As I am want to do from time to time, I was reading the twitters of people whom I follow mostly to capitalize upon their popularity by responding with pithy, clever jokes about their tweets. BTW, thanks Patton Oswalt for the love!
I came across one, written by a trendy, twenty-something, white, Canadian, trans-female performance artist. She was pining for the days of her old neighborhood in it’s pre-gentrification days.
Yes, you heard correct. A white, young, alternative lifestyle, performance artist, was bitching about gentrification.
Seriously. Let’s review. A white, young, trendy, artist, alt lifestyle, woman was bitching about gentrification.
Who said jumping the shark was a hard thing to do?
It’s moments like these that make me truly happy to be alive. I was already blessed with the greatest disaster film of all time this week, but now I get to no longer take bitching about gentrification seriously. Sorry Spike Lee, I never took you seriously in the first place, so I’m not going to start over gentrification. Because, if you read the history of Ft. Greene, it’s already been gentrified and ghettofied once in the 19th Century, then became gentrified again in the early 20th, then became ghettofied, then gentrified AGAIN in the past decade or two. Basically, the rich people are just moving back into a place they lived in the past!
Now, I get it, I get it. Gentrification is all about how rich-ish mostly white urban professionals and hipsters* all move into a historically economically depressed neighborhood, causing the prices to go up on rent, old businesses to close, the demographics to change, etc. Of course this has a strong racial element to it, except when it doesn’t. Seriously, it sometimes doesn’t. But I really don’t get the problem. No, really, I don’t.
I honestly used to make fun of gentrification myself. I can’t find it right now, but I wrote a joke about This American Life profiling a story about gentrifications early stages. Like where do you go for kale in the ghetto? At this point, I’ve decided, I really don’t care enough about the issue to think about it much. I live in a sprawling suburb of a sprawling Mid-West metro, where even if you live downtown, you can’t function without a car…or at least Uber. That’s why I just don’t care that much about the issue, it doesn’t affect my life. Yes, that is totally solopsistic, selfish, and egocentric of me. By the way…tell me how much you cried when ISIL destroyed the city of Nimrud.
Tell me, what really pisses you off more? These guys smashing an example of a 3,000 year old global cultural legacy, or your pizza taking over an hour for delivery?
“But Amanda! That’s a bullshit comparison!”
Is it? Is it really? Let’s make it more simple. Do you care that the Keystone XL pipeline would be built over Native American tribal lands despite their express objections? Bet you didn’t even know that was a thing did you? Now go get fucked you tri-borough bitch.
Now, let me explain why I think the whole gentrification complaints are stupid in case you didn’t pick up on why when I bitched about Spike Lee. Gentrification is basically summed up in one word: economics. You see, when you are trying to save some money, you get the cheapest thing you can get if you can, right? Well, when it comes to the absolutely absurd rent prices in many cities, that usually means living in a shithole apartment, in a neighborhood best described by the term “Urban Hellsprawl.”
500 sq. ft. Studio 4th floor walk-up available in Bed-Stuy. Close to growing art scene. $2500/mo. No pets.
So basically these young, mostly white, urban types, who don’t have a ton of cash move into this shitty neighborhood; and yes, your neighborhood is pretty shitty, and then start to clean the place up. Is the neighborhood shitty because you’re a racial minority? No, it’s because you’re poor. As I already stated, they gentrify historically white shit holes too.
“Amanda, it sounds like you’re shitting all over cities in general.”
No, no I’m not. I’m only bitching about certain types. Specifically these concrete and asphalt blights where you live in twelve story stacks of people where the only view you have is into an alleyway full of garbage and dog shit which separates you from a close up view of the guy in the next buildings bathroom, who you have to obviously attempt to ignore eating spaghetti while they’re on the crapper. Sure, my Mid-Western city might be comparatively boring and uncultured, but I can walk 15 feet out my $639 a month, 800 square foot, ground floor apartment to have my dogs poop in actual grass next to a tree that was there before the apartments were built 40 years ago. I’ll trade a city that never sleeps for grass and actually being able to see stars at night. Call me crazy like that.
Back to the point. These people move into affordable, albeit, lousy housing, fix it up the way they like, which means businesses move in that cater to their tastes, forcing out older traditional businesses. The newer businesses and residents increase demand on space, causing rent to go up, forcing out the lower income long time residents who can no longer afford the rents. Now because the area is now developing a stronger tax stream, the city is more willing to pay for services to those areas to improve it’s tax income.
It’s almost like…it’s a capitalistic, income and expense driven system that we all participate in willingly.
It’s just unfortunate that these people who get this stuff going just happen to be obnoxious twenty somethings…because as a general rule most twenty-somethings are obnoxious…who are hyper trendy, lack depth and class, have a sense of entitlement (which is usually the fault of the parents and the way they raised them), and lack any introspection. That’s why that 45 year old diner got replaced with that locally sourced vegan shake place. Enough trendy 25 year old’s live there to cause someone to supply their demand.
Yes, this does force poor minorities out of the urban cores which are served by public transportation into peripheral areas traditionally served by commuting suburbanites. Yes, this changes the historical nature of the demographics of the neighborhood. Yes, this does result in changes in the support and services provided by the city. But what is the other option? Keep the poor neighborhoods poor? Whites have to live in white people neighborhoods and minorities have to live in minority neighborhoods? Stores no one wants to shop at have to stay open just because they’ve been there over twenty years? That’s fucking stupid and counter-reactive.
Here’s a better idea. Let people move where they want to move. Let the economy of the area change the area based on supply and demand. If that results in a historically minority neighborhood becoming white, so what? If it means a poor neighborhood becoming suddenly crazy expensive, so what? That’s the game. Yes, the game is often rigged, biased, and unfair, but that’s a whole different game itself. Instead of bitching about how these kids are changing your neighborhood, bitch about how the city fucked you out of economic development for decades. Bitch about the poor social services. Bitch about everything else, but bitching because people are moving to where it’s cheap to live and changing it to their tastes? You’re basically being that old fart who wants those whippersnappers off your stoop.
Get that Whole Foods shit outta here! This is Trader Joe’s territory.
Which ultimately brings me back around to my original point. Gentrification is basically the civic equivalent changes you don’t like. Even if they end up benefiting the area you live in, you still want to bitch, because your neighbor is different. They aren’t the type of artists you like, they don’t sell the types of food you like to eat, they have stores that cater to trends you don’t understand, and they have cultural values you don’t share. You’re basically bitching because you’re not stuck in a comforting rut of the same old, same old, every day. Basically, you’re bitching because you want an urban equivalent of the “sleepy farm town” you make fun of for being boring because nothing new and exciting happens there.
*Look, I don’t even know what the superfuck a hipster is supposed to be anymore. At this point, it seems like the popular fashion and style trends of 20-somethings makes them all look like hipsters, so that is no measure of what they are. Is it acting like a trendy-into it first douchebag? That’s part of being in your 20’s. “Oh like you suddenly discovered that band from the other side of the country on your Spotify all on your own Kayla? What the fuck ever.” Is it being a pretentious dog turd? Again, that’s part of being in your 20’s, and honestly a lot of people never grow out of it, including myself on a lot of things (I mean a run a fucking blog.) Basically “hipster” is any young person someone doesn’t like for some reason. “Hipster” is basically a hipster word for asshole.