“You Don’t Own A City”

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.