gentrification kills?

Walking through my neighborhood, I came face to face with this. Harsh words freshly painted upon a brand new home.

I can empathize with the person who took paint to wood to spread their message on this urban Seattle street. The middle class swoops into a working class ‘hood, tearing down historic homes to build new ones, sending their children to private schools while the public ones flounder, and supporting Starbucks and Subway rather than locally-owned cafes.

But I don’t believe gentrification kills. I believe the middle class is learning how to be conscious, often choosing to restore homes rather than build new ones, recycling rather than trashing, supporting rather than ignoring. The middle class gives business to the children behind lemonade stands and the teenager selling used novels on the street. With mindfulness, the middle class does not stifle, the middle class contributes.

The essence of a vibrant community comprised of immigrants and minorities is the diversity. To reject the “gentry” is to discriminate, disrespecting the soul of a neighborhood where everyone is welcome and income fails to define a person. It is in these neighborhoods, where people of all races, sexual orientations, and economic classes come together as equals, that change happens, fostering open minds and a new class, where everyone belongs.

The home in the photo above was built on a lot that had been empty and stark for many, many months. No trees were cut down to make room for this home. Since it’s already been sold and occupied, this home represents hope in a floundering economy. Rather than opulence, I see progress and growth and architecture as art. I see a city shifting to accommodate an expanding population.

If I could talk to the person who wrote these words, I would tell him that change is inevitable, and its not always bad. I would tell him that there are more effective ways to be heard if he’s truly concerned about the direction this neighborhood is headed. Such as writing letters to the media or volunteering with a political campaign or promoting cultural events or spreading awareness about the needs of the community.

And then, I would gently remind him that anger is the real killer.

What would you say?

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3 thoughts on “gentrification kills?

  1. With all due respect … driving up nearby property values with a $649,000 home does not represent “hope in a floundering economy.” It represents the colonization of space by people within the 1% of wealth. It’s “art” in the sense that this is art: http://mobile.bloomberg.com/news/2011-12-13/wal-mart-heiress-s-museum-a-moral-blight-commentary-by-jeffrey-goldberg.html To put it pretty bluntly, calling this “art” over the structures inhabited and molded by working class locals is frankly as much a slap in the face and valorization of elite wealth as utilizing the profits of destroyed local economies (inc. those of struggling creatives) to showcase art of already-successful artists in an outlandish museum.

    And invoking a “new class, where everyone belongs” does not do away with existing class oppression or the hardships faced by poor parents and/or parents of color whose kids sell lemonade. Quarters of sympathetic yuppies/dumpies do not a revolution make. I’m curious what commercial or residential spaces existed on this lot in the months before owners (a bank?)/developers left it empty, and what perspectives they held in the classes of old. Whom they have made room for, and what struggles have deepened for them since? Have they lived through them?

    Anger is not the real killer. As people with radical analyses have understood before the time of ACT-UP, it is “Silence” — the silence ensured by corporate media and ultimately corporate politicians we are expected to write to and campaign for– that equals “Death.” In the war of resistance, fences like that one become our broadsheets and our canvases.

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