Often ethnic diversity is a product of earlier waves of gentrification. Many of the first people to buy Brooklyn rooming houses and turn them back into one or two family homes were West Indian immigrants. And, as Osman explains, it was the college-educated sons of Irish Park Slope and Italian Carroll Gardens who eschewed moving to the suburbs with their cohort in the early 1960s. Instead they organized local businesses, homeowners, and newcomers to renovate, beautify, and promote their neighborhoods. But it is exactly these elderly minorities and white ethnics who are replaced by each yuppie couple.
This is a several-thousand word article on the relationship between race and socioeconomic class, and about the tensions between old and new residents and poor and rich residents of a city and a neighborhood. Yet in those thousands of words there isn't a single interview with a poor, long-term, black resident. It's a glaring omission.
Megan just bought a house in a gentrifying neighborhood:
Yesterday, I rode the bus for the first time from the stop near my house, and ended up chatting with a lifelong neighborhood resident who has just moved to Arizona, and was back visiting family. We talked about the vagaries of the city bus system, and then after a pause, he said, “You know, you may have heard us talking about you people, how we don’t want you here. A lot of people are saying you all are taking the city from us. Way I feel is, you don’t own a city.” He paused and looked around the admittedly somewhat seedy street corner. “Besides, look what we did with it. We had it for forty years, and look what we did with it!”
I didn’t know quite what to say. It’s true that for a variety of historical reasons–most prominently, the 1968 riots that devastated large swathes of historically black DC–our neighborhood has more in the way of abandoned buildings than retail. And I’m hardly going to endorse the gang violence about which he presently discoursed at length. But the reason we moved into our neighborhood is that we want to live in a place that’s affordable, and economically and racially mixed. We don’t want to take the city from them; we just want to live there too. Perhaps I should have said that.
by Chris Bodenner
The WSJ examines how U.S. cities such as Atlanta, DC, and San Francisco are reversing historic trends by becoming more white — both because white professionals are gentrifying blighted areas and because black middle-class families are moving to the suburbs. In other words, white flight has given way to “African-American out-migration.”
In Washington, a historically black church is trying to attract white members to survive. Atlanta’s next mayoral race is expected to feature the first competitive white candidate since the 1980s. San Francisco has lost so many African-Americans that Mayor Gavin Newsom created an “African-American Out-Migration Task Force and Advisory Committee” to help retain black residents.
“The city is experiencing growth, yet we’re losing African-American families disproportionately,” Mr. Newsom says. When that happens, “we lose part of our soul.”
Ta-Nehisi Coates pounces:
Oh no, not our soul! A black church actually trying to attract white members, a white guy actually running for office in Atlanta, and a big city mayor who has to fight to keep black people. Race war, indeed. Sometimes, there really is no way to win with media. Part of the reason cities like Atlanta are becoming white is because black folks (like myself) who grew up caged in cities want their taste of the stereotypical American dream and thus are leaving. But there never is any black agency–to be African-American is to be an automaton responding to either white racism or cultural pathology. No way you could actually have free will.
(Newsom is trying to keep blacks from leaving through affordable housing, and to lure them back with cultural institutions, such a jazz center. Hanna Rosin examined how Memphis tacked in the opposite direction — using Section8 vouchers to bring poor African-Americans out to the suburbs — with disastrous results.)