GENTRIFICATION: AN ATTACK ON BLACK NEIGHBOURHOODS

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A Clip from ‘Boyz N The Hood’ (1991) in which Laurence Fishburne’s character Furious explains gentrification to his son and other members of the community. What he says is bolded in an extract from the script below:

FURIOUS: – I want y’all to look at that sign. See what it says?  “Cash for your home.” You know what that is?

RICK & TRE – It’s a billboard. – Billboard.

FURIOUS: – What are y’all, Amos and Andy? Are you Steppin’ and he’s Fetchit? I’m talking about the message. What it stands for. It’s called “gentrification.” It’s what happens when the property value of a certain area is brought down.

FURIOUS: – You listening?

RICK & TRE: – Yeah.

FURIOUS: – They bring the property value down. They can buy the land cheaper. Then they move the people out, raise the value and sell it at a profit. What we need to do is keep everything in our neighbourhood, everything, black. Black-owned with black money. Just like the Jews, the Italians, the Mexicans and the Koreans do.

OLD MAN: – Ain’t nobody from outside bringing down the property value. It’s these folk! Shooting each other and selling that crack rock and shit.

FURIOUS: – How you think crack gets into the country? We don’t own any planes. We don’t own no ships. We are not the people who are flying and floating that shit in here. Every time you turn on a TV, that’s what you see. Black people selling the rock, pushing the rock. Yeah, I know. It wasn’t a problem when it was here. Wasn’t a problem until it was in Iowa…and on Wall Street where there’s hardly any black people. If you want to talk about guns… why is it that there’s a gun shop on every corner here?

OLD MAN: – Why?

FURIOUS: – I’ll tell you why. Just like there’s a liquor store on every corner in the black community. Why? They want us to kill ourselves. You go out to Beverly Hills, you don’t see that shit. They want to us to kill ourselves. The best way to destroy a people is to take away their ability to reproduce.

If you haven’t managed to get the gist of what Furious is saying; Gentrification in poorer, black neighbourhoods exists to make profits off of their property, by lowering its value, buying it, removing the native residents, doing the place up then selling it to richer white people. Placing those native black folks into another poverty stricken area in which they will be continually denied the basic amenities and resources they need, giving it instead to richer white/ gentrified neighbourhoods. And if you’re wondering who has the power to do all this, well it’s all the big businesses & government who’ve got an agenda to perpetrate white privilege and destroy black communities again and again and again.

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What this film said in 1991 was true then and it’s true now. Here are some excerpts from from an article called ‘The Peril Of Hipster Economics’ regarding gentrification in New York (Including a quote from Spike Lee).

[Spike Lee] “Why does it take an influx of white New Yorkers in the south Bronx, in Harlem, in Bed Stuy, in Crown Heights for the facilities to get better? The garbage wasn’t picked up every … day when I was living in 165 Washington Park… So, why did it take this great influx of white people to get the schools better? Why’s there more police protection in Bed Stuy and Harlem now? Why’s the garbage getting picked up more regularly? We been here!”

Lee’s comment is a ‘critique of the racist allocation of resources. Black communities whose complaints about poor schools and city services go unheeded find these complaints are readily addressed when wealthier, whiter people move in. Meanwhile, long-time locals are treated as contagions on the landscape, targeted by police for annoying the new arrivals.’

‘Gentrifiers focus on aesthetics, not people. Because people, to them, are aesthetics.’

‘Proponents of gentrification will vouch for its benevolence by noting it “cleaned up the neighbourhood”. This is often code for a literal white-washing. The problems that existed in the neighbourhood – poverty, lack of opportunity, struggling populations denied city services – did not go away. They were simply priced out to a new location.’

Similarly to what Furious says in Boyz n The Hood, Spike offers a way of combatting the negative effects of gentrification: ‘which he calls “50-50-20-15”. All employers who launch businesses in gentrifying neighbourhoods should have a workforce that is at least 50 percent minorities, 50 percent people from the local neighbourhood, and 20 percent ex-offenders. The employees should be paid at least $15 per hour.’

‘Gentrification spreads the myth of native incompetence: That people need to be imported to be important, that a sign of a neighbourhood’s “success” is the removal of its poorest residents. True success lies in giving those residents the services and opportunities they have long been denied.’

The peril of hipster economics – Al Jazeera English. 2015. The peril of hipster economics – Al Jazeera English. [ONLINE] Available at:http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2014/05/peril-hipster-economics-2014527105521158885.html. [Accessed 30 August 2015].

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