Gentrification is a big word that is now often applicable in both London and the Bay Area (and I’m sure many other hubs of western capitalism).
What themes and imagery come to mind when you hear that word?
In all honesty the answer to that question is probably influenced by your skin colour and socioeconomic background.
Initially when I think about gentrification I imagine an increase in hipster coffee shops and new high rise ‘luxury apartments’ that only employees of tech/other business industries can afford. To others the word represents a much more impactful, familiar theme of perpetuated oppression, inequality and displacement.
I recently attended a workshop on this subject held by Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) where I got to learn about some of the specific discriminatory tactics used by the US federal and local government(s) which have resulted in the unequal distribution of home ownership, neighbourhood affluence, and access to affordable housing (which therefore impacts on uneven quality of education, employment, health) etc. that disadvantages people of colour and benefits white people historically and presently.
This is the colonial legacy of white people declaring the spaces and customs of others as ‘less than’ in order to justify displacement and replacement – and it continues to permeate the relationships that people have with each other today. And the reason that the specific evidence presented to me in the SURJ workshop was actually news to me is because we are not taught to critique historical structures that continue to enforce race and class inequalities and this is because the history we are taught is the narrative of the oppressor (that, and the fact that I largely did not grow up in the US – but still I don’t remember learning about systems of oppression in UK history either and those certainly exist as well).
If you are a white person reading this and that makes you uncomfortable, that is ok. We can’t grow and change without first having an honest conversation about these things. I invite you to begin to notice the facets of society that exist to benefit your life at the expense of others (it might be overwhelming as there are so many). I invite you to hold yourself accountable as an ally to communities of colour and a seeker of change and equality for the future.
So with all of that being said – what can we do about this complex and deep-rooted issue?
We can recognise that racial justice, social justice, economic justice, housing justice, food justice, etc. are interconnected issues that disproportionately impact communities of colour due to perpetual systemic structures and societal ideologies.
We can take an interest in local organisations and causes that speak to these issues.
We can educate ourselves on the history of our land/spaces/countries/world, to value and respect what came before us.
We can be considerate and respectful towards communities that we are moving into, put our own resources towards more local businesses and less global/corporate ones, and start a friendly conversation with your neighbours to let human connections grow.
If this post spoke to you at all you may want to check out the resources linked below, and feel free to reach out to discuss the subject further.
Bay Area resources relevant to this discussion:
Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ): http://www.showingupforracialjustice.org
“SURJ’s role as part of a multi-racial movement is to undermine white support for white supremacy and to help build a racially just society.
That work cannot be done in isolation from or disconnected from the powerful leadership of communities of color. It is one part of a multi-racial, cross-class movement centering people of color leadership.
Therefore, SURJ believes in resourcing organizing led by people of color, and maintaining strong accountability relationships with organizers and communities of color as central part of our theory of change.”
Causa Justa :: Just Cause: https://cjjc.org
“Causa Justa :: Just Cause envisions equal rights for people of color, immigrants, women, and all oppressed and exploited people. We envision an end to racism, and want to build a society based on self-determination, social justice, and solidarity.
We envision a future without displacement through real estate speculation and forced migration. We envision a society where housing is a human right and all families thrive.
We envision a future where corporate control is replaced by an economy run by the people and for the people, and political power is in the hands of those who need change the most.
We envision a restoration of balance between humans and nature, and an end to ecological plunder.
We believe that bringing together Black and Latino people is a crucial part of building a multi-racial people’s movement in the US that contributes to a global movement for liberation.”
Sogorea Te Land Trust: http://sogoreate-landtrust.com
“The Sogorea Te Land Trust is an urban Indigenous women-led community organization that facilitates the return of Chochenyo and Karkin Ohlone lands in the San Francisco Bay Area to Indigenous stewardship.
Sogorea Te creates opportunities for all people living in Ohlone territory to work together to re-envision the Bay Area community and what it means to live on Ohlone land.
Guided by the belief that land is the foundation that can bring us together, Sogorea Te calls on us all to heal from the legacies of colonialism and genocide, to remember different ways of living, and to do the work that our ancestors and future generations are calling us to do.”
Other posts relevant to this discussion: