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In praise of gentrification

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GENTRIFIER has surpassed many worthier slurs to become the dirtiest word in American cities. In the popular telling, hordes of well-to-do whites are descending upon poor, minority neighbourhoods that were made to endure decades of discrimination. With their avocado on toast, beard oil and cappuccinos, these people snuff out local culture. As rents rise, lifelong residents are evicted and forced to leave. In this view, the quintessential scene might be one witnessed in Oakland, California, where a miserable-looking homeless encampment rests a mere ten-minute walk from a Whole Foods landscaped with palm trees and bougainvillea, offering chia and flax seed upon entry. An ancient, sinister force lurks behind the overpriced produce. “‘Gentrification’ is but a more pleasing name for white supremacy,” wrote Ta-Nehisi Coates. It is “the interest on enslavement, the interest on Jim Crow, the interest on redlining, compounding across the years.”

This story is better described as an urban myth. The…Continue reading

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