Gentrification: The displacement of poor women and people of color. The raising of rents and eradification of a 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 premeditated process in which an imaginary bleach is poured onto a community and the only remaining color left in that community is white… Only the strongest coloreds survived.—Taigi Smith, “What Happens When Your Hood is the Last Stop on the White Flight Express?” from the anthology Colonize This! Young Women of Color on Today’s Feminism.
by Racialicious special correspondent Latoya Peterson
Last year, the Washington Post published a series of articles about the H street corridor in downtown DC. The article detailed the thoughts and opinions of the historical residents, who had seen H street through riots and a depressed economy, and spoke with the new residents who had moved to H street after the city slated the area for economic revival.
What interested me more than the article was the surrounding chat about gentrification, proctored through one of the Washington Post’s “live online” sessions. The discussion quickly dissolved into an argument about the events at a local bar, where some new residents picked up some of the sidewalk chalk sitting in a decorative basket and began drawing on the tables.
The black proprietor objected to them using the chalk. The white party at the table asked why they couldn’t draw with the chalk, since you generally use chalk to draw. The proprietor responded, saying you shouldn’t draw on a place where people eat – no one wants a bite of chalk dust.
This is where the story gets a bit blurry. The white kids assert that the proprietor became shrill, telling them that they didn’t belong in her neighborhood. The proprietor states that the white kids became hostile, saying she should be lucky that they were spending money in her “ghetto” neighborhood.
The article and chat discussion epitomize the delicate dance we do around gentrification. Class divisions and race divisions tend to pop up, turning neighbor against neighbor. Revitalization of an area isn’t always bad – many people enjoy living in luxury condos, having shops within walking distance, and having a nicer, cleaner, and safer neighborhood. Gentrification, however, is revitalization in a different stripe. While revitalization seeks to improve a blighted or run-down area, gentrification aims to attract people with higher incomes to live in the community.
And unfortunately, the people with higher incomes tend to be white. While affluent professionals of all races participate in the gentrification of historically ethnic enclaves, the introduction of whites to a predominantly POC area seems to herald the coming of a gentrification effort. Continue reading