by Guest Contributor Tami, originally published at What Tami Said
Taigi Smith, in the brilliant essay “What Happens When Your Hood is the Last Stop on the White Flight Express” in the book “Colonize This: Young Women of Color on Today’s Feminism,” describes gentrification like this:
Gentrification: The displacement of poor women and people of color. The raising of rents and the eradification of single, poor and working-class women from neighborhoods once considered unsavory by people who didn’t live there. The demolition of housing projects. A money-driven process in which landowners and developers push people (in this case, many of them single mothers) out of their homes without thinking about where they will go. Gentrification is a pre-meditated process in which an imaginary bleach is poured on a community and the only remaining color left in that community is white…only the strongest coloreds survived.
For poor single mothers, gentrification is a tactic “the system” uses to keep them down; it falls into the same category as “workfare” and “minimum wage.” Gentrification is a woman’s issue, an economic issue and, most of all, a race issue. At my roots I am a womanist, as I believe in economic and social equality for all women. When I watch what has happened to my old neighborhood, I get angry because gentrification like this is a personal attack on any woman of color who is poor, working class and trying to find an apartment in a real estate market that doesn’t give a damn about single mothers, grandmommas raising crack babies or women who speak English as a second language.
Urban gentrification is like global colonization. An advantaged people decide they fancy an area and use their advantages to push into it with, at best, disregard, and at worst, disdain, for the people already living there.The invaders use their might to erase the culture of current residents, and eventually, to erase the residents all together.
I know this, and yet, my feelings about gentrification are ambivalent: a blend of concern and guilt. Yes, guilt. Because I have been an urban colonizer. Continue reading