Gentrification: Land of the Left Behind
People, by nature, want to have it all: an affordable home close to exciting attractions and amenities located in a neighborhood full of culture and like-minded people. Often times in booming cities, this perfect recipe comes at the cost of a select group.
A pattern has been created, slowly “building up” a neighborhood by gradually phasing out what was originally there. This is presented in the media under the disguise of “flipping” a neighborhood and rejuvenating a drab area that’s screaming for a makeover and a little elbow grease. Yet, with every renovation and new business, a struggling community finds it harder to meet the demands of the rising cost of living.
The low prices for properties in cities where the cost of living is increasing attract opportunistic buyers who prey on areas that are typically high in crime and low in wealth, which are usually occupied by people of color. The ugly truth is that these neighborhoods are underserved and neglected, creating a perfect storm.
When you’re left out of the equation for economic prosperity, the grass is far from green. Gentrification claims many perks such as innovative restaurants, access to healthier food, and even higher safety rates- at least at first glance. But these advantages don’t factor in the existing community.
Gentrification does not account for the socio-economic conditions, culture, or needs of the current community. Close-knit communities of color cannot survive against corporate greed. The organic bakery and hot yoga studio on the street mean nothing when you have a family to feed and the nearest grocery store is one you can’t afford.
This phenomenon is one that can be seen not only across the country. Neighborhoods like Harlem and our very own Jefferson Street have become victim to such a cycle, slowly but surely erasing history- our legacy.
There is no doubt that the act of gentrifying is political and rooted in a systematic form of racism. Neighborhoods consisting of a particular racial and socioeconomic group were intentionally created. For black people, generations of housing policies and restrictions led to the creation of such neighborhoods.
By picking and choosing when the livelihood of people of color hold worth, and going as far to displace those same people for a dollar, perfectly illustrates the attitude this country holds towards black people and other people of color.
This isn’t being written in hopes of changing the world or even to take back the neighborhood. Rather, the purpose is to raise awareness and protect the remnants of history that remain.