Gentrification and culture clashes

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Walking to the BACA meeting with the Help last night I noticed about 4 black men, age ranging from late 40s to late 60s on the corner clustered together. Then along the sidewalk a white female jogger, thin, between 25-30ish. The men made a small path for her but she departed from the sidewalk, continued her pace in the street. As she was passing one of the men said "hello, baby". She seemed to ignore them.

I turned to my husband and said that the men most likely are unaware that the added "baby" can be interpreted as street harrassment and they will assume she was just another rude white woman. For one party it was about race, the other party gender.

A general rule is if someone says hello, say hello back, that's the lesson I got from reading "New to the Neighborhood" in the Wilson Quarterly. However, "baby", "sweetie", "sexy" and "mami" added to a greeting deserves ignoring. The article is a little bit more thoughtful than the usual new to the neighborhood "OMG I'm a gentrifier" handwringing article. Ms. Frozen Tropics is quoted, as well as some H Street movers and shakers. Yeah, it's about H Street.

What I really liked about the article, but also realize an area that could have used some more research, was on making housing affordable. Amanda Clarke, an AfAm architect who has rehabbed a couple of houses is quoted saying, "This whole idea of affordable, it's a tough one. What is affordable? What does that mean? Because if by definition things are changing, property values are going up as a result--just by the mere fact that all the vacancies are being renovated. Are you going to try to hold property values down? Do you renovate at a certain level? Do you lower the level? What do you do?" The author, Sarah Courteau might have looked at efforts by non-profits and the city in providing low cost housing in the area. But for the sake of brevity, I understand why that might now have been explored.

Reading the article there are all sort of clashes of culture regarding longevity, race, income, and current vs former residents. Also Courteau may have missed the church parking debate of the early 00s that happened in Shaw that appears to be playing itself out in NE by those who might not get that praising G-d doesn't require blocking residents.

Courteau acknowledges an aspect of her demographic, it's mobility. She writes, "Some gentrifiers move in and stay, but many, like me, have one foot outside the neighborhood from the start, anticipating the day when a new job or the birth of a baby who will grow up and need to attend a good school will prompt us to put a "For Sale" sign in the front yard." Kids are one thing but something that might need more exploration is moving for work. There are a couple instances where I can remember neighbors have put the house they renovated up for sale or rent to go chase a new/better job/transfer. Unlike the lower income neighbors who seem rooted into place, we mid-upper income folks will move on for the right challenge or price. That's part of our success.

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