Actually, I’m a Local Too

Kevin Roose, in an article about the Google Bus situation, notes:

Instead, with each passing protest, tech workers will circle the wagons, and the locals will become angrier.

To which I say, how are some people “tech workers” and some people “locals”?  I mean, I’m a tech worker.  I live in San Francisco.  Am I not a local?  Why not?  I haven’t lived in San Francisco long (about two and a half years now).  Before that, I lived on the Penninsula and then in the South Bay, and I grew up in the Santa Cruz area.

When do I become a “local”?  How local does one have to be to be local?  I mean, Palo Alto, my previous city, wasn’t exactly far away.  Even Santa Cruz isn’t that far away.

If someone came to San Francisco 20 years ago, and someone else was born and raised in Daly City 30 years ago, which of them is more “local” to San Francisco?  What about someone who has lived in San Mateo for 50 years?

If Rebecca Solnit has lived in San Francisco longer than I have, but she has no goddamn idea how Caltrain works, while I’ve lived here less long, but take it every day, does that give me “local” cred?  What are the practical upshots of being “local,” even if we could determine who is and isn’t a local?  Even if someone is a local and someone else is not a local, what’s our basis for applying privileges to locals over non-locals?  If you have two San Francisco residents, one of them born in San Francisco, and the other in San Jose, and they have different ideas about what San Francisco should do, do we in fact prefer the native’s ideas over the immigrant’s?  Why?  What’s our basis for doing so?  Do we have other such deeply conservative beliefs, or is this an aberration?

The Google bus things continues to be eye-rollingly silly, and probably in this case “local” versus tech-worker is at least arguably just a proxy for lower-income vs high income, but the entire concept of nativity and localness springs up all over the place.  If you start to reject the idea that it’s possible to meaningfully decide who is more local to San Francisco, or what traits San Franciscans share, or what privileges they get, then that’s at least an approach into more genuinely substantive issues like immigration and foreign aid.


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