[Ed. – Another entry in the Annals of You Only Wish, Onion.]
Gentrification is violence. Couched in white supremacy, it is a systemic, intentional process of uprooting communities. It’s been on the rise, increasing at a frantic rate in the last 20 years, but the roots stretch back to the disenfranchisement that resulted from white flight and segregationist policies. Real estate agents dub changing neighborhoods with new, gentrifier-friendly titles that designate their proximity to even safer areas: Bushwick becomes East Williamsburg, parts of Flatbush are now Prospect Park South. Politicians manipulate zoning laws to allow massive developments with only token nods at mixed-income housing.
Beyond these political and economic maneuvers, though, the thrust of gentrification takes place in our mythologies of the hood. It is a result, as Park and Leonard explain, of a “discourse that imagines neighborhoods of color as pathological and criminal, necessitating outside intervention for the good of all.” Here’s where my pistol-whipped patient’s revelation about his cinematic experience kicks in. The dominant narrative of the endangered white person barely making it out of the hood alive is, of course, a myth. No one is safer in communities of color than white folks. White privilege provides an invisible force field around them, powered by the historically grounded assurance that the state and media will prosecute any untoward event they may face.
With gentrification, the central act of violence is one of erasure. Accordingly, when the discourse of gentrification isn’t pathologizing communities of color, it’s erasing them. …
In an appallingly overwritten New York magazine article [sic] with the (I guess) provocative title “Is Gentrification All Bad?,” Justin Davidson imagines a first wave of gentrifiers much the way I’ve heard it described again and again: “A trickle of impecunious artists hungry for space and light.” This is the standard, “first it was the artists” narrative of gentrification, albeit a little spruced up, and the unspoken but the understood word here is “white.” Because, really, there have always been artists in the hood. They aren’t necessarily recognized by the academy or using trust funds supplementing coffee shop tips to fund their artistic careers, but they are still, in fact, artists. The presumptive, unspoken “white” in the first round of artists gentrification narrative is itself an erasure of these artists of color.