Uncomfy aspect of gentrification

There was another post but I think it is lost to the ether that is the Internet. Anyway, despite my odd posts about gentrification, I haven’t been able to define it in a way that is simple and oh, politics-free and maybe even free of racial context. I don’t think gender or orientation have a lot to do with it, but plays a minor but maybe pivotal role. I’m more than happy to define gentrification as an economic thing. Face it when the real estate taxes go up 200%, believe me it is very much related to money.

My own problem relates to where I fit in all this. I was raised in a working class family in a poor black neighborhood in the South. Currently, I guess you can call me middle class, definately a professional (if I’m not can I stop paying the student loans?), and still black. I laud the arrival of folks who are “middle class like me” regardless of color or orientation. But I do admit it is troublesome to those who have been here longer, who now have to keep up with the newcomers who have raised the value of the properties and rents. None of us who are middle class come in with the intention of pushing out the oldtimers or the poor. (We won’t cry a tear, however, should the loud section 8 house, or the drug dealers get moved out.)

The visuals of this gentrification are seen in the homes and in the people. Abandoned homes are restored to their former glory, or torn down to make way for something better. Other homes are bought, rehabbed, and made to look nicer. These homes sit near, or are right next to homes that are still abandoned, falling down, or just ghetto looking. The front yards are different, some with dirt patches made from years of hanging out in front, others with many dollars worth of plants, or new walkways and fencing. Oldtimers might keep up, or join in, if they had given up the effort before. The face of gentrification, is white. Despite a fair number of blacks such as myself moving into these ‘up and coming’ neighborhoods, we blend in with the old population. The ones who stick out a bit more are my white neighbors.

Please keep note that whites are a minority in the District of Columbia, making up 30% of the population. Blacks are 60%, Latinos about 8% and the rest being everybody else. In my little area of Truxton Circle (still Shaw dammit) in 2000 the Afr-American population was 90%. So when whites move in, it is very noticable. So far that group has been very middle class.

With Spring the visuals are all there. Well the “For Sale” signs are. The building and rehabbing continue. Yards in the winter that have much in common with the ghetto looking yards, bound forward with color and other greenery. And I see joggers. Joggers? Where the heck are these people jogging to? I see more dog walkers. In Winter they seem to be the most miserable sort, now, all happy with their pooches, meeting up with others pooches for doggie smootches. Then there is what I don’t see. There are places where crowds of black teens would congregate in large numbers. I see fewer of them, of course, it is still early. I hope that I will see fewer kids hanging out on street corners.

I guess I have been running around the topic of race and gentrification. As far as I see, so far I’ll probably keep circling.

7 thoughts on “Uncomfy aspect of gentrification”

  1. I actually wanted to comment on “My Dream of Shaw”, however it seems the link is non-existent. This post however touches on the same issue I wanted to address.

    I’m 24 years old, a native Washingtonian, grew up on welfare and food stamps, put myself through college, and now am a “middle-class” professional, working in non-profit. I look white. My heritage is mostly Portuguese and Cape Verdean, but 99% of the people walking down N Capitol would call me ‘white’. After all, perception is reality I suppose.

    Half of my family are soul-food loving, big-hat-on-a-Sunday, cook-out-every-weekend black folk. The other half are right-wing-republican, Wonder-bread eating, George-Bush loving white folk. And both sides LOVE each other, very very deeply. I’m talking all 60 of them, combined. I was raised that COMMUNITY and FAMILY trump socio-economic status AND race any day.

    As a “white”, young professional, I’ve lived in white suburbs, black inner city ghettos, and everything in between. Why do I live in Shaw? Because the first time I walked through the neighborhood, in 3 blocks, I must have exchanged warm hello’s with 5 or 6 people. Young and old. And all black. Why did I move out of my parents’ comfy, safe, rich white suburb? Because I lived there 8 years and didn’t know my neighbor. You say hi to someone, and they look down, scared or ashamed. In the post I mentioned earlier, Mari said, “But realistically, non-blacks are attracted to the area, and hopefully their [white, middle-class] numbers ( I’m specifically thinking of the clutch you purse ever time they see a black person population) will not overwhelm making it uncomfortable for blacks.” I sure hope those white folks don’t come in large numbers. They make me uncomfortable too! I’d have to say, as a part of the mid-class white group, that you won’t see those purse-clutching whites in the neighborhood. It just won’t happen. Their fear is far too great to live in the are for more than a couple months. That’s why sensible, wordly, accepting folk, no matter what race, will and do come into Shaw, and why gentrification is able to happen.

    Just as the black man walking down the street has been misjudged as a purse thief, and therefor treated differently, I’ve also been misjudged as a scared little white girl, and people have tried to take advantage of that, failing miserably. Prejudice happens to all of us, all the time, and has no place in making our neighborhood vibrant once again.

  2. You cannot compare what you feel happens to you via anyone’s assumputions of you as a white person, your neighborhood is not under attack, you do not have people making racist assumptions of you when you have lived here for most your life as we can say either in LeDroit park or Bloomingdale. Nor can you say your remarks & comments are silenced as I can say I have seen on the Bloomingdale Blog.
    Have you read what the Bloomingdale Civic Association is supposed to be for? Is it fully representative? No it is not, neither is Le Droit Park.
    If anyone would like to get together to discuss what we can do to make things fair equal & equitable for all residents, please write

  3. Gentrication is a complicated issue. I have seen it rear its ugly head on poor russions, poor jews & othe poor europeans in new york.
    It’s a potent stew of coorporate greed which can strike anyone at any time.
    It is used in this case as a tool that throws us all in a turvey & creates the illusion that this is all racial, & it is done that way for a good reason, if we all believe it is race & kill one another based on that assumpiton, then the greedy will have even more land to distribute among themselves while we all stand around asking what just happened

  4. Here at InShaw (and I’m not going to speak about other blogs, just my own) I appreciate the first person story, so if your posts are an attack on the first person, I’m tempted to delete them. The problem I gather with the first person experience is that they don’t fit neatly into whatever poltical boxes and ideological categories, so I guess that’s why you’re saying, “You cannot compare what you feel happens to you via anyone’s assumputions of you as a white person”. Oh yes, she can. And she wasn’t comparing but just telling her story and giving her impressions.
    People have experiences and have been hurt or helped by wrong impressions by others. Those experiences are real, and can impact one’s life in small and big ways.
    Also civic groups, poltical groups, city sponsored sessions and focus groups are only as representative as the people who bother to show up and participate.

  5. I had a neighbors niece inform me that a neighbor of mine yelled at her children, telling them they couldn’t play in Ana J Cooper circle. This is one of the worst things I have heard and indicative of the attitude that now accompanies the closing of so many places in this area. It is also reflective of the continuing divide along class lines in this area. It only helps those who wish to have things like dog parks in this area over the needs of all residents.
    I have agreed that the closing of Gage -Eckington is a done deal, however looking at the grim picture being painted by the class divides in this area, I am worried that this is simply one more cog in this terrible wheel.
    What resources do lower income residents have here? What are the “rules” for play in this park, you can’t tell me only residents children can play here, we have folks who come bringing children from Bloomingdale, Shaw and wherever else they come from, I have even met folks from Virginia here. So who is drawing the line here and why?
    I was writing this to my own civic association here in LeDroit park, I am extremely angry, however I realize that anger will not achieve much of anything.
    We need to becoe involved in our own various civic associations or do the “gasp” inventive thing of creating our own counter to what is present because they do not speak for us all. We need to beocme more politicized, because that is what it going to take to change things around.
    There is far too much self-congradulatory stuff going on & I am speaking specifically of my civic association as well as many others I run across & very little about what the community did good before they came here.
    I am smart enough to know that this is not just race, it is class, it is economics, & it is about people not being involved enough to stop this tide of thoughtless gentrification

  6. Well folks need to participate & yes what I am saying is that the experience of a person who is not of color who has not lived in this area long are different than those of people of color who have lived here & are greatly affected by gentrification, their experiences are what they are & yes I will say again there is no comparison, regardless of whom wants to do the comparing.
    My point is not to attack anyone, simply to state the facts as I see them.
    Attacking gets us no place at all, fighting gets us no place at all, understanding the other persons perspective, well now that is priceless

  7. I’m closing this post and deleting the previous comment.
    A- It’s my blog and I can do whatever I want with it, including deleting comments.
    B- I’m feeling like my blog has been hijacked when people try posting announcements/ ads in the comments. This is a private blog, not a public bulletin board.
    C-I think I’m fairly tolerant of dissenting or opposing opinion, provided that it is a well written thought and succinct, of which the prior posting was not.

    Lastly, I apologize to all who may have wanted to comment on the subject posted, but that’s the way things are.

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