Economics play a part

Last week I read with some perverse delight a paragraph in the Post:

Then, in 1950, Congress passed the Old Georgetown Act “to preserve and protect places of historic interest,” but it had the effect of making Georgetown’s gentrification legally enforceable. It was pushed through despite fears from “Negro groups,” The Washington Post reported at the time, that it “might drive them from the area.” Less than a decade later, Georgetown’s black population had dwindled to fewer than 3 percent, and in 1972 The Post noted that fewer than 250 remained, “so few that some Georgetown residents are unaware they are there.”
–From Georgetown’s Hidden History, Washington Post 7/16/06 B01

As some of you may know I am a bit distrustful of some historic preservation efforts, and I’ve said that HP does hurt poor people. Yet Georgetown is a place that did need historic preservation because of it’s old housing stock, notable residents, unique history, etc. At the time, I gather “black = poor” or not financially able to deal with the new demands the Old Georgetown Act HP placed on the African American community in G’town.
Later in the Post there was “For Whites in Prince George’s, a Mirror on Race County’s Black Affluence Reverses Roles“. Interesting but not really the same thing. If I wanted to throw the “historic” element into PG County then I’m looking at those white pockets of the county like “Old Town” College Park and “Historic” Riverdale and “Historic” Hyattsville, and maybe “Historic” Greenbelt. I’m not sure about Greenbelt because I haven’t been in that area in the day, when people are just mulling about. There are other pockets, but for the most part when I’m in PG County, it is the land of the Black middle class. As the article says, when whites move into parts of PG, that gentrification thing doesn’t occur. The home prices in some spots are already up there, so if they get pushed up any further then that’s just icing on the cake.
So that has me concluding that it is economics and not race that plays more of a role in gentrification. Maybe Historic Preservation may play a part. I’d need to check the census and figure out where all the “Historic” towns with HP rules are and play with the two. But that’s PG and I’d rather focus in on the city.

4 thoughts on “Economics play a part”

  1. If you took any of the numerous 500,000-a-house (all black) subdivisions in PG and replaced 90 percent of those people with White People do you still think the property values would be the same, I have a hard time believing this simply because this is a majority white country and usually an unspoken value is assigned to those things that the majority dominate or posses, I guess this is the essence of white privilege. I am not saying this is necessarily racist its more like just the way it is (I guess its just one of the perks of being the majority race). Also I do believe that Economics is an easy scapegoat for A select few gentrifiers to use when they really posses racial animus towards a particular ethnic group (that usually tends to be poorer)But for most of the gentrifiers in DC it probably is an Economics issue more than a racial issue. But both issues do play some part even if only subconsciously.

  2. “But for most of the gentrifiers in DC it probably is an Economics issue more than a racial issue. But both issues do play some part even if only subconsciously.”

    I agree with this; however after years of homeownership in the greater Shaw area, I’ve come to realize that in addition to “gentrifiers”, I also have “ghettofiers” for neighbors.

    Ghettofiers resist change in the name of race. Granted, the resistance is rooted in fear, but it manifests itself as hostility toward white people for no reason other than the fact that the white people are present in the area. (Egads!)

    There are small children attacking adults on a routine basis around here. Police reports and anecdotal reports confirm this. I’ve been told to “get off the sidewalk, b!tch!” by a little boy as I was walking through Shaw on my way downtown.

    What is that all about? It is about a culture of fear that results in hostility as a mechanism to retain the status quo: the ghetto. Those who practice this are “ghettofiers”.

    –Stoma (still here)

  3. You can call it ghettofiers, but I merely call it issues of “Contested spaces,” and think of it as the flip side of discussions in _Code of the Street_ by Elijah Anderson. The same kind of contestation he describes between middle-class and street culture plays itself out in these kinds of changes, and one of the seven gentrification effects I’ve written about #2 —

    (2) change and different people coming into a neighborhood — most importantly, different people from those currently in residence (the differences–race, class, ethnicity, country of origin, levels of educational attainment, attitudes toward the urban experience, etc.–are usually not “celebrated” (I make this point because I still remember first being taught about diversity and multiculturalism in 7th grade, and I specifically remember the “melting pot” and “celebration of differences” phrase — I have a hard time seeing the celebration, at least in DC);

  4. Just saw that you mention Greenbelt. In my dad’s research for his book “Sundown Towns”, he learned the following, as taken from a discussion on the Washington Post’s website…(

    Greenbelt, Md.: I’ve just moved from a Sundown town – Shelby, Ohio. I’m a minister and one of the first things I heard when I got there from Hyattsville, MD was that there “usta be” a sign at the edge of town telling “n….s” to be out of town by sundown. Didn’t surprise me as that part of Ohio was settled mostly from the South during WWI and WWII and Ohio has/had more Klan members than Alabama. I was, however, surprised by the fellow who told me. Didn’t figure him to be a racist. Your critics seem to be worried that your sources are anecdotal. Go survey Shelby and anyone who has lived there 10 years or more will fill you another volume of true anecdotes.

    James Loewen: Yes, Shelby was a sundown town. Ironically, so was Greenbelt. Indeed, Greenbelt was one of seven towns invented during the FDR administration to employ people and provide examples of well-planned towns of tomorrow. Of course, “well-planned” equaled “all white.”


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