Saturday, April 18, 2009

Gentrification has Nothing to do with White Hipsters

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Photo I Took Last Year of Banner on Valencia Street
Addressing Mission District Gentrification

Last year, it took me roughly six weeks to earn $5,800.
This is significant because during the late
eighties and early nineties my mother received
public assistance, subsequently she and I lived off of
$5,800 for an entire year.


Yes, $5,800 per year.

Given these facts, last year, I thought a lot about the ways
in which I could personally serve as a gentrifying
factor in my home
town of Oakland, California.
Often times, in popular media, there is very little talk of
gentrification,
or if there is, it is discussed in vague terms,
such as"those hipsters are moving in"
or "those
white people are moving in" or "this area is becoming nicer."


Gentrification has very little to do with white hipsters
moving into
the 'hood and everything to do with process of people
who earn higher incomes moving into neighborhoods
where folks reside who are earning comparatively
lower incomes.

If I am a Black women, in Bed-stuy, East Oakland or the South
Side of
Chicago, and I earn $60K per year and I am willing to
pay $1000 for an apartment that everyone else, who earns
between $10-15K/year, pays $500 per month, then I am
serving as a force of gentrification in this neighborhood. It bears
being stated that I in may ways I am a gentrifying force
in the
same way that a white person earning $60K who moves into
the same community.

What becomes pivotal is my willingness to be engaged with the community
that I have moved into.

A more sustainable, honest and
comprehensive conversation about
gentrification would
involve a discussion of the income of the gentrifiers
and
not just the race of the gentrifiers.

Wikipedia defines gentrification as,
...the change in an urban area associated with the movement of more affluent individuals into a lower-class area. The area experiences demographic shifts, including an increase in the median income, a reduction in household size, and often a decline in the proportion of racial minorities (if such minorities are present). More households with higher incomes result in increased real estate values with higher associated rent, home prices, and property taxes. Industrial land use can decline with redevelopment bringing more commercial and residential use. Such changes often result in transformation of the neighborhood's character and culture.
Most of what I understand about gentrification is derived
from brilliant scholar and professor at City University New York,
Neil Smith.

Professor's Smith scholarship is meaningful because he discusses
gentrification not only as it pertains to urban communities
but also on a global scale. In an interview with
Jens Sambale,
Volker Eick of Policing Crowds, Smith writes,
Early examples of gentrification might include the Islington area of London or Greenwich Village in Manhattan but by the 1970s there were many recorded cases of gentrification in Europe, North America and Australia. In Berlin, early examples of gentrification were recorded in Schöneberg and Kreuzberg, among other neighbourhoods, but the fall of the Berlin Wall released a huge stock of housing that had undergone considerable disinvestment, leading to a widespread gentrification of Prenzlauer Berg and Mitte.

Professor Smith's general premise is that gentrification is a natural
feature of capitalism. If the goal capitalism is both the endless accumulation
of capital
and the extraction of all possible profit from a piece of property,
then it makes sense that once a neighborhood becomes more desirable
it will then be sold to the highest bidder.

Smith goes on to explain the nuances of gentrification when he writes,
Gentrification occurs in urban areas where prior disinvestment in the urban infrastructure creates urban neighborhoods that can be profitably redeveloped. In its earliest form, gentrification affected decaying working class neighbourhoods close to urban centers where middle and upper middle class people colonized or re-colonized the area, leading to the displacement and eviction of existing residents. The central mechanism behind gentrification can be thought of as a 'rent gap'. When neighborhoods experience disinvestment, the ground rent that can be extracted from the area declines meaning lower land prices. As this disinvestment continues, the gap between the actual ground rent in the area and the ground rent that could be extracted were the area to undergo reinvestment becomes wide enough to allow that reinvestment to take place. This rent gap may arise largely through the operation of markets, most notably in the United States, but state policies can also be central in encouraging disinvestment and reinvestment associated with gentrification. But only wealthier people are able to afford the costs of this renewed investment. Integral with these economic shifts are social and cultural shifts that change the kinds of shops, facilities and public spaces in a neighbourhood.
After reading this, I thought word? Gentrification in West Oakland
and East Germany? Rent Gaps? All of this brought me back to San
Francisco and the film Medicine for Melancholy.

The process of gentrification and the impact that it is having on African
Americans is a central aspect of the film Medicine of Melancholy.
In some ways, Jo, one of the main character's in the movie, has
a sense of entitlement with regard to living in San Francisco.

San Francisco is the largest urban city with the smallest Black population.

Jo's rationale is that he shouldn't have to be middle class to live in
San Francisco. There is nothing wrong with a sense of entitlement.
Entitlement compels people to act , to change the world. However,
given the systematic removal of African Americans from San Francisco, I was
curious about the intersection of entitlement and the history
of African Americans in this city.

In the book, Black San Francisco, Albert Broussard describes
how
San Francisco has always resisted the presence of African
Americans, how historically San Francisco has upheld racist policies
towards African Americans.

By an large, African Americans came to the Bay Area during
WWII to work in the shipping yards and other war time jobs, however they
found that after the war, the game changed. Broussard writes,
The question of whether blacks were qualified was not an issue,
but whether or not private business and industry would break long-standing
precedent and integrate their work forces in the absence of statutory
pressure or coercion from the local, state, or federal government. Fearing
low employee morale and adverse public opinion, many companies were reluctant to integrate. Others were satisfied to hire black workers only for menial labor.
According to Broussard, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors knew
that the businesses were practicing open and aggressive
employment discrimination. Civil Rights leaders sought to implement
a local Fair Employment Practices ordinance in 1950. This ordinance
was met with resistance on both the state and the local
level from the California State Assembly and the agricultural lobby.
There were an intense effort to ensure that there was legal recourse
for African Americans who were discriminated against by employers.
Broussard describes,
...there were attempts in 1945, 1946, 1949 to create a commission
whose most controversial feature was its "broad sweeping
power over employment discrimination, including the
authority to receive, investigate, act in, and render decisions" on
complaints that alleged discrimination in employment.
This was an incredible amount of power, to say the least,
and it wasn't going to be obtained without a protracted fight.

There was also open and aggressive housing discrimination
in San Francisco. Broussard writes,
Seaton Manning was so distressed over his personal housing
situation that he threatened to resign as executive director of the Urban
League and return to Boston. "After two full years," Manning wrote
Lester Granger, " we have been unable to find a house or apartment
in San Francisco. The housing shortage is acute ...Anything good
is restricted.
Black leaders thought that the housing shortage could be addressed
with a permanent low income housing unit. They soon learned differently.
Broussard describes how the San Francisco Housing Authority
allowed African Americans to live in only one of six newly constructed
housing projects. He writes,
The housing authority adopted a resolution in 1942 by unanimous vote
which stated.....In the selection of tenants for this project, this Authority
shall ac with references to the established usages, customs and traditions
of the community." Nor would the Housing Authority "insofar as possible
enforce the commingling of races, but shall insofar possible maintain and
preserve the same racial composition which exists in the neighborhood
where a project is located.
No commingling of races in "liberal" San Francisco? Who knew?

The state of 2009 Black San Francisco can only be examined
in the context of its history. Given the discrimination that African
Americans faced historically, the fact that San Francisco's African American
population grew from 43,460 in 1940, to 55,000 in 1951, and the restrictive
covenants
that kept working class, middle class and prominent
African Americans from moving out the 'hood, the fact that African
Americans are leaving San Francisco in droves isn't that surprising
.

At the end of the day, when we look at shifting demographics,
it is important for us to turn to history and to what is going
on in the world at large in order to understand how our economic
system and legal policies affect our lives.

If we do this, I think we will be on the road to having a meaningful
conversation about the sustainability of our communities.

Want more?
Tania Ketenjian conducted an interview with Medicine for
Melancholy
director Barry Jenkins.
Tom Wetzel's essay, What is Gentrification? is informative.

Experience any gentrification lately?
Can you afford to buy a house in the neighborhood where you grew up?
Why do people hate hipsters?
Was this post informative? Is there anything you wish I would have discussed?

Faith, publisher of the Acts of Faith Blog will be joining us
for this podcast.
Sunday, April 19th at 7pm.
Call in number, (347) 843-4723.




14 comments:

Dana said...

i think that there is this concept that pre-integration, black communities were more class stratified and class-integrated. the argument has been that when middle to upper-middle class blacks were able to move out of segregated communities (and did) poor and working class kids lost role models, social networks to enable social mobility and opportunity awareness, legitimate entrepreneurial investment, etc. there has been an idea that if those middle-class black folks move back that they will in some way recreate the "ideal" that was lost with integration - the same but maybe only a bit more conscious of what they are doing now that they know what happened when it got dismantled - but in fact... as fort greene attests, the black middle class folks moving in (by and large) have little interest in integrating into the poor black communities that exist (in terms of sharing cultural - such as churches, schools, etc. - or social spaces for example) and what they end up doing is creating a parallel community that, funnily enough does in some ways what the gay and artist first wave gentrifiers do: create a comfortable cultural space for young white college graduates or families to move in...

so.. no we shouldn't hate the white hipsters. they are but the last wave of a gentrifying tide. we need to think about how black, gay, artist, white upwardly mobile socially networked folk interact with the space moved into. also, it is critical to maintain hfdc and other income restricted housing regulations so that we actually achieve mixed income neighborhoods.

Dana said...

p.s. san francisco is amazing. it is all white. even the mission is all white. it is crazy. literally. the strange part is that even oakland feels less and less black no? everyone has moved out...rent keeps getting higher and higher....

Dsxyfemme85 said...

In New Orleans, since Katrina, this has been happening a lot. The hurricane made it easier. The city went from sixty-something percent black to sixty-something percent white in a day, and many of its black residents weren't able to return. The ratio is now, I think, about fifty-something percent Black, forty-something percent white. I think this is purposeful by the city and state government, but that's a long rant that I won't get into.

In central city and the 6th wards, both traditionally high majority Black areas, I've started to see young white people moving into the cheap apartments. A lot of them are volunteers or staff people who work for the non-profits in these neighborhoods.

With my degree, I could be seen as a gentrifying force in my neighborhood...if I had a job. :(

Model Minority said...

@Dana,
Hello D. Good to see you around these parts. Tell me how you really feel lols.

Your comment reminded me that I left out a key part of my essay. A critique of Race-Capitalism. Thank you for the reminder.

@Df85
The city went from sixty-something percent black to sixty-something percent white in a day, and many of its black residents weren't able to return.
====
Don't get it twisted. Katrina precipitated the land grab of the decade.

With my degree, I could be seen as a gentrifying force in my neighborhood...if I had a job. :(
======
Ain't that some shit. You feel me?

the prisoner's wife said...

LA is all overpriced now. i can't even really afford to BUY in the hood. my grandma lives in Watts & at the height of the boom her house was appraising for nearly 500k. CRAZY. in WATTS!

i can't afford anything in my high school, post-parental-divorce neighborhood. nada.

so i'm forced to rent or move to sketchy neighborhoods.

i felt REALLY the gentrification when i moved to NY. my first stop was harlem. the rents were still relatively low, and there were lots of working-class people & students, such as myself. then slowly everything started to rise, and i went to bklyn which was mid-boom. crown heights was, apparently, being rediscovered, and Dean St. was a hot spot. i think a lot of people moved out of the hood when the prices started to rise. they wanted to cash out to move somewhere else not appreciating that their neighborhood was IT.

Model Minority said...

i think a lot of people moved out of the hood when the prices started to rise. they wanted to cash out to move somewhere else not appreciating that their neighborhood was IT.
=======
Wow, that is a real amazing and astute observation.

There is always Atlanta. But that Black class segregation....I don't know if I could handle that.

Aunt Jackie said...

Being the second generation born in SF and having literally hundreds and hundreds of family members who lived in SF I can say this.

By and large SF was a migration point from blacks from the South, which is to say that the jobs were a lure but the city lifestyle was never the end goal. Most of the black middle class families I grew up knowing moved into more suburban and rural environments because their value system was built on having LAND and a row house in SF that shared a wall with your neighbor was NOT ideal it was a stop along the way.

I watched entire communities disappear NOT because SF wasn't inviting to blacks, heck it never had open arms for us. Lest we forget the rubber bullets and dogs from SF State, a State College that basically had to force integration and violently fought against students who wanted a Black Studies Department. I watched middle class black families leave so that they could have land, and space, that which their Southern upbringing and culture valued.

Subsequent generations have succummed to the idea of "city" living no space, raising kids with no back yards but for many blacks who were but one generation out of the South that idea was never ideal..

my two cents.

M.Dot. said...

@ AJ
I watched middle class black families leave so that they could have land, and space, that which their Southern upbringing and culture valued.
======

You know what. My experience reflects that there is some truth to this. My ex husband, who is Southern, tried to teach me to drive a stick on his parents front lawn, which was about 2 acres.

Southern Black folks DO LOVE the land. I ain't mad.
We use to work that shit from sun up to sun down. Shooooot.

illaim said...

I’m in complete agreement with you on the ultimate aspect of gentrification being money and the influx of it raising the prices of all who reside near its proximity, but when it comes to the race aspect of it for the most part it still comes with a White face.

How often do black people reverse migrate to the hood?

Off subject on subject (a lil) Madd people talk about white flight, but very few talk about “black flight”

Instead of staying and helping to rebuild the neighborhoods they grew up in, most black people if afforded the chance by elevation of their income evacuate the land of their rearing in the most expedient of manners. Such actions only accelerate the downtrodden spiral of certain urban areas via removing some of the productive people out of them.

I say all that to point out that when gentrification occurs in America its damn near always is going to be a “White” thing in its beginning stages because they are the ones venturing where a lot of us don’t want to go.
In the latter stages we become gentrifiers ourselves or at least solidify the gentrification as we once again “follow the white people” to what we deem is the good neighborhoods.

The professer Smith you put in there I f***** with…

I can’t say I’ve experienced gentrification directly lately, but indirectly most definitely. My dreams of living in D.C where quickly thwarted when I started looking at the rental prices across the city. Everywhere in the city. It didn’t take long for me to realize why people call P.G County the new D.C

Where I Grew up

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Garfield_(Pittsburgh)

I could still find a house for the super low. Pittsburgh’s a weird city like that.

Hipster hate, falls under the category of natural human hate of things that are diffrent and we don’t understand. I think a tinge of the Hipster hate is based on racism, and a lot of it is founded on the fear of loss of personal identity which many equate with their “hood”

Was this post informative? I felt like recently paid tuition somewhere after reading this post. So the answer to that is a definite yes,

Model Minority said...

Ohhhh Dame...You hilarious....

How often do black people reverse migrate to the hood?
======
We do, and I am looking for the data to support this assertion. Chicago, Harlem and Brooklyn is where it takes place.

Read the above post. And listen to the podcast, you may find it interesting.

Pittsburg is fascinating becuase, 15 years ago they experienced a decline similar to Detroit's, so they had the reinvent themselves or perish a while ago. There was no car industry to hold on to. In many ways, Pittsburg was the warning shot for Detroit.

Speaking PG County..It may be my new home ock...who new...You will have to take me to brunch...LOLS..

Hipster hate, falls under the category of natural human hate of things that are different and we don’t understand. I think a tinge of the Hipster hate is based on racism, and a lot of it is founded on the fear of loss of personal identity which many equate with their “hood”
====
Filthy and I came to that same conclusion. I couldn't figure out why so many people
hated on Williamsburg hipsters. In modern history, NYC has always had a group of vibrant artist's.

I felt like recently paid tuition somewhere after reading this post. So the answer to that is a definite yes,
===
Awesome.

blackwomenblowthetrumpet.blogspot.com said...

Hey there!

This is an important issue and a meaty dialogue!

Peace, blessings and DUNAMIS!
Lisa

E. Porterfield, Jr. said...

Hi.

To be honest - your point sort of escapes me. I'm assuming that this quote from your peice is your main point,

"A more sustainable, honest and
comprehensive conversation about gentrification would
involve a discussion of the income of the gentrifiers
and not just the race of the gentrifiers."

I'm simply thinking that - of course gentrification is about the income of the gentrifiers, AND of course hipsters (of any race) migrating into an area is usually a pretty good indicator of a neighborhood undergoing the gentrification process...

But whats the issue? What are we talking about here?? Maybe I'm just lost??

Holla Back!

Regards

-E.P.
http://mis-educatedamerica.blogspot.com/

Model Minority said...

E.P., thank you for stopping by and commenting.

My point is that gentrification is a feature of capitalism, and has very little to do with white hipsters.

For the folks who care, and want to do something about, understanding the nature of property and capitalism is a perquisite for doing meaningful sustainable work.

Hopes this helps.

Anna said...

It would be interesting to compare how much you earn today during the crisis.

Geneza Pharmaceuticals

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