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The Color of Power

Racial Coalitions and Political Power in Oakland
Frédérick Douzet. Translated by George Holoch

BUY Cloth · 312 pp. · 6.125 × 9.25 · ISBN 9780813932811 · $55.00 · Oct 2012
BUY Ebook · 312 pp. · ISBN 9780813932842 · $55.00 · Oct 2012

The Color of Power is a fascinating examination of the changing politics of race in Oakland, California. Oakland has been at the forefront of California’s multicultural changes for decades. Since the 1960s, the city has been a shining example of a fruitful liberal black-and-white political partnership and the successful incorporation of black politicians into the political landscape. But over the past forty years, the balance of power has changed as a consequence of dramatic demographic trends and economic circumstances. The city’s formerly dominant biracial political machine has been challenged by the demands of new multiracial interests.

The city, once governed by a succession of black mayors and majority black city councils, must now accommodate rapidly growing Asian and Latino communities. While the black-led coalition still relies on white progressive support, this alliance has weakened due to a shift in the progressives’ agenda and the voting habits of the black community, the rise of a Hispanic-Asian coalition, and a strong demographic decline of the African American population. With similar demographic changes taking place across the nation, Oakland’s experience provides insight in to the multiracial future of other American cities.

The Color of Power investigates Oakland’s contemporary racial politics with a detailed study of conflicts over issues like education, elections and political representation, and crime. Trained as a journalist, a political scientist, and a geographer, the author provides a unique perspective supported by numerous maps and extensive interviews.

Winner of awards from the French Society of Geography and the French National Academy of Sciences


This extraordinary book approaches Oakland’s racial and ethnic transformation from the perspective of an astute student of American urban dynamics and the insights of a sympathetic visitor to America from a nation also wrestling with demographic change. Scholars and students will appreciate Professor Douzet’s subtle study of geography, political context, and neighborhood change that together make Oakland a case study for the future of urban America.

Raphael Sonenshein, California State University, Fullerton

Everyone favors the study of intersectionality, and the conduct ofresearch through interdisciplinarity – but too often this Latinatejargon has little real meaning or substance. Not so in The Color of Power. Through the time-honored technique of closely observing one city, Douzet illuminates many conjunctions: space and demography, race and class, immigrant and native-born, coalitions and competition, winners and losers, politics and policy. The Color of Power captures the booming, buzzing confusion and exhilaration of American urban politics as well as we can hope for.

Jennifer Hochschild, Harvard University

Anyone who wants to understand the ramifications of the nation’s changing demography should read The Color of Power. Frédérick Douzet traces the evolution of Oakland from its early days as a white-majority city through the rise of Black Power and the subsequent political incorporation of African Americans and then on to today’s multiracial city of the twenty-first century. Douzet provides both breadth and depth in her analysis, covering class as well as race over time and giving special attention to spatial concentrations and how they help shape the building of city coalitions.

Clarence Stone, George Washington University

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