01 January 2000


This original version of this post hit too much of a note of “shut up with your resentments”. I don't want to be that guy, so I've revised it where it originally stood, including a link back here in service of being honest about what I wrote originally.

I originally wrote this as a response to a Facebook post which said: “Gentrification: Ethnic cleansing, with a liberal twist!”

That's a little ripe. By which I mean completely offensive. “Ethnic cleansing” is a euphemism for racist genocide. Gentrification is bad, but it just isn't in that weight class.

Yes, liberal bourgeois Whites moving into urban cores and other neighborhoods predominantly populated with Blacks and other people of color (like me!) are creating disruptions that result in serious hardships for the less-prosperous residents of those neighborhoods. Yes, we are are as a rule maddeningly naïve about the effects we are creating. Yes, this betrays the liberal political agenda we think we represent. Yes, the smugness about our political and cultural liberalism is often annoying as hell. Yes, we have a deep responsibility to get more sophisticated about how national and local politics and governance create a context in which their migration into urban cores has those consequences. Yes, we need to not only become more sophisticated but also to become more active in changing those politics. Yes, we have generally failed to even make gestures in the direction of meeting those responsibilities.


Responses to the evils of gentrification entirely focused on cultural resentment of The Gentrifiers Moving Into The Neighborhood — instead of talking about what we can do about the political, economic, and material context which is making this migration of bourgeois Whites into a problem — are not helping.

We have a generation of bourgeois Whites who are migrating to these neighborhoods because they just don't have the kind of bigotry which produced the white flight from the cities of their parents and grandparents' time. That shouldn't be a problem; that should be an opportunity. Every time I see the racially-mixed patrons of bars and restaurants in downtown Oakland I think this looks like the America I was promised.

Let's make that that not just how it looks but how it is.

I'm not kidding myself that we Gentrifiers are devoid of bigotry, and racism is over, and so there's no problem. The process of racist injustice is still working, and there's still plenty of White bigotry backing it up, but there is significantly less White bigotry in play than there was not so long ago. That's good news. Part of that process of racist injustice is a set of powerful forces arrayed to keep The Gentrifiers naïve and disinterested in how the process works. Let's focus on those forces and not on resenting The Gentrifiers, shall we?

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