Last week I commented on one Tim Wise’s powerful postsabout gentrification. I said, “Ironically it’s us ‘progressive’ whites that are just antiracist enough to move into poor black and/or Latin communities and gentrify them…” The comment got 121 likes in a couple of days, a lot for me, an FB neophyte.
I’m thinking this comment touched a nerve because gentrification of cities is really the front line of the war against Black and Latin people. It’s a much bigger deal than we think, and it directly impacts Bernie’s campaign.
What the comment points to is that racism is systemic
. We can’t escape it. We may have the best of intentions to raise our family in a multicultural environment. We don’t want a fancy house. We want to live like real people. In fact we want to be examples of how whites can give up some of their privilege by living among poor people. And besides, it’s affordable.
According to David Harvey in Rebel Cities, since the demise of domestic industry, real estate is now the primary engine of capital. The “changing” of neighborhoods is the primary source of profits for the capitalist system. A corollary of this idea is that cities should be the focus of our organizing for a new society, in a way that industrial union organizing was in the past.
There’s a way out of this contradiction. White people moving into minority communities could leave our privilege at the corner and focus on building community, on supporting the existing community, no matter how poor they are.
The Sanders campaign gives us a perfect opportunity to play a role in our communities that reflects the revolution that were trying to develop. It is possible to imagine newly gentrifying communities could change the conception of themselves as communities
It starts here: All of us of all colors in the United States need to recognize that racism is the primary obstacle to all of us having the life we want.
I mean, come on, think about it. Racism was deliberately invented to divide working people – originally, slaves and indentured servants – along color lines to keep them from challenging the ruling elites. The billionaires whispered to the white workers, at least it’s not as bad for you as it is for them…
The Sanders campaign can be the antidote to the divisive effects of gentrification. If we white progressives actually do the work that it will take for Bernie to win, we need to organize our precincts. In gentrifying neighborhoods, that’s going to be a multiracial organization, and our role can be to support Black and Latin leadership. These “cells” of the revolution can help get Bernie elected of course, but more importantly they can fight for their community, make sure jobs are going to community residents, especially for new businesses attempting take advantage of the new affluence. They can make sure any new housing developments are affordable. They can make sure no coal trains run through the neighborhood. They can make sure the homeless in the community are housed. They can make sure the neighborhood schools are substantially improved. We have models of this as far as schools go in Oakland. This can be done.
Gentrification is not some inevitable result of market forces. It is a deliberate manifestation of systemic racism, and, with sufficient counter-deliberation, it can turn into revolutionary community building.