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"...a liberal who's been mugged..."
December 5, 2008 7:28 PM   Subscribe

A discussion about "white fear" and "black crime"

Late one night last summer, on 17th and Euclid in Washington, DC, white liberal blogger Brian Beutler was shot three times by a young black man who asked him to hand over his cell phone. (He's fine now, mostly, although he doesn't have a spleen anymore.) Subsequent discussions on various blogs focused on gun control, crime, and gentrification in DC.

In a post shortly after the event, Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote: For the first time in my life, I have some sense of what the white guy who is ignorant of all things about black people is thinking when he drives through certain parts of town and rolls up his window.

Today, Coates and Beutler chatted on Bloggingheads.
posted by neroli (91 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

 
So, it turns out, I've been totally mispronouncing "Ta-Nehisi",
posted by Horace Rumpole at 7:57 PM on December 5, 2008


Today, Coates and Beutler chatted on Bloggingheads.

This is the real link.
posted by Jaltcoh at 8:20 PM on December 5, 2008


The "white fear"/"black crime" focus is a bit overwrought. Statistically, there are some very unsafe places in Washington and bearing that in mind doesn't make a person unreasonable. I'm concerned that reducing it to a caricature of a white guy flipping the locks on his car doors driving through Columbia Heights causes people to lose sight of the fact that people that live in that neighborhood have as much or more to fear than someone just passing through. Some criminals probably do target white people - though I read that as more of noticing someone out of place and likely to be disoriented and unfamiliar with contextual clues. I'm not convinced that casting victim and mugger (or shooter) as apparently equal elements in some sort of paradigm effectively summarizes what's going on. I'm more concerned about an effective police response, as (IIRC) thus far DC has been out of line with the rest of the country in terms of having had a less dramatic decline in violent crime.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 8:24 PM on December 5, 2008


I wonder how much crime is going to go up as a result of the economic collapse. I mean, if unemployment does reach 9% like some people are predicting, it could get pretty messy out there in general.
posted by delmoi at 8:27 PM on December 5, 2008 [1 favorite]


Today, Coates and Beutler chatted on Bloggingheads.

Oh. I thought they were telemarketers.
posted by dhammond at 8:32 PM on December 5, 2008


And to add on my 2 cents about DC generally, I feel safe in my slowly gentrifying neighborhood. In more than 5 years in DC, I've had a handful of run-ins with some of the local assholes. So far, I've kept my money and my dignity and avoided any injury. The most recent one was about a month ago: I was walking down 11th street NW at maybe 10 PM and a woman sitting on the stoop of her townhouse-turned-apartments stood up and said to me "You in the wrong neighborhood." It took me a minute to figure out what to say, and I finally chose "I bet that burns you up." That was it. I'm not sure my experience is exactly representative, as I'm a slightly larger-than-average guy and I usually carry a folding knife if I'm walking alone at night.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 8:32 PM on December 5, 2008


said to me "You in the wrong neighborhood." It took me a minute to figure out what to say, and I finally chose "I bet that burns you up."

Wow, what an awkward response. I grew up in Baltimore, spent a bunch of time in D.C. and have the exact same thing said to me on a number of occasions. In every single instance, I've found that when someone says that to you in that context, they're almost always trying to do you a favor.
posted by dhammond at 8:39 PM on December 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


they're almost always trying to do you a favor.

Her tone, her crossed arms, and the muted laughter of the people sitting with her said otherwise.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 8:41 PM on December 5, 2008


Ah, I've seen that too...though the phrase they used was a bit more pointed in that case.
posted by dhammond at 8:47 PM on December 5, 2008


Wow, Inspector.Gadget. This as an example of dignity makes me sad. What, you begrudge your neighbor her home? You hope that people sitting on their stoops know better than to talk to you? You want a badge of some sort for bravely living in a "slowly gentrifying" neighborhood? You took this as a threat and not a warning? Are you one of those people who are confused when you hear people discussing gentrification as a not-necessarily positive term?
posted by desuetude at 8:47 PM on December 5, 2008 [5 favorites]


Considering that the U-6 unemployment rate is at 12.5%, I wouldn't be surprised.
posted by amuseDetachment at 9:01 PM on December 5, 2008


Are you one of those people who are confused when you hear people discussing gentrification as a not-necessarily positive term?

Are you one of those people who are off their meds? I don't begrudge her anything and I'm perfectly open to talking to people. What I don't appreciate is efforts at bullying, embarassing, or annoying people because a person believes someone else doesn't have the right to walk down the sidewalk because they look out of place. I don't really care that my neighborhood is slowly gentrifying - I've certainly contributed nothing to it - but given the sort of cheek-by-jowl nature of widely different DC neighborhoods I thought it was useful to place my experience living here in the context of others' experiences.

You took this as a threat and not a warning?

Not a threat, but an attempt to make me embarassed or stammer or otherwise react negatively. I'm able to distinguish between a friendly caution and a challenge. It's exactly the sort of dickhead behavior that goes on with high school bullying leveled at people who that person feels don't fit in in a particular block.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 9:08 PM on December 5, 2008 [15 favorites]


Anyway, returning to crime specifically, I'm surprised that the DC government hasn't come up with anything better lately to reduce violent crime than an unconstitutional gun ban and a (likely) unconstitional checkpoint program. I'm not sure why this and some similar but less publicized over-the-top measures have been the focal point of policing in the last few years.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 9:20 PM on December 5, 2008 [2 favorites]


I hate to be the one to bust out the potentially-offensive-comment, but I'm sorry, Inspector.Gadget:

"I don't really care that my neighborhood is slowly gentrifying - I've certainly contributed nothing to it"

By moving into said neighborhood you are, indeed, contributing to gentrification.

What really bothers me, on the discussion of race/racism/gentrification &c., about many so-called 'liberal' people is the total incapacity to admit that you too are the problem. No, you are not absolved because you think you "understand", and I hate to say it, but if you think that woman was being a "bully", it seems to me like you need to check your cultural sensitivity barometer. It's out of whack, and so is your attitude towards your neighborhood and neighbors.
posted by nonmerci at 9:22 PM on December 5, 2008 [5 favorites]


"I don't really care that my neighborhood is slowly gentrifying - I've certainly contributed nothing to it"

By moving into said neighborhood you are, indeed, contributing to gentrification.


What is it that you know about Inspector.Gadget that makes you say this? Are you saying that anyone who moves into a neighborhood is automatically contributing to gentrification? Or is it something that you are assuming about him that causes you to say that? Is it because he has Internet access?
posted by grouse at 9:31 PM on December 5, 2008 [4 favorites]


By moving into said neighborhood you are, indeed, contributing to gentrification.


I've really done nothing to change the character of the neighborhood, which is rapidly becoming a primarily Latino neighborhood after being (AFAIK) historically an African-American one. Also, I was pointing out that I hadn't contributed to the neighborhood's character either way - not writing "contributed nothing" to pre-emptively fend off charges that I'm responsible for gentrification. I'm statistically insignificant. My reason for writing that was the overall theme of gentrification as improving neighborhoods/warding off crime reflected in the (mediocre) Wikipedia article on DC crime as linked above.

No, you are not absolved because you think you "understand", and I hate to say it, but if you think that woman was being a "bully", it seems to me like you need to check your cultural sensitivity barometer. It's out of whack, and so is your attitude towards your neighborhood and neighbors.

I don't pretend to "understand" anything. When a person says to me, as a challenge rather than a suggestion, "You don't belong here", and I respond somewhat snidely and keep walking, that reflects more on that person than it does on me. In any case, as you weren't present, critiquing on my subjective experience in that case is likely to contribute little if anything to an overall discussion of gentrification - which I'm not particularly interested in, as I'm more interested in the discussion of crime and city government in the context of this story. If you're looking for a place to flog heartless gentrifiers, do it another thread (MeTa?) and to another person, because you're grasping at straws. Let's stop the derail.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 9:32 PM on December 5, 2008 [5 favorites]


By moving into said neighborhood you are, indeed, contributing to gentrification.

Ah, so white = gentrification = bad. Thanks for clearing that up, nonmerci.
posted by dhammond at 9:33 PM on December 5, 2008 [23 favorites]


What, you begrudge your neighbor her home? You hope that people sitting on their stoops know better than to talk to you?

Wow, we got totally different things from Gadget's post. 'Cause it sounded to me not like Gadget begrudged that woman her home, but rather that she very clearly begrudged him his home.
posted by Justinian at 9:33 PM on December 5, 2008 [12 favorites]


Ah, so white = gentrification = bad. Thanks for clearing that up, nonmerci.

I must admit that this is how nonmerci's post reads to me as well. White people go home!
posted by Justinian at 9:36 PM on December 5, 2008 [7 favorites]


There's a little test: if it would be bullying if you reversed the race of the dominant population, then it's bullying no matter who's saying it to whom. If the poor rural whites tell the new black middle-class family who moved in, "You're in the wrong part of town" that's bullying. So it's bullying the other way around, too.
posted by LucretiusJones at 9:43 PM on December 5, 2008 [6 favorites]


Possibly relevant. I'm going to pick sleeping over watching the Coates/Beutler discussion in its entirety (tonight), but in the DC neighborhoods/crime/government context I'm curious as to what, if anything, both panelists would make of it.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 9:50 PM on December 5, 2008


Sorry, not relevant at all. Here's the right link: Warning: college newspaper.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 9:51 PM on December 5, 2008


"caricature of a white guy flipping the locks on his car doors driving through Columbia Heights"

I can assure you that if this is a dangerous neighbourhood, the black guys are flipping their locks too. In fact, if they live in that neighbourhood, then they are more likely to have the street sense to lock their doors as soon as they get in their car.

And anyone who says "you're in the wrong part of town" and their friends laugh, is certainly not being friendly. At the very least they are being obnoxious. In my experience, you will find such people lots of places, no matter what the race or quality of the place. I seem to remember quite a few in high school. And you will find nice, friendly people in such places too, though don't go expecting them to run out of their houses to shake your hand.
posted by eye of newt at 11:31 PM on December 5, 2008 [3 favorites]


I'm really sorry the three of you who negatively responded to my comment have no concept of gentrification. It's unfortunate, from a community like MetaFilter, but not uncommon.

I've learned that having conversations about race, even as a white person with other white people, often ends in the kind of hyperbolic hand-wringing thus far exhibited. As such, I'll bow out, as I'm apparently nearly causing a "derail" (Oh no! A post intrinsically about race? We better not talk about racially charged issues brought up by other posters within the self-same post!)

You are free to draw your own conclusions from my comment, but remember that I made no equational statement, so you might want to refrain from reducing my thought process into a simple X = Y = Z. I know that's the easiest trolling method, and I'd for one HATE to deny trolls their material, but nonetheless, being willfully ignorant or purposefully provocative isn't at all conducive to an intelligent discussion about race, gentrification or any other subject.

Lastly, I'd posit that if the aforementioned poster DIDN'T want to make this about race & gentrification, he'd have kindly refrained from posting about his 'mean, bully' black female neighbor who makes him feel like an outsider in his 'slowly gentrifying neighborhood'.

Unfortunately, this post doesn't offer much insight on its subject, so it invites people like Inspector.Gadget to make thinly-veiled racist comments about his neighbors. Some of you are okay with that; some of us are not.
posted by nonmerci at 12:08 AM on December 6, 2008 [3 favorites]


When you're asked to clarify your comments and you can only respond by striking out with accusations of "willfully ignorant, purposefully provocative" trolling and thinly-veiled racism, it's probably a good thing to bow out of the conversation.
posted by grouse at 12:32 AM on December 6, 2008 [11 favorites]


By moving into said neighborhood you are, indeed, contributing to gentrification. [...]
I'm really sorry the three of you who negatively responded to my comment have no concept of gentrification.


You have no information on which to base such a claim on save his (presumed) race and his internet connection. Are you sure that you yourself know what gentrification is?
posted by kid ichorous at 1:03 AM on December 6, 2008 [4 favorites]


I can't tell if Inspector.Gadget is black or white, and he didn't say if his neighbour was either. He did say that the neighbourhood was a primarily Latino neighborhood after being (AFAIK) historically an African-American one so maybe he's a black guy, and his neighbour is Latino. Am I missing some cultural subtlies here?

Also, it seems to me that it's possible to say "You in the wrong neighborhood" both in a friendly manner, and in a menacing manner, and as we weren't there, it seems reasonable to take Inspector.Gadget's take on the situation, doesn't it?

On topic, white fear sounds a lot like, I dunno, is there a term for women being scared of being raped? Women do get raped, and it's wrong, but all men aren't rapists, and all men aren't evil, and yet sometimes, when we're talking about how to prevent rape and reduce risks, the conversation turns in the wrong direction and guys get cranky about being blamed for something they'd never do.
posted by b33j at 1:05 AM on December 6, 2008 [6 favorites]


nonmerci:

Unfortunately, this post doesn't offer much insight on its subject, so it invites people like Inspector.Gadget to make thinly-veiled racist comments about his neighbors. Some of you are okay with that; some of us are not.

I live at 17th & Euclid. I'm white. Let me make explicit what Inspector.Gadget is afraid to for fear of getting shit from smug assholes like you: white people in neighborhoods like mine are targeted by black shitheads and criminals simply because we're white. (Oddly enough, this is actually more of an hispanic and white neighborhood than a black one.) This isn't interpretation borne of ingrained racism or mistaken attribution of intent. It's just what is.

I'm an obviously muscular, athletic man who knows my way around this neighborhood (the house on the northwest corner of 17th & Euclid is particularly notorious and I would never venture by there in the wee hours) and catch just the kind of reaction Inspector.Gadget described all the time. It doesn't take more than a few times for me to be out on my evening walk, find a group of young black males approaching from the opposite direction, and have one of them deliberately mirror my attempts at courteously navigating around each other so as to keep himself directly in my path and forcing me to push him aside in order to pass to notice a pattern.

About two months ago I was doing my exercises in a public park one night when I noticed four young black males walk past on 18th St. about fifty yards away from me. Why did I notice them? Why is it that these four drew my attention when none of the numerable other young black males who passed by that (or any other) night did? (Or, for that matter, the numerable drunk white fratholes and yupsters or young hispanic males?) It's difficult to say other than that experience has allowed me to develop a keen sense for what does & doesn't constitute a threat. If I had to boil it down to one thing, it would probably have to be the way they were walking that set off my internal alarm. So I watched them out of the corner of my eye while continuing my exercises. As I did so, they turned off the sidewalk and cut across the block via the other end of the park, continuing behind the school/community center adjacent to me. (I was on the playground making use of the bars & platforms.) A few minutes later, I noticed one of them had doubled back and was standing near one of the four exits available to me. A couple of minutes after that, I noticed one of them had taken a position by a second of the exits. At this moment, I recognized I needed to act. As I had with me a weighted vest that resembles (and, in effect, can act very much like) body armor, I quickly threw it over my torso and began to walk backwards toward the exit closest to the sidewalk. It was at this moment that I noticed the remaining two were crouched by the stairs at the exit that was nearest me, not even thirty yards away, thereby almost having me surrounded. (I just saw the briefest glimpse of their heads as they were peeking over the concrete.) So, as I worked my way slowly toward the open exit, I stared hard first at the ones nearest me and then, deliberately, at each of the other ones in order to make sure they knew they were made, at which point the two who had been closest to me stood upright and took off running behind the school, with the other two also quickly taking off shortly thereafter. As I'd had enough excitement for one night, I began walking home when I happened upon a couple of police officers. I briefly told them what had happened. When they asked me to describe the guys, I found myself pausing and trying to think of what they were wearing, the way their hair was done, or anything that would allow me to avoid having to directly identify them by race. (Why? Hard to say.... while I usually have no problems being blunt and saying uncomfortable, unpopular things... I just couldn't.) One of the cops, apparently recognizing the distant stare and obvious discomfort on my part, filled in the silence, "Black guys, right?" "Yeah," I replied.

So then what to make of this incident? What if I hadn't been as observant? Was I targeted for robbery? I was in track pants and a tiny white t-shirt. No iPod, no cell phone, not even a watch. All I had on me was my keys. I was exercising and thus obviously not a passive and weak target... also unlikely that I was intoxicated. So why me? Because I was alone? So were the black and hispanic homeless guys strewn across the bleachers here and there at the ballfield behind me. And the bleachers were mostly in the dark and obscured from view.... I was directly beneath a giant light and quite visible from the street. So what then? Why not just more of the same of showing this white guy that he "doesn't belong" and is "in the wrong neighborhood?"
posted by ferdinand.bardamu at 1:33 AM on December 6, 2008 [20 favorites]


watching the entirety of the hour-long video from the first link made me feel good, and stimulated, and like i was learning something and getting a couple of nuanced perspectives from a couple of smart (and humble) people about a complicated thing that isn't really anybody's fault. reading the posts in comments in this thread made me feel frustrated and depressed. i'm glad i did the first part first. if you're reading the comments first and you're bummed, give the video a shot instead.
posted by radiosig at 1:55 AM on December 6, 2008 [3 favorites]


If the poor rural whites tell the new black middle-class family who moved in, "You're in the wrong part of town" that's bullying. So it's bullying the other way around, too.

It's a reflection of a degree of anger about the situation. Understandable anger, in my opinion. If you don't like, or don't want to hear that anger expressed, you might want to avoid moving into those neighbourhoods.

The phenomenon isn't based strictly on race though. For years, we've had Welsh nationalists burning English holiday homes, because the local economy pays low wages which makes the cost of holiday accommodation a snip for people from outside the area. However, this then drives up the prices, rendering homes unaffordable for the children of the local population working in low income agricultural jobs. The same issues have been played out in rural communities all around Southern England as the cost of homes in London became more expensive, and people on high city salaries decided they could get more for their money if they were prepared to commute.

Now, burning someone's holiday cottage might be bullying. Sharing your views with them about how unwelcome they are, as an outsider, impacting on the local economy might make you uncomfortable but it hardly counts as bullying in my book.

And whether or not Inspector.Gadget is personally gentrifying or not, for the indigenous community, he'd certainly appear representative of that trend, and consequently appear as a symbol of the forces that are (or were) driving up rents and property values, making the neighbourhood unaffordable for the poorer, indigenous community -- even if IG is personally just as poor as they are. To pretend otherwise, seems to me to be either disingenous, deliberately obtuse, or an the very least, lacking in the kind of sensitivity that would contribute to good community relations.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 2:00 AM on December 6, 2008 [9 favorites]


And whether or not Inspector.Gadget is personally gentrifying or not, for the indigenous community, he'd certainly appear representative of that trend, and consequently appear as a symbol of the forces that are (or were) driving up rents and property values, making the neighbourhood unaffordable for the poorer, indigenous community -- even if IG is personally just as poor as they are. To pretend otherwise, seems to me to be either disingenous, deliberately obtuse, or an the very least, lacking in the kind of sensitivity that would contribute to good community relations.

So... should some poor non-indigenous peoples relocate to my affluent parents' neighborhood and allow their properties to become rundown, park their beat-up clunkers on the street, and otherwise carry on as a symbol representing forces contributing to making the neighborhood's property values decrease and otherwise being a drain upon the cachet of the community, then you would find the burning of the non-indigenous peoples' homes by the indigenous to be an expression of "understandable anger" and declare that those who decried such bullying ought become more sensitive and thus more able to contribute to good community relations? Right? Because if those poor people didn't want their houses burned, they just ought not have moved somewhere they didn't belong.
posted by ferdinand.bardamu at 2:56 AM on December 6, 2008 [11 favorites]


God I hate people who decry gentrification like it's some sort of ethnic cleansing of America's pure and noble underclass. Those poor, helpless black people didn't always live in those cities, you know. And there's nothing to say that they must continue living there, either. Now, to suggest that gentrification is inherently bad for a group of people is not an unreasonable point - but to suggest that those doing the gentrifying should not be able to actively seek to improve a city neighborhood or purchase an architecturally interesting building and renovate it because - uh, well, because think of the poor people! - is patronizing and condescending undergraduate bullshit and has no relevance in the real world. How do neighborhoods and cities provide services like schools, police, maintenance, street lights, sidewalk repair, sewage, etc? Taxes. Ok, where do you get taxes from? Einstein, any guesses? From rich people. So you've got to work all the elements together, bringing in rich people by building and renovating attractive buildings, improving neighborhoods that need many services to handle dense populations of people. What to do with the poor people who used to live in those areas? ASK THEM. Some of them are old-timers who begrudge the fact that their neighborhood has/is changing. But a great many of them don't particularly care where they live. They want to make some money and live in a house. If they don't like moving because it will mess up their drug distribution scheme, or because gentrification means more police surveillance, then fuck em. But if they're honest people who are looking for work, most cities have vast resources to help them, including affordable housing in the gentrifying neighborhoods that is usually laid aside specifically to keep people in the neighborhood in the neighborhood. If that's not the case in your city, then let's make a stink about THAT, and about poor city schools, and not about some guy on Metafilter who got a stinky look from a pure, honest, lonely, noble, true, disenfranchised local and made a snide remark back. It's childish.
posted by billysumday at 4:49 AM on December 6, 2008 [18 favorites]


And to the post and the video:

Clearly if you are a 28 year old skinny white guy/gal who moves into a predominantly minority neighborhood in a big city known for crime, then you're sort of making a deal, right? The tradeoff is you get a place that is a little cheaper, a little grittier, than the nice condos a few blocks away, but it's also a little dangerous and you might get mugged. If that wasn't the case, then your rent would be higher. And until you grow out of your fascination with The Wire and/or until you start getting a better paycheck, you keep living in the more dangerous neighborhood and try to keep your head down. Moving out of the city isn't an option because your job/friends are in that area, plus you like the vibrancy of the area, the architecture, the energy. This scenario just doesn't strike me as morally wrong on the part of the young white person, as some people seem to believe. In fact, I'm sure some people who decry gentrification also shake their heads at the injustice of white flight from those same neighborhoods in the 60s and 70s. This Beutler guy seems like a really reasonable, cool guy, and seems almost more confused/dismayed at what happened to him than anything else. He also seems to realize that he doesn't live in Georgetown, and that a mugging was something that had a reasonable chance of happening in the neighborhood in which he lives. Also, I feel like Ta-Nehisi is just sort of stating the obvious, and it's interesting that it took a blogger getting shot before he realized that a white person in a black neighborhood may actually be a more likely target of crime than a black person in a black neighborhood.
posted by billysumday at 5:18 AM on December 6, 2008


Oh, and one last thought, after having read through the comments on Ta-Nehisi's post. Being a skinny, white, cowboy-shirted 28-year old MALE is still vastly preferable to being a woman of any size, age, or color in many cities late at night, and that's a damn shame. I've never been (overly) scared to walk home at night in the cities in which I've lived (Chicago, NYC, and DC), but I have on occasion passed some group of dudes who sort of glowered at me, I glowered back, kept my head down and kept walking, and thought, "damn I'm glad I'm not a woman right now." I don't know where that comes from, really, or what that says about me, or what exactly I saw in those men that made me think they'd do something heinous to a woman but not to me, but there it is. Also, travelling overseas made me realize that being a woman puts you at a disadvantage no matter where you are in the world, and the women who are cool with travelling solo around South America or the Middle East are truly badass studs who seriously know how to contain and handle their fear.
posted by billysumday at 5:40 AM on December 6, 2008 [4 favorites]


This thread is a fail. With Beat-around-the-bush logic like "you don't know if inspector gadget is white", describing white anger as understanble anger if blacks move in, defending gentrification. This is racism the bleeding-heart-hippy way. I'm glad I don't have the time for this shit anymore.
posted by Student of Man at 6:51 AM on December 6, 2008 [2 favorites]


But a great many of them don't particularly care where they live.

I'm sorry billy, but it doesn't sound like you've actually worked poor families who have housing issues. Most of the families I've worked with have long standing ties to the neighborhood they live in; they grew up there, went to public school there, have extended family around there, pray there, etc. Some due to necessity will be willing to move to a different part of the city if that's only housing available to them but at some point after their lives have stabilized they'll likely make their way back. We always tried to place families close to their social networks, you try not to displace a families to an unknown areas because the chances of the family succeeding are far greater if they're somewhere they known and more importantly somewhere they want to be.

And honestly, man, if some lady on her stoop says to me "You in the wrong neighborhood" when I'm out the neighborhoods working (which has happened), I stop and talk to her. I'll say, "Nah, I'm good, been working up this way for a while now. How about yourself, you been on this block long?" Then I'll stand there and let her tell me stories. I'll let her introduce me to her lady friends. Why is that important? Because all the kids on the block will be watching all that go down, they'll see that I'm cool with the old heads on the block. And this way, if they fuck with me at some later date, I know all their moms' names. You think mom is going to be cool with her son fucking with the nice social worker man who comes on the block to help the family down the street?

I think some of the comments in this thread presuppose hostility where I would wager there is actually just wariness. Wariness can be turned into friendship with just a couple minutes of conversation. Why is there so much stress being put on keeping tough, stand-offish facades around your black neighbors if you live in a lower income neighborhood? You don't have to be walking around glowering at people all the time if you start to build up your social capital in the neighborhood by making alliances with families who live there.

Being a skinny, white, cowboy-shirted 28-year old MALE is still vastly preferable to being a woman of any size, age, or color in many cities late at night, and that's a damn shame.

This is not in my experience. I have worked in the field with black women who part crowds of corner huslters like the Red Sea just by using their voices.
posted by The Straightener at 7:14 AM on December 6, 2008 [19 favorites]


I would like to know what I am supposed to do if I'm considering moving to a neighborhood where my presence advances the process gentrification? Should I not move there? Move there but reduce my income so I can't drive up property values or the prices of tangible goods? Isn't the opposite of gentrification a kind of voluntary race or class segregation?
posted by R_Nebblesworth at 7:20 AM on December 6, 2008


Oh, and one last thought, after having read through the comments on Ta-Nehisi's post. Being a skinny, white, cowboy-shirted 28-year old MALE is still vastly preferable to being a woman of any size, age, or color in many cities late at night, and that's a damn shame.

Definitely. And the fucked-up thing is that the sort of negative shit women deal with in DC's bad areas is calculated to be nearly invisible to the casual observer. I've walked through a slightly rougher area north of me with women at a few different times and nothing has happened, but a few women I know have walked through that area alone and gotten everything from continual wolf-whistling to guys pulling over in their cars and trying to proposition them. I dunno what sort of fucking primitive mentality that reflects but it's been enough to wear on a woman I know that was comfortable traveling (sometimes) by herself through remote areas in Central America (where, incidentally, she encountered the same sort of behavior but absent much of the menace). I'm not sure how to combat this bullshit, but I definitely keep an eye out for it now.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 7:25 AM on December 6, 2008


Isn't the opposite of gentrification a kind of voluntary race or class segregation?
I don't think so, because I think most gentrifiers (and I have been in that category) don't have much meaningful interaction with longstanding residents of the neighborhood. They don't seek out meaningful interaction, in part because it's sometimes uncomfortable to interact with people who don't necessarily think you're the awesomest thing that has ever happened to the neighborhood and in part because it can be difficult to interact with people with whom you have very little in common. They also often think of longstanding residents and their culture as a problem, rather than a valid part of the neighborhood. I think that gentrification often accompanies voluntary race and/or class segregation, just at closer proximity.

I don't know. I agree that this discussion has been a bit of a disaster. It's too bad, because this is a topic that's pretty interesting to me, as a white woman who grew up in D.C. and moved to Mount Pleasant in the mid-90s. But it is one that tends to bring out the defensive side of white people, especially young urban white people who aren't rich and don't understand why they're being blamed for gentrification.
posted by craichead at 7:34 AM on December 6, 2008 [2 favorites]


I'm surprised that the DC government hasn't come up with anything better lately to reduce violent crime than an unconstitutional gun ban

You do realize that the hand gun ban sat in place for 30 years before its opponents felt thet the Supremes were friendly enough that they could win their constitutionality case, right? That's not exactly a "lately" sort of solution.

What really bothers me, on the discussion of race/racism/gentrification &c., about many so-called 'liberal' people is the total incapacity to admit that you too are the problem.

When are we going to get over the concept that people of X race moving into a neighborhood is a problem? Who gives a damn if white people or black people move into a neighborhood? Neighborhood demographics change, that's a fact of life in the city.

Have you ever been to the five points in New York? You are unlikely to find the Dead Rabbit gang when stepping off of the Chinatown bus any more. Georgetown used to be the shittiest mill slum in DC. The houses there were built to be rooming houses. Rich folks started to buy up the rooming houses and use them as single family houses and now you can't find a pot to piss in there for less than a million (exaggeration, but not by much). All of DC East of the Anacostia used to be a segregated, wealthy white haven, and now we live in the Chocolate City.

There is no problem. "Gentrification" is a racist, classist term.
posted by Pollomacho at 7:36 AM on December 6, 2008 [6 favorites]


When are we going to get over the concept that people of X race moving into a neighborhood is a problem? Who gives a damn if white people or black people move into a neighborhood? Neighborhood demographics change, that's a fact of life in the city.
The people who live there give a damn, because when richer people move in, they often get priced out of the neighborhood. Even if there are plans in place to allow them, personally, to stay, the community gets disrupted, because their kids can't get their own places in the neighborhood when they move out, or relatives and friends who move to town can't move there. Longstanding residents have often worked very hard to create formal and informal institutions, and those institutions and networks suffer when the communities are displaced.

It's true that this is inevitable and has happened before. But that's not a lot of comfort to people who have worked out childcare arrangements with the people across the street and now don't have anyone to look after their kids when they're at work because the family across the street had to move when their building was sold for condos. There are real people here, living real lives. Their problems and concerns shouldn't be brushed off so easily. And you don't have to demonize the new people in order to acknowledge the problems associated with gentrification.

Finally, race matters in D.C. I am truly confused about how anyone who knows anything about D.C., and who is aware of how race and power have always intersected in that city, could ask why it matters whether someone is white.
posted by craichead at 7:48 AM on December 6, 2008 [2 favorites]


He's fine now, mostly, although he doesn't have a spleen anymore

That must be a terrible handicap for a political blogger, though.
posted by Grangousier at 8:00 AM on December 6, 2008 [5 favorites]


and I usually carry a folding knife if I'm walking alone at night.

Jesus. That and an empty wallet will get you killed, you know?
posted by fourcheesemac at 8:05 AM on December 6, 2008


The Straightener said:
And honestly, man, if some lady on her stoop says to me "You in the wrong neighborhood" when I'm out the neighborhoods working (which has happened), I stop and talk to her. I'll say, "Nah, I'm good, been working up this way for a while now. How about yourself, you been on this block long?" Then I'll stand there and let her tell me stories.

Yeah. That's basically what I (white, middle class professional) do, and what my husband does even more than I do (I'm a little deaf so most of the time when people make remarks to me I just smile amiably, because I have no idea what they said). It's why everybody in my mixed, fairly tough Philadelphia neighborhood knows us and looks out for us.

But if I saw a tough, big, white guy walking down the street in my neighborhood keeping his eyes to myself, my first thought would be that he's an undercover cop, and while I wouldn't say "You in the wrong neighborhood," I might say it under my breath to my next door neighbor, and we'd chuckle. And if it was a white guy and a black guy in a American car, we'd know it was cops, and we'd look to see who they were watching, because that's one of our chief sources of entertainment around here.
posted by Peach at 8:11 AM on December 6, 2008 [3 favorites]


Jesus. That and an empty wallet will get you killed, you know?

It's a Plan B. If somebody pulls a weapon and wants my wallet, they get it and I can later laugh at them for risking arrest over ten bucks. If money isn't the focus, however, that's far better than being empty-handed.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 8:12 AM on December 6, 2008


Gentrification is such a tricky thing. The concept of home is strong - home is where your sister lives upstairs and your cousin around the corner. I have been watching this play in Chicago neighborhoods for years.

I hear people still talk of the "old neighborhood" they felt they were thrust out of in the years of white flight with nostalgia tinged with anger - "us vs them". It's the same tone you hear in Serbs,Croats and Bosnians and Israelis and Palestinians as they were forced to leave what they considered home. It's there when an indigenous group had to leave to may way for settlers. It's deep seated shit that gets passed down thru generations.

So a neighborhood has good access to transportation and cool old buildings. And $800 a month rents. As soon as hipsters are spotted landlords add paint, light fixtures and new cabinets and rent jumps to $1800. You can't pay so you got to move, farther from the subway, away from your sister who could watch the kids at a moment's notice and your cousin who let you borrow his car. It sucks and there is no easy answer.

Billy Sumday, most cities do not have programs that make access to affordable housing easily obtainable - if there is you still have to move where they tell you to go.

There is just something within the human psyche that holds the concept of home dear and resists outside pressure to change. I understand this, but years ago I also was a young white punk with no money and less understanding of all the ins, outs and what have yous.

So central cities must become much more diverse and dense, which can only be accomplished with a great effort to be aware of where everyone is coming from and willingness to accept our neighbors as friends and put up with (or at least keep a wary eye on) their hoodlum cousins that stop by every so often.
posted by readery at 8:16 AM on December 6, 2008 [2 favorites]


I've lived (i.e. moved to) three gentrifying neighbourhoods in three large cities over the years, and in my experience the main flashpoint between residents new and old has always been income/class-based, rather than racial (YMMV). The pre-existing locals didn't seem to give much of a shit what colour you were, they just didn't like the fact that their rents were going up and affordable neighbourhood stores and restaurants were being pushed out by fancy pastry shops and wine bars.

On a lighter note, I think I've posted this in pretty much every MeFi gentrification thread:

Shitty Neighborhood Rallies Against Asshole Developer
posted by you just lost the game at 8:37 AM on December 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


And you know what? For the first time maybe ever BillySumday and I are on the same exact page.

"Gentrification" is a biased, ugly word for something that is *not* inherently bad for poor people in general, or urban minority poor people in particular. It (by which I mean economic and cultural deveopment) is, arguably, often very good for poor people, on balance, if conducted with serious personal and civil concern for longtime residents and a well resourced effort at giving voice to the community's concerns and meeting them as a condition for moving forward with development.

The word "indigenous" is used a little freely above (and in my view inappropriate in the extreme to name a relationship between a poor individual in a wealthy society and her/his generationally compelled conditions of abjection). There is no comparison between, say, a university expanding its campus into a historically working-class and minority community up the road, and the genocide of indigenous peoples in the new world in the 15th-20th centuries. (The true comparison here is to slavery, and its lasting social and intergenerational traumas, some of which are summoned in the image of urban African American poor people being summoned willy nilly in this thread.)

So "indigenous" used casually as above is another biased term. No one would *choose* to join (or to be born into) the condition of "indigeneity" on offer in East St. Louis or DC's bad neighborhoods, if offered the option to have better schools, health care, services, and living conditions and less crime, disease, addiction, brutality, and alienation. The problem of poverty -- and it is a problem in our society, not a noble condition, which is not to say that poverty denies a person dignity, but simply and truthfully that poverty *costs* people their dignity -- cannot be addressed by idealizing it as culture or essentializing it as an effect of racial differences. Losing your dignity is a sure cause for anger, depression, and aggression, in an encounter or over a century or more.

Inspector.Gadget and that woman on the stoop aren't different species (and may I point out we are all assuming she's black because she was represented in IG's post as speaking in African American Vernacular English -- the perfectly formed copular deletion of "You [x] in the wrong neighborhood . . ." They're both human beings, who were born with functionally equivalent cognitive equipment but in radically different cultural and political-economic and ecological and social conditions. Granted that a streetcorner is no place for a consciousness-raising exercise when one feels threatened by an immediate confrontation, the *only* way past this shit is for IG and that woman to find some way to talk to each other. And someone has to take the initiative and make it happen. I sincerely suspect that there are people who are leading such efforts in that very neighborhood -- churches, activist, community organizers, maybe even some politicians and business people. (Go find the Obama organizers -- I bet they're findable.) And I also bet they'd love the help. But the only real burden of privilege is to take some kind of initiative to make things better for everyone so there's more empathy and more tolerance and more friendship on all sides. Because that is how you get more justice, more resources, more peace, more progress, and all the good things hiding under the smear of "gentrification." As an individual you may feel powerless and overmatched by the existing threats -- of course you do. So organize, dammit. Or carry a folding knife and takes your chances.

Don't just accept the naturalization of difference. This has nothing to do with skin color except in the most trivial sense. To begin with, however, it is a real insult to people you claim to be advocating for to presume that they are "indigenous" to a debased condition of existence, and that they are too different to want the same things you do.

Also, if four guys go to each of four exits to a playground, they are diluting their only real advantage over a well built man wearing a bulletproof vest, dude. Be grateful you weren't dealing with professionals. Just giving you shit.
posted by fourcheesemac at 8:39 AM on December 6, 2008 [4 favorites]


copula deletion, not "copular," sorry
posted by fourcheesemac at 8:44 AM on December 6, 2008


(Also, I said IG and the woman on the stoop were born in "radically" different conditions; I have no way of knowing that for sure, and "radically" is probably far too strong -- simply sharing citizenship and a language gets you a long way into the process, after all.)
posted by fourcheesemac at 8:48 AM on December 6, 2008


If someone is using "gentrification" exclusively to mean "white people living in black neighborhoods," they are abusing the term. I remember being at a political meeting where I was pointed out as being a sort of advance troop for gentrification, because, although I myself was simply a poor renter in a poor part of town, the very fact that I was a white person made other white people more comfortable with the idea of moving in, and, therefore, I was contributing to the problem.

A few issues though. First, this was a neighborhood in south Minneapolis that was already 65 percent white -- working class white, but, still, predominantly white. Secondly, this discussion was happen among white activists who apparently thought it was a black neighborhood. Why? Because they saw 35 percent of the neighborhood was black, particular on busier streets where there were a lot of rental units, and just didn't register the white people who lived there. All they saw were that there were more black people than they were used to, and that made them assume the neighborhood was predominantly black, which seems to undermine their argument that a single white person will make a predominantly black neighborhood more appealing to whites -- instead, it seems like a few black people will make a predominantly white neighborhood seem black.

Finally, poor people, whatever their color, don't get a lot of choice in where they live. I was making $10 an hour working at an office supply store about seven blocks from where I rented, and I lived there because it was walking distance from my job, which saved me bus fare. Targeting poor people as being among the forces of gentrification simply because they are white does very little good for anybody. It's hard enough being poor without suggesting you are fucking up a neighborhood simply by living there. Gentrification is not about creating racial enclaves, it is about class, and you can gentrify a white working class neighborhood just as much as you can gentrify a black one.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:56 AM on December 6, 2008 [15 favorites]


Ah, so white = gentrification = bad. Thanks for clearing that up, nonmerci.

It does amaze me how people like nonmerci can think that if you don't like black people moving to your neighborhood, you're racist, but if you don't like white people moving to your neighborhood, you're merely preserving your community.

Whether such people are being dishonest about the double standard they're promoting or just ignorant of it (and I'm beginning to believe that nonmerci is more the former than the latter), they're still saying that certain types of racism are fine and dandy. Disgusting.
posted by oaf at 10:01 AM on December 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


I don't think that has anything to do with the situation in D.C., though, Astro Zombie. For particular historical reasons, there really aren't any working-class white people in D.C. proper. There are some young white people who don't have a lot of money, but they are generally post-college types who choose to live in the city and take meaningful jobs that don't pay a lot, and I don't think that's the same thing as being working-class. There are, however, lots of working-class white people in the suburbs. They just don't live in the city.

In D.C., there's a gentrification dynamic where middle-class black people move into working-class black urban neighborhoods, there's a gentrification dynamic where middle-class white people move into working-class black and Latino urban neighborhoods, and there has in the recent past been a gentrification dynamic where middle-class black people moved into working-class white suburbs. But there aren't working-class white people moving into working-class black urban neighborhoods, and there aren't any neighborhoods populated by white and black working-class people living together. That may be inconvenient, but it is nonetheless true.
posted by craichead at 10:15 AM on December 6, 2008 [3 favorites]


ETA: I mean there aren't any white/black integrated working-class neighborhoods in the city. The suburbs are a totally different story. In some ways, I think the D.C. suburbs might be a more interesting story than the city, although I'm really out of the loop on the 'burbs. I'm pretty out of the loop on the city, too, to be honest, because I haven't lived there in over ten years.
posted by craichead at 10:19 AM on December 6, 2008


FWIW my use of indigenous was based on how people feel about a place - I know people who can't bear the sight of Mayor Daley because his father chose to have U of I - Chicago built in the Italian neighborhood their family had lived in since coming to this country. The vitriol is palpable. People may choose to move out but they know the church is still there to have babies baptised from, the bakery where you buy the special cakes - that kind of thing. It's the place that when you run into people that are from there too, you spend an hour catching up standing by the gas station pumps or where ever.

So gentrification is a word for one aspect of this - but it's really just a word for how it affects the white middle class. I see it all over neighborhoods with fairly loose boundaries where change causes friction - right now in Chicago Chinatown's boundaries are pushing south into Bridgeport - so the old time Bridgeport white ethnics (Irish,Lthuanians and Italians) are not only putting up with rich white people moving in doing teardowns(that will stop for a while now at least) but Chinese buying buildings farther and farther south for a ready market of recent immigrants,pushing up rents for existing folks.
There is also a push from the overcrowded Mexican Little Village neighborhood into the former Jewish, Black since the sixties, Lawndale area. It's about competition for scant resources and seeing people as the OTHER.

What we need are more community activists, bringing us together, making people feel there voice can be heard. Where's that Brack Obama when you need him?
posted by readery at 10:51 AM on December 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


The Straightener, craichead and fourcheesemac have hit the nail on the head.

Moving into a poorer neighborhood does not make you an Evil Gentrifier. It's when the new residents ignore the old ones, don't associate with them, interact only with neighbors of the same race and status, that the process gains the potential for harm. Coexistence and interaction are two very different things.

My high school physics teacher lived in Northeast DC. He had lived there for decades, possibly as far back as the late sixties. As far as I know, he still does. He was a curmudgeonly old Catholic fellow with a PhD, who always struck me as crotchety but completely unassuming. Taught some notoriously difficult classes. Had a bizarre sense of humor that occasionally made itself known to his students. Every morning he would put on a backpack and a poncho and walk from his house to our all-boys Benedictine monastery school, which was right next to the Eastern Avenue border between DC and Prince George's County. The school's location and its demography often made for some very interesting race relations with the surrounding neighborhoods, but in the time that I was there the good doctor never seemed to get involved in any mishaps. He once told us, though, that when he first moved into that neighborhood, back in the 60s or 70s or whatever, he HAD dealt with racial tension -- rocks thrown through his windows, nasty remarks, etc. He didn't offer any anecdotes as to how he overcame this hostility, but I have a pretty good theory: he chose involvement in his community over isolation from it. He chose friendliness and openness over fear and mistrust. He established himself as a good neighbor, and eventually as a pillar of the neighborhood. Even in the racial firestorm of 1970s Washington, he remained open and completely unassuming toward everyone he encountered, regardless of what color they were. It was the same quality his students and colleagues saw every day as he walked through the halls, greeting people politely, helping our school secretary with her night school assignments, organizing study groups. THAT is the difference between coexistence and interaction, between a segregated war zone and an actual neighborhood. You can analyze demographics and hire sociologists and community planners all you want, but what it really comes down to is allowing the impulse of friendliness to overpower the impulse of fear. It's stupendously simple, but it's easy to forget. Isolation and poverty both breed ignorance. Ignorance breeds fear. Fear breeds anger and further isolation, and round and round we go. But you only need to break one of those links to eventually undo the chain.

I can't say I like that old dude after the ordeal of tenth grade physics, but I sure as hell respect him.
posted by Vic Morrow's Personal Vietnam at 11:07 AM on December 6, 2008 [7 favorites]


But it is one that tends to bring out the defensive side of white people, especially young urban white people who aren't rich and don't understand why they're being blamed for gentrification.

I'll cop to being a little defensive. But in my limited experience in the cities where I've lived, and in Cincinnati's Over-the-Rhine neighborhood, where I've done some research, I don't get the feeling that the people in these neighborhoods are all that angered by renovation and development in their neighborhood. In fact, many of the people welcome the changes so long as they can be assured by developers, social workers, and community activists that there will be a place for them. But many of these places are ripe for gentrification in the first place because they are underpopulated, and thus there can eventually be room for both new residents and, what's the right word? Traditional residents? I mean, yes it's tough to get it right and it's hard work - lord knows I don't have any sure fire answers - but gentrification is not a dirty word and seems preferable to cordoning off a section of the city for the "indigenous peoples" (!!). And the reason why I get defensive and snippy is because the only people lecturing me and anyone else who dares defend gentrification are, typically, people who are wealthier, whiter, and more educated than myself, and who are often living in gentrified neighborhoods themselves. Very often it's not the residents themselves who oppose that building down the street from being purchased and turned into condos, but outside do-gooders speaking on behalf of, and often in place of, the residents themselves, which just strikes me as a really unpleasant form of knowing-better-than-they patronage.
posted by billysumday at 11:09 AM on December 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


It sucks having your rent go up. But the thing is if you live anywhere and you aren't a bad neighbor, you make living there more expensive. You are increasing demand for property in that specific location. It doesn't matter who you are. It's pretty much axiomatic.

I live in Columbia Heights in DC and I while I like where I live I mostly live where I do because despite being white and college educated I do things that don't make a lot of money. If I made more money I would live someplace nicer.
posted by I Foody at 11:18 AM on December 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


if you're reading the comments first and you're bummed, give the video a shot instead.

Definitely wanted to echo this. I watched the entire video last evening and found it more than worth my time. It's nice to see such a thoughtful and honest conversation about race and crime that doesn't devolve into stereotypes, platitudes or hand-wringing. I'm glad this was posted because I was otherwise unaware of Ta-Nehisi Coates' writing, which I've found to be quite excellent so far.
posted by dhammond at 11:21 AM on December 6, 2008


And the reason why I get defensive and snippy is because the only people lecturing me and anyone else who dares defend gentrification are, typically, people who are wealthier, whiter, and more educated than myself, and who are often living in gentrified neighborhoods themselves

Exactly. Nonmerci essentially flat out called some of us a racist trolls for not thinking it a good thing that Gadget was told to leave his own neighborhood. You'll forgive me if I, a guy who has lived in some sketchy neighborhoods in Los Angeles (one of the most diverse cities in the world), refuse to take instruction in the propriety of living in mixed-race neighborhoods from a clearly upper or upper middle class ivory- tower self described "wine drinking, produce-loving, totally bitchin' chick" college student who attends a school that is virtually 100% white in a city that is barely 5% black and 5% Latino.

Yes, I'm sure that you have gathered a much fuller and complete understanding of the advantages, disadvantages, conflicts, and intricacies of living among a wide range of cultures while drinking your Pinot Noir and eating your fresh organically grown heirloom tomato Caprese salad while checking your Facebook page on your blackberry at the faculty meet and greet. Surely more than those of us who have actually lived in hugely diverse lower middle class neighborhoods in Los Angeles, D.C., NYC, or wherever and encountered these things first hand.

Please save the sanctimonious faux-learned advice for when you've actually lived there. I know what it's like. Inspector.Gadget clearly knows what it is like. You, however, do not.
posted by Justinian at 11:29 AM on December 6, 2008 [18 favorites]


Man, feels like Usenet in here all of a sudden. Sorry.
posted by Justinian at 11:29 AM on December 6, 2008


For particular historical reasons, there really aren't any working-class white people in D.C. proper.

there aren't working-class white people moving into working-class black urban neighborhoods, and there aren't any neighborhoods populated by white and black working-class people living together

Hi, I'd like to introduce myself. I'm a working-class white DC resident who lives side-by-side with working-class black people. DC does not end at 14th street (used to be 16th before whitey moved in), nor does it suddenly become some New Jack City fictional ghetto shithole there either. My wife and I specifically looked for a neighborhood where we could afford a house, live and raise a family in a diverse neighborhood, and be within the District. We found it, in the District. No, we didn't find it in (most of) the Northwest quadrant or on Capitol Hill, but we did find it. We bought an affordable little house in NE. Most of our neighbors on our block are socio-economically our working-class peers with some exceptions up and down that scale. All but two families are black. One of the white families, the one that's been here the longest, is quite dysfunctional and barely scraping by.

The old, black lady on the stoop doesn't make rude comments to us, she plays with our daughter and picks us flowers and we in turn take her food and drive her to church sometimes. She is the neighborhood watch. The dealers on the corner (the guys that were shooting in the air on November 4th) even wave when I pass them with my daughter in the stroller. One of the dealers and I helped carry old ladies in wheelchairs up the steps to the school on election day. My wife makes a lot more than she did when we moved here. I suppose that makes us gentry now, but we don't see any reason why we should move somewhere else.

not everyone likes us around here though. We get occasional comments. I hear from time to time on the bus the occasional "there goes the neighborhood" type comments. Mostly we hear them at community meetings and ANC meetings when we say something that disagrees with anyone opposed to new development or change, not that we're all for change to our neighborhood, but hey, I don't mind if they want to make new sidewalks or open a coffee shop near the metro. But I digress, if you think there are no working-class neighborhoods where whites and blacks live together, then you haven't been to a large, a very large portion of the District.
posted by Pollomacho at 11:43 AM on December 6, 2008 [5 favorites]


Hey Pollomacho, you're only about a mile south of my old school!

and I agree with what you said about DC. There's a common conception of NW=rich, white, embassies, tourists and SE=poor, black, ghetto, crime-ridden... and everybody seems to forget that NE is even there.
posted by Vic Morrow's Personal Vietnam at 11:57 AM on December 6, 2008


Well, two-thirds of white people in D.C. live in either wards 2 or 3, so there's a reason that there's a perception that most white people live in Northwest. And there's a lot of evidence that there aren't that many working-class white people in other parts of the city. For instance, while 90% of black children in D.C. attend public schools, less than a third of white children do. Of them, more than 50% attend schools in Ward 3, which is upper northwest. So 1/6th of all white kids attend public schools outside of upper-middle-class Ward 3, which is a curious stat if there are really lots of working-class white people in other parts of the city.

You're right that I overstated things by saying there are no working-class white people in D.C. But there aren't a lot. The white population is overwhelmingly comprised middle-class to upper-middle-class, college-educated professionals. D.C. has an extremely high rate of residential segregation.
posted by craichead at 12:16 PM on December 6, 2008


I never knew about these "bad neighborhoods" until I started dating a white girl. Thankfully, she is able to point them out to me with regularity and ease. I don't avoid them, but at least I know if the neighborhood I'm in is good or bad.
posted by Eideteker at 12:54 PM on December 6, 2008 [2 favorites]


b33j: On topic, white fear sounds a lot like, I dunno, is there a term for women being scared of being raped? Women do get raped, and it's wrong, but all men aren't rapists, and all men aren't evil, and yet sometimes, when we're talking about how to prevent rape and reduce risks, the conversation turns in the wrong direction and guys get cranky about being blamed for something they'd never do.

It's a decent comparison - and to take your analogy further, I suspect more than a few of the people advocating for violence against (presumed white) folks who move into the wrong neighbourhood being OK would be reversing their position so quick their necks would break if the argument was "Well, women who go to that neighbourhood can expect to be raped, dumbass."
posted by rodgerd at 1:37 PM on December 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


Gentrification (or as many have aptly pointed out, the phenomenon that is unfortunately known as gentrification) is a complicated issue, something that idealistic yet narrow-minded liberal young college students frequently don't get (a mindset that some people never grow out of).

When I was an idealistic and narrow-minded liberal college student, I took a class on the history of the city of New York. Awesome class, awesome professor. Anyway, in a class involving preserving landmarks and preserving neighborhoods, the professor said that a city that doesn't change is a dead city. This professor loved New York, and when he talked about the vibrancy and change of a live city, it was really moving. The excitement and the love just came through. That remark stuck with me because I had previously been of the rather thoughtless mindset that it was All Bad when a pretty old building gets torn down for something new. Now, this doesn't mean that all change is good, or all development is good, but it does mean that this stuff is complicated.
posted by Mavri at 1:46 PM on December 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


Anyway, in a class involving preserving landmarks and preserving neighborhoods, the professor said that a city that doesn't change is a dead city. This professor loved New York, and when he talked about the vibrancy and change of a live city, it was really moving.
Kenneth Jackson, right? I think he was talking about a kind of mindless obsession with historical preservation, though, not about questions of affordable housing. I suspect he would have more sympathy than most people here have with people who are displaced when their neighborhoods become too expensive for them.
posted by craichead at 2:07 PM on December 6, 2008


The word "indigenous" is used a little freely above (and in my view inappropriate in the extreme to name a relationship between a poor individual in a wealthy society and her/his generationally compelled conditions of abjection).

Are you actually thinking of the word indigent? I think there is a difference. In my reading, "indigenous" just means original to the area.
posted by peggynature at 2:12 PM on December 6, 2008


Some points to keep in mind when discussing this subject:

Poor people pay taxes too.

If you think it's uncomfortable being a white person in a mostly Black neighborhood, try being a minority in the wrong white neighborhood. "You're in the wrong neighborhood" is universal.

There's not a lot of socioeconomic cross pollination that happens in our society. What's commonly thought of as gentrification, i.e. middle class whites moving into working class Black neighborhoods is just about the only unsupervised class mixing that happens on a large scale.

There is gentrification that happens in working class urban communities that happen to be mostly white, but it tends to be less noticable. This is not becaause of skin color. it's due to the history of urban segregation that happened throughout most of the 20th century. Because Blacks were redlined in most major Urban areas, you'll find that your average urban "black" neighborhood encompasses everything from poor people and the working poor, to middle class, and professional/upper middle class folks living in the same neighborhoods. If you think gentrification is as simple as richer people moving into poorer neighborhoods, you're missing a larger point.

There are many urban areas that have risen in status and value without Whites moving in. There are many areas that completely change in economic and racial make-up organically, and many where it's forced and involuntary.

Safety is a concern for everyone. I think Ta-Nehisi Coates said it very well in the video when he alluded to Black men not feeling very safe all the time either. I think a lot of time people aren't as safe as they think they are in "good" neighborhoods, and not as threatened as they think they are in "bad" ones.

There are a lot of very complex factors that shape urban life in America. From the "white flight" of late 20th century, to immigration, politics and our gradual transition from blue collar/industrial cities to whatever the hell people do for work nowadays.
posted by billyfleetwood at 2:24 PM on December 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


No, I am thinking of the word "indigenous," which (whatever its narrow Webster's definition) means "native people" to me. Specifically, it implies some "natural" affinity between people and place, as the basis of a claim of prior possession of territory, usually. It has a positive sense.

"Indigent" means "poor." Many "indigent" people live in the inner city. Many indigenous people are indigent.

I'm a little sensitive on this issue maybe as a someone who works primarily with Native ("indigenous") people. The word "indigenous" has come to mean something specific in modern political discourse and that sense, applied to a situation that is not at all similar to the "indigeneity" (some prefer "indigenousness") of Native peoples. To do so, as I said above, valorizes poverty as culture, and necessity as choice.

Black people were not living in urban poverty before white people showed up in Africa to suggest a better idea might be to spend a few hundred years in chains and then the next five or ten generations getting past the trauma of that.

That's what I mean. I'm not picking on the use of "indigenous" by any particular person, and I concede the sense is clear and semantically defensible in a literal sense. But the term naturalizes a condition that is decidedly not worthy of such valorization.
posted by fourcheesemac at 2:24 PM on December 6, 2008


Vic Morrow's: It was the same quality his students and colleagues saw every day as he walked through the halls, greeting people politely, helping our school secretary with her night school assignments, organizing study groups. THAT is the difference between coexistence and interaction, between a segregated war zone and an actual neighborhood. . . . what it really comes down to is allowing the impulse of friendliness to overpower the impulse of fear.

Really interesting to read this discussion in the wake of that The Archipelago of Fear post. Thanks all for the observations and insights.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 2:37 PM on December 6, 2008


Is there a word for having a general awareness and hint of fear of the possibility of being robbed/assaulted/murdered but hanging around in "bad" neighborhoods all the time anyway? I live in/near a notoriously white upper class area of Toronto (the Kingsway), but I spend most of my time in Rexdale or Parkdale, and I've never been mugged or assaulted or even bullied, nor do I know more than one or two people in those neighbourhoods who have. Is Toronto full of unusually tolerant and nonviolent people, or is what is considered a bad neighborhood in this city just named by different standards than elsewhere?
posted by tehloki at 2:51 PM on December 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


Kenneth Jackson, right? I think he was talking about a kind of mindless obsession with historical preservation, though, not about questions of affordable housing.

Yes, you're right. I didn't name drop him because I was talking more about the effect he had on me and wasn't trying to allege that he's pro-gentrification, whatever that might mean. This thread reminded me of that comment, especially with regard to New York. Harlem was once white, and present-day Little Italy is pretty much a couple of blocks surrounded by Chinatown, and the whole city is full of examples of the changing and probably cyclical nature of neighborhoods. I'm certainly sympathetic to the displacement of people from their neighborhoods and strongly believe that cities have an obligation to mitigate the problem through insuring that affordable housing is plentiful in all areas of the city. But my larger point, which Prof. Jackson may or may not agree with, is that change is unavoidable in any living city, and trying to maintain unchanging demographics in a given neighborhood is not realistic and probably not even healthy. The better alternative would be social programs and affordable housing in order to allow integration of the classes and races. "Gentrification Bad" is a narrow and naive way to look at the issue.
posted by Mavri at 3:16 PM on December 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


Tehloki: in 1999 the murder rate in Toronto was 1.9 per 100,000. The murder rate in Washington D.C. was 45.5 per 100,000. More than 20x higher. The robbery rate in Toronto was 115.1 per 100,000. In Washington D.C. it was 670.6 per 100,000.

So either a "bad" neighborhood in Toronto is far less bad than the worst U.S. cities, or the bad neighborhoods are much, much smaller.
posted by Justinian at 3:20 PM on December 6, 2008 [2 favorites]


So does that Brian Beutler guy remind anyone else of George Clooney, in his mannerisms and way of speaking? It could just be me.
posted by billysumday at 3:30 PM on December 6, 2008


I think this thread is an example of the immense divide between relative privilege and relative poverty, as well as the relative racial awareness and politics that inform people's opinions on this matter. It is easy to cast everything in the relatively privileged viewpoint of well-to-do white liberal Portland or England, but it usually has the effect setting up moral authority on one "side" or another, in this case with the original inhabitants of an area. It doesn't lead to understanding, but it does lead to unnecessary vilification and a know-it-all attitude. At the same time, people from other communities can view places like Portland like alien worlds, as far removed from their understanding as nonmerci's understanding of DC. The geographic and cultural divide that is exemplified by some in this thread is pretty immense, and it's not bridged by shouting "That's racist!" or placing the urban poor (notably, black urban poor,) somehow beyond traits like xenophobia or bigotry. While it's undeniable that there is an overall racial/economic "narrative" in America, the racial/socioeconomic situation of Portland is different from South Tucson is different from NE Washington DC is different from Bozeman.

If you think it's uncomfortable being a white person in a mostly Black neighborhood, try being a minority in the wrong white neighborhood. "You're in the wrong neighborhood" is universal.

I think several people, like LucretiusJones, eye of newt, and ferdinand.bardamu have already brought that up.
posted by Snyder at 3:54 PM on December 6, 2008 [1 favorite]


Here's what I'd like someone to explain to me: if "white flight" is racist ... and "gentrification" is racist ... and self-segregation is racist ... then where are white people supposed to live that's won't be labeled "societal racism"?

I'm a single middle-class white guy who's likely to be looking for a new apartment in an urban area in the next couple years. Is there anywhere I could move to that would be morally acceptable?

It seems like the answer is no. And if that's the case -- whatever I do will be racist -- then I might as well live wherever I want to live. And if I can get a low rent by living in a not-that-great neighborhood, naturally I'm going to take it if I feel it's in my economic interest. That's just human nature.

This thread is a very good example of the trend among liberals to have ultra-high standards for whites' behavior, while describing blacks as if they were helpless victims of larger forces with no free will. I'm not sure how this helps anyone, least of all black people.

When I say I'd like someone to explain this to me, I'm not being facetious or asking a rhetorical question. I really mean it: how is it consistent to blame whites for white flight and gentrification and segregation? Maybe there's a good answer to this, but I've never heard this oddity even acknowledged by critics of gentrification.
posted by Jaltcoh at 4:35 PM on December 6, 2008 [7 favorites]


I didn't name drop him because I was talking more about the effect he had on me and wasn't trying to allege that he's pro-gentrification, whatever that might mean. This thread reminded me of that comment, especially with regard to New York. Harlem was once white, and present-day Little Italy is pretty much a couple of blocks surrounded by Chinatown, and the whole city is full of examples of the changing and probably cyclical nature of neighborhoods.
Ok, but what's missing from that narrative is any attention to inequality and power. We're not talking about natural, cyclical changes like the phases of the moon or something. We're talking about people who have more power displacing people who have less power. I'm not out to demonize anyone: like I said, I have been a gentrifier more than once. But I don't think you can discuss this whole topic honestly without admitting that white, middle-class newcomers to urban areas have more power than longstanding black, working-class residents and that that's a big part of the resentment that the latter sometimes feel for the former.

And you're also not going to convince me that race is unconnected to power in the U.S. or in D.C.
Here's what I'd like someone to explain to me: if "white flight" is racist ... and "gentrification" is racist ... and self-segregation is racist ... then where are white people supposed to live that's won't be labeled "societal racism"?
I think that what we're talking about here is structural racism and classism, and you can't really choose your way out of it. All you can do is stop being defensive, try to be aware of the consequences of the decisions you make, listen to other people's perspectives when they are willing to share them with you, and try to make the most responsible decisions that you can. And work for a more equitable society, because these dilemmas won't go away until inequality goes away.

And this is where people jump in to say why my perspective isn't valid, so I will only say that I'm ten years out of college, I live in an integrated urban neighborhood, and I'm flat broke. So knock yourselves out discrediting me, but claiming I'm young and naive or a privileged suburbanite isn't going to cut it.
posted by craichead at 5:03 PM on December 6, 2008 [2 favorites]


As a DC native from that neighborhood I'd like to chime in that the DC public HS curriculum includes a mandatory course in DC History — for which Gentrification is on the syllabus and in the textbook, and has been for at least 15-20 years. That's right: the DC residents you're displacing likely knew about gentrification well before you did!

Also, 17th and Euclid is an inspired choice as a mugging locale: it's a block away from a major strip of yuppie bars, has large parks to flee to nearby on three sides, is poorly lit, is all residential except for the corner store on the SW side, has little car traffic, 17th dies to the south, Euclid starts two blocks west, and there's a steady slow stream of pedestrian traffic eastward as it's the first cross-street in that direction for several blocks.
posted by blasdelf at 8:58 PM on December 6, 2008


Here's what I'd like someone to explain to me: if "white flight" is racist ... and "gentrification" is racist ... and self-segregation is racist ... then where are white people supposed to live that's won't be labeled "societal racism"?

Societal racism exists no matter where you live. Understand that sometimes discussions of race relations are about symptoms of things, not necessarily causes of things. Gentrification isn't racist, Our reactions to it are influenced by our shared history of racism. Understand that racism hurts us all equally, and don't base your judgement of people on the color of their skin. If you can manage that, then by all means live wherever you feel like living.
posted by billyfleetwood at 10:30 PM on December 6, 2008


I have to say that I think that reacting to a setup for a shakedown (or worse) with defensiveness, aggression, whatever is a whole different thing than reacting to a petty, snide comment from a stoop.

Reacting to a shitty comment (and I'm acknowledging that people say shitty stuff for yuks) by engaging in an argument by challenging them back? That is sad, to me. They're barking up the wrong tree. No, you're not in the wrong neighborhood, you're a *neighbor.*. I was honestly shocked to read the upthread response as a carefully thought-out reaction.

/lives in a racially-mixed neighborhood in Philly with its share of racial tension, though quite safe, as things go around here. Since we're qualifying with our bona fides.
posted by desuetude at 11:10 PM on December 6, 2008


This whole argument reminds me of environmentalists arguing about who is living a more carbon neutral lifestyle. The thing is it matters very little what individuals do, what matters is changes at the governmental and societal structure.

The condition of the urban black poor go back to governmental decisions about how to deal with increasing joblessness in the inner cities after the collapse manufacturing jobs in the city. The "solution" to this problem that our society has decided upon is the acceptance of a drastically lowered standard of living and isolation from the broader economy for inner urban residents. This has naturally lead the residents of these areas to take up jobs in the shadow economy, largely drug trade. In order to isolate the negative effects of this situation and the rest of the population, we have instituted the policy of mass incarceration of black males, which has the added effect of guaranteeing these men will never be able to work in the broader economy. That this has been a widely popular political position can be seen in the success of politicians who promise to "get tough on crime" and who demonize "welfare queens".

Gentrification isn't the problem, racially and economically segregated ghettos are the problem. Getting rid of them will require long term structural changes in politics and society. Changing ghettos into neighborhoods integrated economically with the rest of the city should be our goal, even though this might cause some hard ships especially as relationship networks necessary to survive in the shadow economy are broken up. Gentrification could be part of this process if it happens along with changes in drug laws and a real attempt at providing education and a social safety net for the urban poor. If not, the ghettos will simply get displaced to somewhere else and the problems will persist.
posted by afu at 12:14 AM on December 7, 2008


The USA has a very mobile society. Young people bond more readily than old people so when a family moves to a new neighborhood the kids will seek out and find their peers sooner than their parents. The older men will "putter", the older women will talk to their friends and family from where they used to live. Rarely the older people will know as many of the neighbors in their peer group as the kids do.

Kids and young adults are more violent than older people. More so in groups.

I've lived in; Seattle 24 years, rural WA state 2 years, AK 6 months, San Francisco 12 years, Des Moines IA 5 years, St. Bernard Parish (just south of New Orleans) 2 years and counting.

I can confidently state that street crime is more a symptom of having the kids in charge as opposed to a symptom of failed race relations. Here in St. Bernard, and to a lesser degree Des Moines, the adults have known each other for a long time. They talk to each other and if a kid is messing up the kid is in trouble with everyone in the neighborhood and especially the older women.

With respectful regard to what ferdinand.bardamu and The Straightener have eloquently stated upthread I agree. I would also like to contribute.

I've been in a lot of places where I've been afraid when walking down the street. What I've found is that if you, and this might sound odd, project yourself forward to the people you are walking down the street toward, and acknowledge them at that variable and critical distance before they engage you then a confrontation is less likely to result.
We have bad kids in this neighborhood, white, black, whatever (I live 2 blocks from the lower 9th ward) but because I look at them, say "hey", give them the nod, and give them a cigarette (and BS about the local football team) when they ask, I know I'll be fine.
They still might steal from my bungalow, but no way are they going to throw a punch.

I think most people just want to be acknowledged.
posted by vapidave at 2:44 AM on December 7, 2008


So does that Brian Beutler guy remind anyone else of George Clooney, in his mannerisms and way of speaking? It could just be me.

no, but i was thinking "John Cusack" the entire hour.
posted by radiosig at 2:50 AM on December 7, 2008


I think that what we're talking about here is structural racism and classism, and you can't really choose your way out of it.

Well, yeah, that last part is exactly my point: the word "racism" has been thrown around so much, to the point where it describes behavior that's not morally blameworthy. It seems like the words "racism" and "racist" would be a lot more useful if the person labeled with those words would ideally feel a sense of shame and that they should change their behavior. But if the message is that all whites (or at least all middle- or upper-class whites) are racist and there's no way for them to change, then present-day whites have no grounds for feeling bad about being called "racist." (This is due to the famous ethical axiom, "'Ought' implies 'can'.")

On top of all this, the idea that whites are on one level where there's no way around the fact that they're "racist," while blacks are on a very different level where they're always seen as immobile victims who are perpetually in need of assistance that they never receive, does not seem like a productive way to view the world. I'm sure that painting such a dismal picture of American society gives a lot of (mostly white) liberals a feeling of self-righteousness, but surely there are better ways to try to achieve social progress that would be less alienating toward whites and less condescending toward blacks.
posted by Jaltcoh at 11:26 AM on December 7, 2008


That's true, Jaltcoh, if you think that the central organizing principle of political and social analysis should be how it affects white people and their feelings. The concept of structural racism is meant to describe the way society works, so that we can understand it and change what we decide needs fixing. It's not meant to make people feel good or bad.

Here is what is bothering me about this discussion. Coates's originally blog post was an admirable act of empathy. What he did there was engage with the perspectives of people whom he had previously dismissed and try to understand why they behaved in a way that he had previously thought racist and ridiculous. And it bothers me that people here are unwilling to engage in some similar empathy towards longstanding residents of gentrifying neighborhoods. Instead of asking why the woman on the doorstep would tell Inspector.Gadget he was in the wrong neighborhood, most people here have spent a lot of time talking about their own innocence and what a horrible person she was to insult him. It's all, once again, about white people and their hurt feelings.

I think that Inspector.Gadget's response to that woman was pretty shitty. What he did was rub her face in the central fact of their relationship: he is more powerful than she is. When people like him and people like her battle for urban space, people like him almost invariably win. What he implied to her was absolutely correct: her rage is impotent. It seems really obnoxious to taunt her with her relative powerlessness. And I think that's a kind of obnoxiousness that might have been prevented if Inspector.Gadget had been able to muster any empathy at all for the woman sitting on the doorstep.

Finally, I'm pretty annoyed by the constant reiteration of the idea that anyone who acknowledges racism, classism or racial and class-related power disparities is condescending to poor black people and thinks they're powerless. Nobody is ever completely powerless: we all do what we can with the tools we have at our disposal. But it's silly to deny that some people have more and better tools than others.
posted by craichead at 12:06 PM on December 7, 2008 [1 favorite]


Instead of asking why the woman on the doorstep would tell Inspector.Gadget he was in the wrong neighborhood, most people here have spent a lot of time talking about their own innocence and what a horrible person she was to insult him. It's all, once again, about white people and their hurt feelings.

See, I think this is a pernicious way to view the world. Inspector.Gadget isn't some symbolic representative of a group of people. He's a human being. With as much right to live in his own neighborhood and feel comfortable there as anyone else. To attribute to him some sort of affirmative duty to not feel slighted when he's told to get out of his own neighborhood is reducing him from a person to a class symbol. You're denying him the same sort of empathy you claim he has a responsibility to express at all times for the woman on the stoop.
posted by Justinian at 12:34 PM on December 7, 2008 [7 favorites]


I'm not saying he shouldn't have felt slighted. You feel what you feel. I'm saying that he might have responded better if he'd considered what the woman was feeling. And he might respond better next time, if there is a next time, if he considers now what might have motivated her. That, it seems to me, is the opportunity that's being lost here. Of course, it would work better if the woman was posting here, so she could tell us what she was thinking.
posted by craichead at 12:45 PM on December 7, 2008


But if the message is that all whites (or at least all middle- or upper-class whites) are racist and there's no way for them to change, then present-day whites have no grounds for feeling bad about being called "racist."

Saying "many white people benefit from structural racism, while many non-whites are harmed by it" is different from saying "all whites are racist." And acknowledging the existence of that structure doesn't imply that non-whites are immobile or powerless, just that many of them confront a set of challenges that white people usually don't.

Inspector.Gadget's response to the woman on the stoop was understandable, and wrong-headed. The Straightener's approach almost always works (whether you're a social worker or not).

I'm a white agent of gentrification in Chicago. I and my partner have made an effort to get to know our neighbors, which is pretty easy, and be aware of what it means for us to be where we are, which is more difficult. Yeah, I know, "But I'm one of the good ones!" The difficult part is acknowledging that our presence is a token of change that is welcome to some and uncomfortable for others. The discomfort of the latter may be borne of prejudice, or it may be borne of the experience of seeing a neighborhood fragmented by, among other factors, an influx of newcomers of a different race and/or class. I can't know which unless I ask or am told. I don't feel guilty about being here, I don't feel guilty when I complain to my neighbors about the knuckleheads who congregate outside the liquor store, and I don't feel guilty when I cross the street to avoid packs of menacing young dudes. Guilt isn't the issue–it makes it about me instead of about us. Guilt is easy, engagement is hard.

On preview: what craichead said.
posted by generalist at 1:48 PM on December 7, 2008


If someone is using "gentrification" exclusively to mean "white people living in black neighborhoods," they are abusing the term.

Thank you. From a Brookings Institution / Policylink white paper [pdf]:
It is worth noting three key features of our definition. First, gentrification requires the displacement of lower income residents from their neighborhoods. We are most concerned about involuntary displacement, that is, the displacement of those “original” residents who would prefer to stay in their neighborhood, but because of non-just-cause evictions, rapidly rising rents or increases in their property tax bills, cannot afford to do so. In addition to families that are directly displaced from changes in their neighborhood, researchers identify a form of exclusionary displacement, where changes in the neighborhood prevent future lower income households from moving in.6

Second, gentrification has a physical as well as socioeconomic component that results in the upgrading of housing stock in the neighborhood.

Third, gentrification results in the changed character of the neighborhood...attracting a sufficiently large number such that the unique social fabric of the neighborhood is changed....
Even looking at that first requirement, there are many ways that a city can prevent "gentrification." They can keep rents from rapidly rising via rent control ordinances, prevent arbitrary evictions with "just cause" eviction ordinances, and require a certain percentage of new housing to be rented or sold at affordable rates via inclusionary housing ordinances.

When neighborhoods become more mixed-income, it can be better for everyone who lives there; I doubt anyone would advocate that we should maintain concentrated pockets of poverty. The trick is having that change happen without allowing higher-income residents to displace lower-income residents. The strategies for accomplishing this are well-known. It just takes a strong political commitment by city leaders. So, I completely agree with afu that this is one of those cases where "it matters very little what individuals do, what matters is changes at the governmental and societal structure." If you care about displacement, the answer isn't to keep on living in a rich, segregated neighborhood, but to advocate for city policies that promote affordable housing and secure tenancy.
posted by salvia at 6:01 PM on December 7, 2008 [2 favorites]


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