Gentrification: "It's Not About Race...”
Please Donate to Haggadot.com
We rely on support from users just like you! Please donate
today to keep maintaining this free resource!
Customandcraft.org is a fiscally sponsored project of Jewish Jumpstart (EIN: 26-2173175) which is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt California public benefit corporation. Your gift is tax deductible to the
extent allowed by law.
Thank you for your donation.
Landscape / Booklet
Print Update coming in 2017
Share this Clip with your friends, family,
community and social networks with just one click.
Copy and paste the URL of this Clip to share or view.
Open in new window
Share This Clip on Social Networks
Gentrification: "It's Not About Race...”
“Gentrification: “It’s not about race...” by Lindsay Foster Thomas, posted on the York and Fig blog on January 6, 2015.
There’s no doubt about it. I am a gentrifier. So, why don’t I feel like one? Maybe no one really does, but if I may be honest, I think it’s because I’m African-American. Does that mean I get some kind of free pass to gentrify without it weighing on my conscience? Not even a little bit. I think about it a lot. I experience guilt over paying exorbitant rent prices that I complain about, but can afford with an awareness that my presence and ability to live in the country’s “hottest” neighborhoods means someone else can’t.
But here’s what race has to do with it. First of all, when middle and upper middle class people seek out more affordable housing options, the most budget-friendly places to turn to are communities that have been historically ignored by developers, retailers, elected officials, etc. The populations of these neighborhoods are often black and brown people who aren’t necessarily poor or even struggling. In fact, if houses and buildings have been well-maintained, that’s an attractive foundation to envision a community that feels like home to many more kinds of people. This is why many folks who decry gentrification define it as a process in which “rich white people” come in and take over everything. Property is cheaper in predominately African-American and Latino neighborhoods and so these areas are frequently ripe for development, investment and economic change — all courtesy of wealthier people taking an interest. When I move into such communities, I am perhaps in many ways not like the “old timers” there, but I look a lot more like them than white people and there’s a good chance I share some cultural connections with the neighbors that don’t feel forced.
The second point I’d like to make is inspired by a conversation I had with Georgetown journalism lecturer and author Natalie Hopkinson. Hopkinson, a longtime D.C. resident, is African-American, a wife, a mother and a scholar who has witnessed many changes to communities within the urban landscape of our nation’s capitol. She has a career and the financial means to live in almost any neighborhood she’d like. But, “I don’t have that white privilege,” she says, recognizing the main difference between herself and some of the newcomers to the community where she lives. “They can come onto the same block and just through the sheer fact of their whiteness, they can raise the value.”
Hopkinson continues, “Right off the bat, your calls are going to get answered. People are going to respond to you more. People will value the place more. People will invest more.” She’s quick to point out that she’s not “anti-gentrification” –Hopkinson and her family enjoy the restaurants, green spaces, school improvement and other benefits that have materialized along with neighborhood change. But, she confesses that it’s hard to feel good about it all the time.
“It’s hurtful when you realize that if millions of people who looked like me moved in, there wouldn’t be the same sort of response. There wouldn’t be the same outcome,” says Hopkinson. “I don’t have as much power or agency as people who are white. That’s not white people’s fault. That’s just sort of the way that it works and that drives some of the tensions that are around gentrification.” She adds that often, wealthy, white gentrifiers “have a personal stake in having black people gone because race is so closely tied to socioeconomic status so it’s impossible to separate those two.”
So, whose investment matters more? The people and families who have created strong communities in spite of disinvestment or the new members of the neighborhood who are able to drop a million dollars for a renovated row house? There’s no easy answer. But, I agree with Hopkinson about the role race plays in gentrifying neighborhoods.
When we began this project in Highland Park, the Wealth & Poverty team encountered many people eager to discuss their ideas about gentrification — even if shy about using “the G-word,” or admittedly confused about its meaning. Several local residents (all white, I have to point out) have declared confidently to me that what is happening here is “not about race.” A high school teacher in the area pointed out that not just white people are coming to majority-Latino Highland Park. Young Latinos are also part of the change something known as “gente-fication.” One woman said “White, black or brown doesn’t matter —gentrification only sees one color and that’s green.“
They’re not entirely wrong. The many drivers of gentrification are complex and they are what our team came to Highland Park to uncover. While we work to better understand these drivers, I think it’s important to acknowledge that race is a major factor in how gentrification plays out in America’s cities. I wouldn’t shy away from saying so while working on this project. At the same time, I continue to consider how my own money influences change in the neighborhoods I move to. So, before quickly dismissing race as a part of the larger conversation, listen to, learn from and think about who occupied the spaces you call home before you and who new businesses appear to be catering to in rapidly changing neighborhoods. That’s how I’ve been operating as a gentrifier all these years.
● Lindsay Foster Thomas makes the case that “race is a major factor in how gentrification plays out in America’s cities.” Which aspects of her perspective resonate with you? Which don’t?
● Some neighborhoods undergoing gentrification have significant white populations, with parts of Kensington and Port Richmond in Philadelphia being one example. How does this affect what Thomas presents?
● How did her perspective change or nuance your thoughts on gentrification?
● In what ways have you experienced race as a factor of gentrification? Or does this perspective contradict your experiences?
Read and Discuss
The Three Levels of Oppression: Ilan Gur Ze'ev
The First level:
In our opinion, the first level of oppression, primitive oppression, is expressed by inflicting aggressive force (physical violence) in order to force someone to act against their will and interest. Uprising against this kind of oppression is possible...
The Wicked Child
I read the haggadah backwards this year
The sea opens,
the ancient Israelites slide back to Egypt
like Michael Jackson doing the moonwalk
Freedom to slavery
That’s the real story
One minute you’re dancing hallelujah,
shaking your hips to the j-j-jangle of the prophetesses’ tambourines,
the next you’re knee deep in brown...
We will wash our hands twice during our seder: now, with no blessing, to get us ready for the rituals to come; and then again later, we’ll wash again with a blessing, preparing us for the meal.
Too often during our daily lives we don’t stop and take the moment to prepare for whatever it is we’re about to do. Let's pause as we wash our hands to consider what we hope to get out of our evening together.
The 1951 Refugee Convention clearly states that host countries must permit asylum seekers and refugees to engage in both wage-earning and self-employment. According to asylum experts, “the right [to work] has been recognized to be so essential to the realization of other rights that without the right to work, all other rights are meaningless.” Even with these legal protections, though, outside of the United States,...
A Jewish community that has lived in Kochi, India for more than 2,000 years starts preparing for Passover right after Hanukkah. They believe that if a Jewish woman were to make even the slightest mistake in Passover preparation during the 100 days before the actual seder, then the lives of her husband and her children would be endangered. They keep special rooms that hold all of the Passover...
A HEBREW LESSON ON THE ROOT-WORD S-D-R
How is the festival meal of Passover different from the meal eaten at other holiday celebrations? For one thing, the Passover repast is consumed in the context of a scripted dramatic arrangement, a (seder), from the Hebrew verb (le-sadder), "to arrange."
There are, to be sure, similar arrangements in Jewish ritual and textual life. The daily prayer book, which...
All Who Are Hungry
The Power of Choice
The Haggadah is asking which of two categories we fall under: Are we here because we are hungry, or are we here because we are needy?
"Need" is defined as "awareness of a lack."
Freedom is not simply something that's "nice" to have; rather it is a necessary factor to our very being. As much as we need food to exist, we...
The Paschal Lamb reminds us that the Holy One, praised be God, passed over the houses of our ancestors in Egypt.
The Matzah is to remind us that before the dough our ancestors prepared for bread had time to rise, God revealed the might, power and presence of God unto them and redeemed them.
The Bitter Herbs are to remind us that the Egyptians embittered the lives of our ancestors in...
1. God, have You forgotten me?
I have forgotten how to breathe.
The air here is tight around me
Each day presses in and tomorrow feels impossibly far away
I long to feel Your wide, wide love
To feel hard earth beneath my cracked feet, shade on my bent back, cool mist on my sun-scorched skin
I long to hear sweet words
For respite from the sting that forces...
With the fourth cup of wine we remember God’s promise to take the Israelites as God’s own people. Just as God took on the Israelite people, we pledge to look out for the different members of our community. As citizens of the United States we share certain rights of citizenship, such as a social safety net, equal access to employment, student aid, and jury service. However, these rights are...
More Clips from Repair the World
On Passover, the Jewish community asks ourselves, friends, family and neighbors, What makes this night different from all other nights? Four Jewish racial justice leaders shared their answers.
"As Jews, we remember and we cannot let injustice happen again in this country. This is our moment to bend the moral arc and to move racial justice work forward through advocacy, activism, and engagement." --...