By Paul Ploumis (ScrapMonster Author)
August 26, 2016 10:37:45 PM
LOS ANGELES (Scrap Monster): Tomorrow's closure of the Alliance Recycling Center in West Oakland, California--a 38-year-old business tucked between Fitzgerald Park and the MacArthur Freeway--is, ostensibly, "just" a closure. Sad, yes, as more than 20 people will lose their jobs and the neighborhood will lose a longtime local organization, but it's certainly not dire; the shuttering of its rattling gates won't fundamentally alter the fabric of the city or the people who comprise it.
But this is the trouble with the unexamined life; it's predicated on deception.
At first glance, the Alliance Recycling Center is at best a nuisance, at worst a nexus for crime, drug use, and squalor, given that its primary users are "vagrants." It's noisy and it smells; it's easy enough for those passing quickly on their bike or car--those not familiar with facility or the casual segregation of Oakland--to write it off as a blight in an otherwise charming neighborhood.
When examined more closely, however, Alliance serves as the lifeblood--the only viable source of income--for more than 400 homeless (and marginally housed) folks who bring their teeming shopping carts of glass, plastic, and metal every day to its doors. This is a community shouldering the weight of mental illness, addiction, and crushing poverty, all the while being told they're a kind of vermin--humans reduced to thorns in our sides.
Alliance also serves as a case study for the 46 million Americans who are living below the poverty line in America, a case study of systemic oppression and state-sanctioned violence. And although this displacement is happening here and now, it represents the culmination of decades of racial erasure--its very roots were always rotten.