Gentrification/Displacement?Jan 28, 2023 11:00AM ● By Karen Warrington
Owning real estate and businesses represent predictable paths to generational wealth in America. And, DISPLACEMENT of Black and Brown communities undermines those pathways to gaining a solid economic foothold. Interestingly many of the political gatekeepers, those people elected by Black and Brown communities, seem to be oblivious to the impact rapidly expanding development is having on their constituents.
Rather than label the acts of DISPLACEMENT and removal of Black and Brown residents of urban communities, the media and sociologists have sugar coated the act by using the term gentrification. But, as one of our TV celebrities has stated, “Call a thing, a thing.”
What is gentrification and who are the gentry? Gentry in the UK is defined as “people of good social position, specifically the class of people next below the nobility in position and birth.” In the US, gentry is often referred to as the “planter class,” a term that identifies white wealthy southerners who enslaved Black people during the antebellum period.
Gentrification is the class-based and race-based term used to describe what developers in urban America are aggressively engaged in, but the term does not accurately describe what is occurring in Black and Brown urban communities. DISPLACEMENT is what these developers and what are described as city planners are participating in. They are taking part in the virtual forever displacement of minority populations who for generations have raised families and owned homes and businesses in urban areas. These acts of DISPLACEMENT are illustrative of what America perpetrated to bring about the erasure of the legacy and land space of Native people.
In Pennsylvania, the indigenous Lenni-Lenape people were displaced and their legacy is basically now non-existent. According to historians David J. Minderhout and Andrea T. Frantz, “Pennsylvania is one of a handful of US states that neither contain a reservation nor officially recognizes any native group within its borders. Pennsylvania appears to be the only state without a university level Native American studies program or cultural center. The Pennsylvania Department of Education standards mandate that students in the third, sixth, ninth and twelfth grade be taught about American Indians, but a survey by the authors of 10 middle and high school history books used in Pennsylvania history books in Pennsylvania public school shows that none of them contain more than a sentence about the Lenape. It could be said that the Lenape have been effectively erased from the Pennsylvania landscape.”
The history of Native Americans, the folks who were here when the non-native people arrived, needs to be reexamined and the outcomes studied. Black and Brown people are in danger of walking through communities where they own nothing and sadly point to where they used to live. Read up on the Trail of Tears described as an ethnic cleansing of forced displacement of 60, 000 Native American from their ancestral spaces to allow for space for White immigrants/settlers to grow cotton on Native American land.
The process by which Black people are being displaced from their urban homelands does not happen overnight, or by one method. Sometimes it is accomplished by eminent domain, “The right of the government or its agents to expropriate private property for public use.” Many times, its accomplished by barriers to quality education and the reduction of city services. Sometimes the media help the process by labeling communities in negative terms such as slum, impoverished, and drug and violence plagued. In Philadelphia “the badlands” were the media term used to identify parts of Black and Brown communities in North Philly. And, often, the banking community assists the process by refusing to lend mortgages in Black and brown communities.
Whatever the method folks in our communities have to be vigilant at the polls, organize within the neighborhoods and stop spending their dollars with folks who don’t support them or their land space.
Get out of your cars, walk around your community and take a serious look at what is happening and hopefully you will be inspired to come together to plot a way forward as a viable, sustainable and beloved community!
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Karen Warrington has had a decades long career as a broadcast journalist, communications professional, performing artist, and documentary filmmaker. She has traveled extensively throughout Africa, the Caribbean, Europe, and Asia. She is committed to being a voice for the African Diaspora.
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