Bayview residents, we find Sarah’s article overtly ignorant and flat-out offensive. The article blatantly disrespects residents and our experiences in the current social, economic and political climate that has caused the violent disappearances of working class families from our city.

It is clear that Burchard didn’t write her article for Bayview residents, otherwise she may have thought twice before submitting such distasteful and racist opinions about our home. As a historically Black community tucked in the southeast corner of San Francisco, the Bayview has been home to many Black families for generations since The Great Migration.

Since the article was published, some backlash has taken place which has resulted inthe article being removed from the SF Sounds website. A note from the publisher has been posted online in its place:

 “Note from the publisher: It has come to my attention that the article “Bring on the Bayview” published in SF Sounds was problematic in tone and intention.The reason for writing the article was to help local businesses in the area and the people that live there. As the publisher and acting editor, I instructed the writer to be more gritty and funny. This was outside the writer’s writing style and resulted in the article that was published. Unfortunately, the article was published without editing resulting in an outcome that was not intended. I apologize to the people that live in the Bayview area and promise to do better in the future. In doing so, SF Sounds will write more articles in the next year that shine a positive light on the community and the people that live there.”

 The publisher and editors of SF Sound should be ashamed of themselves for claiming that this piece was a result ofinstruction to be “more gritty and funny”. Additionally, the excuse that the piece was “published without editing” speaks to the level of carelessness, mediocrity and misplaced trust in privileged people who seek to “help the people that live here”. The audacity of Burchards’s tone and the stereotypes her narrative perpetuates about our community are not only privileged and entitled, but cause for direct response. We feel there should be no “future” of published articles in this paper without a public apology to the residents of the Bayview. And, for the record, the Sarah Burchard-types of the world are not welcome in the Bayview.

These white-privileged opinions, in the current state of crisis in Bayview, are representative of the white supremacy that continues to prevail in our society and in concentrated forms in our city. Blatantly racist, classist and rife with colonial perspectives of dehumanization of Black and Brown people, Burchard notes that she now feels safe “taking her skinny white girl ass down to the Bayview”. She says that she feels safe because “a lot has changed over the last couple years. As rents increased in the city artists and blue-collar workers moved over bridges and farther down 3rd street. That corner of 3rd and Newcomb, local rappers used to sing about, is now surrounded by several respectable places to eat.” (rappers usually rap, not sing, but okay). Burchard goes on to make several grammar mistakes while naming eateries she likes that local Bayview residents don’t eat at (in fact, we had to look up more than half of the places she mentioned while reading her article). Trying to polarize herself as different from techies and pretending to recognize the strength of our community, she writes, “people down here just really seem stoked to be serving you.” So, no editors and publishers--no editing could have undone this. This entire piece is one large ‘edit, undo’.

Burchard boasts about her ability to walk freely in our neighborhood comforted by her white privilege, while the youth of color who live here are criminalized on a daily basis by the police. It is disgusting to read that the cost of her “safety” is funded by the $35million budget increase for SFPD to police Southeast neighborhoods like Bayview. The increase of such costs only make for the detriment of Black residents--such is true for Kenneth Harding Jr., Mario Woods, and Jessica Nelson Williams, all Black residents killed by the San Francisco Police Department. We ask the question to Burchard, “Safety for who?” The new police that come with the coffee shops and yoga studios and restaurants are the precursor for “redevelopment”, and always result in long-time residents and natives being racially profiled in their own neighborhoods. Such is the story of gentrification and police violence that resulted in the murder of Alex Nieto by SFPD.

Perhaps Burchard has no idea how her words contribute to this form of modern day colonization and land grabs that take place in our city. But we have experienced nothing less from a capitalist society that upholds its power with state sanctioned violence against the Black and Brown bodies it exploits to built its wealth. Such is the case for the last remaining 3-5.8% of Black residents left in the city of San Francisco. Too many Black residents have been disappeared by forced displacement, police violence/murder, and jails in this city (Black residents are 3-5.8% of the population but more than half of the entire jail population in the city). We see the hypocrisy within our local government that prioritizes profit over people and neglects the undeniable needs of their constituents, especially for affordable housing (with formerly 100% affordable housing communities being redeveloped into “mixed income” developments).

While Burchard wasted her sad (presumably paid?) time writing this article, the average median income in San Francisco as a city, steadily rose to over $88,000. The average median income for the Bayview, however, has yet to reach $40,000. While she submitted this atrocious piece of elitist, neoliberal trash to be recognized, edited, published and put into print for readers to see, Black residents in the Bayview continued to experience being stopped by police disproportionately, to have their licenses suspended for inability to pay tickets, to be killed or brutalized by police, to experience the adverse health impacts of environmental racism and food desert zones due to generations of redlining and to be up to our ears in court debt.

Sarah Burchard wrote about restaurants in a neighborhood that is a food desert. Where many residents cannot afford to eat out at restaurants at all. We know that her words are representative of many perspectives of our community. For years voyeurs and settlers have come to enjoy our neighborhood while ignoring our existence. In fact, sometimes they call it Sunday Streets. For years we have been referred to by our deficiencies, from low birth weights, to crime statistics, to lack of transportation service and inequitable parks. But when does the mirror turn back to people like Sarah Burchard? Back to the city of San Francisco that has maintained our community in this state so that we are organizing and making demands to change the same things that our grandparents organized to change? This gives us reason to be skeptical--we question the quality clean-up prior and during construction at the shipyard, as there is proof of tampering with soil samples from the Superfund Site. We worry that several storefronts are currently blighted, and given the recent trend, we fear they will soon be occupied by white settler businesses to cater to the residents of all the luxury housing developments northbound on 3rd street leading into Mission Bay’s new UCSF hospital, AT&T ballpark, and the future home of the Warriors. The T-train itself is a symbol of neglect as it only provides useful service to the AT&T Ball Park on game day even though it is situated in a public transit-dependent community.

Through this uncertainty and violence, we take care of each other in the Bayview, because no one else does. We support our local businesses when we can. As these changes transform our community right before our eyes, we’re clear that these changes are not intended to benefit those of us who have been here. And we will fight back. Sarah had one thing right -- the community is strong here. She asked for it loud and clear in her title, “Bring on the Bayview.” So here we are. Here it is. Don’t come to Bayview if you can’t come correct.

*A note to the editor: If the purpose of the article was to write about food in our community, why wouldn’t you ask someone who isn’t afraid to be here (instead of inviting an inexperienced, racist writer whose only qualification is that she eats food)? Additionally, if you wanted to bring business to eateries in our community, why wouldn’t you encourage a writer to visit places where we eat--legacy businesses that are owned by people of color with delicious food that hire locally? If you’d like to encourage people to support our community, educate them about Candlestick Park, which had been formerly public land under the jurisdiction of SF Parks & Recreation before city government privatized it by giving it to the dirty developer Lennar (now known as FivePoint Holdings). Lennar has intentions to profit at the expense of our community members, with plans to redevelop the toxic superfund site into luxury water-front property.