I See White People

by Demetria L. Lucas

I see white people.

Usually this wouldn’t be so significant. I live in New York City. They’re not the majority here, but they exist in significant numbers — 47 percent, in fact. These white people that I’m seeing now have caught my attention because of where I see them and how many of them I see doing the unexpected, like getting off the A-train in Brooklyn at Nostrand Ave, cycling at midnight on Franklin, or carelessly walking down Albany and fumbling with their iPhones while they walk in the direction of the projects.

Of course, everyone — and by that I mean the black people who live in my neighborhood — has seen white people before. But that doesn’t stop the curious stares as they ride the train past the stop where everyone expected them to exit (it was Grand Army Plaza, then Franklin Ave. Every two years, the final exit is one stop further), or all the heads that turn — men and women –  watching a pair of white girls in short shorts and sports bras, their real ponytails wagging, as they jog down the street, or the block guys with confused expressions or watching the skateboarding Goth teens (read: white) haplessly goofing off on the opposite corner.

I watch the guys, and I think of Lorraine Hansberry’s “A Raisin in the Sun” and realize “oh, this is how they felt — sort of.” Then I think of a story I just read on “Clybourne Park,” a Pulitzer Prize play currently running on Broadway. It’s 50 years later, and the Chicago neighborhood of Hansberry’s make-believe family is filled with black middle-class homeowners, and white people are moving back. I make a note in my iPad to buy tickets.

Gentrification, that hazy mix of capitalism, race, and class that wreaks havoc or at the very least significantly changes existing communities (depending on your perspective) has come to yet another Brooklyn neighborhood — and fast. Of course, it’s not the white people who are the problem. Nor is it a fear, hatred, or some passed down DNA flashback of the Door of No Return that makes some black folk resistant to their arrival in their communities. lt’s the knowing of what’s to come because of what’s gone on in others. The arrival of people with more disposable income leads to building owners charging more rent, to bodega owners charging higher prices, to the businesses you frequented closing and opening up as someplace shiny and new, and eventually to the displacement of residents who’ve called that particular neighborhood home because they can no longer afford to stay.

As soon as the building of the Nets stadium in downtown Brooklyn became a serious consideration, people began to either fret about or rejoice over what would happen in my Crown Heights neighborhood — the still “black side” of Brooklyn where gentrification on the of-color side Eastern Parkway seemed like a trickle. I did a little of both.

  • http://afrikanmami.blogspot.com African Mami

    Gentrification,is both a blessing and a curse. I would take it any day over culture preservation and INSECURITY…

  • Keiko

    The area I currently live in has always had a majority Black population, but over the years the lack of diversity has affected the commercialization of the area. This area could definitely use some gentrification. It’s not even like I live in the city, I live in the suburbs.

  • http://eviehuxtable.wordpress.com Evie Huxtable

    “Wasn’t this neighborhood deserving of safe corners and a decent grocery store before the white people showed up?”

    That’s the Ugh! side of gentrification that gets me too. And it makes me wonder why we saw black-owned this and black-owned that during segregation, but post-1960s, these types of businesses only pop up in black neighborhoods if they’re immigrant-owned or when the demographics begin to change.

  • http://beautyinbaltimore.blogspot.com BeautyinBaltimore

    spot the heroin addicts leaning, and immediately determine how good the package was that day.

    I got life from this. Come to Baltimore and go to Lexington Market. You will think you are on the set of a Zombie movie.

    Diversity can be good for Black folks, we just have to put ourselves in a place or position to benefit from it. There should be more African-American restaurants selling to soul food to a diverse population in the same way that Chinese food(I know I know) is sold to every race in America. Think of how many of our own we could take care of if more of us just owned small mom and pop businesses in our own neighborhoods.

  • http://cupofjo-jo.blogspot.com bk chick

    I live in the same exact area as Demetria was talking about all my life and the change has been DRAMATIC and especially jarring, seeing all the white folk get off at Franklin ave. Now, prospect heights has, for the bulk of my life always been pretty good and is near the park, library, museum etc., and the white ppl coming brings safety, but the difference isn’t 180. .

  • http://cupofjo-jo.blogspot.com bk chick

    I actually see gentrification more as a nuisance. I was all excited when all the “hipster” stores opened because there were a lot of cool restaurants and businesses that I was able to enjoy so close to my house for the first time. BUT, after visiting all these new, overpriced, stores I realized they are all for show. It’s all about ambiance but there’s nothing there, and I actually found myself going back to the old businesses that were there before the gentrification. In my head, I’m like, all this black displacement for this??

  • http://cupofjo-jo.blogspot.com bk chick

    The part that upsets me the most though is that gentrification has become synonymous with “safer” and that black neighborhoods are usually crime-infested–let alone the lack of black businesses (minus carribbean food shops and african hair braiding). Gentrification just reminds me how much us black ppl need to get our shit together

  • http://cupofjo-jo.blogspot.com bk chick

    after visiting all these new, overpriced, stores I realized they are all for show. It’s all about ambiance but there’s nothing there, and I actually found myself going back to the old businesses that were there before the gentrification. In my head, I’m like, all this black displacement for this??

  • Ms. Information

    To me gentrification brings resentment..areas that were not manicured by the government, are suddenly manicured…where police would not tread, they now frequent..it is a blatant disregard of black existence.

  • http://itsoftenbeensaid.wordpress.com Sasha

    I naively made the mistake of going to Lexington Market to pick up a cake about 2 years ago. First time going there and it was certainly my last. My lease is up in 2 months, I can’t wait to get the hell out of Baltimore.

  • http://itsoftenbeensaid.wordpress.com Sasha

    The areas where I see/ hear of gentrification occuring is a blessing in my opinion.

  • http://losingsmartly.wordpress.com thequietvoice

    I’ve been noticing this too and honestly I judge it by the train stops. I am amazed everyday by the amount of white people getting off at the Nostrand Ave stop on the A train and the amount that head over to Bed Stuy or Crown Heights. Just because at one point, people were lamenting how dangerous these areas were, only because the majority was Black. Now, it seems it’s safe enough for them to start moving in and pushing other people out. I don’t see what’s wrong with people of cohabiting. Why does gentrification, superficially, seem to mean “get rid of the Black people”?

  • http://losingsmartly.wordpress.com thequietvoice

    my comment went a missing. do our comments go into moderation mode before they are posted? or is it just lost in the interwebs now?

  • http://losingsmartly.wordpress.com thequietvoice

    well that answered my question. i guess i should make note of my profound statements just in case they disappear :(

  • jamesfrmphilly

    i hate gentrification. it is an expression of economic inequality.

  • http://gravatar.com/carolg26 Carol

    This discussion always leaves me feeling alone in a crowd.

    1. If you do not own property in a neighborhood, you do not have a right to stay in that neighborhood. While there are many black people renting in gentrifying areas, there are also more than a handful who own. I, for one, am glad they see their property values and rents rising. They finally get to reap some of the benefits of ownership. I used to live off the Franklin stop, I think many of those new businesses are black/minority owned.

    2. New, shiny stores with “ambiance” show up because the people moving in won’t tolerate a grocery store that smells of cat piss. They will take their business elsewhere. The fact that the writer of this piece was willing to overlook that is just part of the reason why that store didn’t see a reason to change. If most of the neighborhood is okay with business as usual, that’s what they will continue to get.

    3. Many of the problems people seem to have with gentrification seem to presuppose that being black necessarily correlates with poverty. There is some truth to that, but the growing black middle class runs against that. There is nothing stopping black folks who are middle class and up from reaping the benefits of these amenities.

  • gwan gyal

    Great article and I gotta check out your book!

    Ahh gentrification…it has its positives and negatives.
    Chicago has been experiencing the same things..especially when they thought the olympics would come.

    It is sad that gentrification usually equates ‘safer’ for some..just b/c these areas get more police patrol.

    Wicker Park used to be mostly Puerto Rican and they have been pushed further west to Humbolt Park

    Woodlawn (southside) has a lot of new condos and coffeeshops and resale shops. The good thing with it is that the new developments are actually affordable compared to other parts of the city…but it isn’t the black ppl that are buying these places or opening these businesses

  • http://sparkleandboom.wordpress.com Nina Renee

    I’ve lived in the D.C. area for eight years now, and gentrification has spread full force. White people push strollers and walk dogs all over parts of the city that were once straight-up hood. Several mom-and-pop shops have closed to accommodate sparkly shopping centers and condos. When a white girl raves about buying a house neighborhood in rough Southeast D.C., you know things have changed. Gentrification has improved neighborhood aesthetics, but it’s also brought higher prices and more traffic on the streets and on the Metro.

  • belle/demetria

    For clarity: I did not buy ANYTHING from the pissy grocery store until it was renovated.

    I bought my groceries 5 train stops away and took a cab home, or had them delivered when the neighborhood finally got Fresh Direct.

    But I, in some senses, was a gentrifier here. In color? no. In income? yes. And I could afford to work around the inconvenience. Most people here can’t afford Fresh Direct premiums, or pay an extra $13 for a cab and its hell to lug them on the bus/subway (as I used to do).

  • belle/demetria

    Most of the new stores on Franklin are NOT Black owned.

    I’m all for middle-class Black owners getting theirs, but what about everyone else, like those who can’t afford to buy?

  • http://1stamend-kisa-kisa.blogspot.com/ kisa

    Thank you Demetria for so eloquently writing what I have been feeling and fretting about with regards to Fort Greene, Bushwick, Red Hook, Williamsburgh, Crown Heights and Bed-Stuy for the past 2 decades… But I guess everything for a reason. At least that is what I keep telling myself to keep from getting depressed.

  • CurlySue

    You touched on an important fact here, Carol. That being if you are merely renting, you have no say in how high your rent goes. You aren’t entitled to rent control. No one is. That is why gentrification is so much more prevalent in areas with hates rates of renting.

  • CurlySue

    *high rates

  • http://gravatar.com/carolg26 Carol

    Good on you for not buying there, but I reject the idea that catching a cab and going way out of the neighborhood as the only alternative is the norm. I will admit this though: I grow up in the hood, but we owned our home. It was immaculately kept by my single mother, and my tastes grew from that. There were several grocers in and around my area. The gross ones we never went into and the well kept ones that were slightly out of the way. My mother made a point of going to the better shops. There was a jamaican food place we frequented. When it first opened it was well designed and well kept. The quality, howver, went down as people in the neighborhood used and abused the space. When we wanted to move, it was impossible to sell the house… I would have been happy to be surrounded by neighbors of ANY color who would have taken better care of their properties.

    I say all that just to point out that we are very likely coming from very different experiences.

    I’m not sure who owns what, but I thought Chavela’s was Mexican owned, Stork, Lilys bakery, and Veggies I thought were black owned. I could certainly be wrong on that.

    As far as what happens to the poor people? They end up moving to places they can afford. The poor are already the most transient class in america, whether gentrification is happening or not.

  • http://gravatar.com/carolg26 Carol

    Precisely, CurlySue. If I own a property and my taxes are going up, why should I be forced to charge less for rent just because my previous tenants can no longer afford to live there?

  • CurlySue

    But wouldn’t the pros still outweigh the cons? Less crime, better infrastructure, more police presence, higher property values, more amenities? I understand that neighborhoods have their own flavors and personalities, but many areas being gentrified were rife with some of the same issues that Clutch commenters lament on a daily basis: High crime, high poverty, poor education, street harassment, unfriendly businesses, drugs etc. Eventually, you have to decide what is most important.

  • http://rawcottonrags.com Cassius

    Never has it been more obvious that where you stand (on an issue) depends on where you sit. While It is true that no one who rents has a RIGHT to stay anywhere, it is important not to divorce that statement from the logic that Capitalism is a system that rewards pooled resources. Or said another way, Capitalism will always benefit the rich at the expense of the working poor and middle class. Crown Heights is a neighborhood that was settled largely by immigrants from the Caribbean because it was one neighborhood where new arrivals to this country could afford to live. Now it has a glossy coat and rent figures that are twice as high. The fundamental problem that people have with gentrification is it’s an open expression of economic hostility to the disadvantaged and soon to be displaced. Just because you happen to own your apartment doesn’t mean that’s an option that’s available to a wide swath of the population -or did you forget the housing crisis of 2008? You either believe at your core that those in positions of power and priveledge have a right to anything they can afford (capitalism at its core) or you believe in the intrinsic value of human worth. These two are diametrically opposed.

    That being said, I don’t think anyone should ever be nostalgic about drug addicts on the corner or cat-pissed floors. These are symbols of urban decay.

  • PlainJane

    Is this a website for black women?

    What part?

  • Hmmm

    I like what this article tries to do. I agree with most of it. But if half of the things I read in Clutch about the dangers/pitfalls of dating/living/waking in urban areas is true then what is happening in these communities should be welcomed. In other words, is a world that is “safe for women” anything else but gentrified?

  • Hmmm

    You raise a great point.

  • CurlySue

    @Cassius: Yes, I do support Capitalism but I’m no fanatic. But it’s a fact that neighborhoods are constantly changing. What was once Italian/Irish neighborhoods became black. Now, they’re changing again. Cities never stop evolving and changing. And while I understand that it sucks to have to move because your landlord is charging more rent, I’m afraid that’s life. A landlord owns that property as an investment and naturally wants to profit as much as possible on neighborhood improvements. Owning something of your own is still the best way to secure your future. Home ownership is still the largest source of wealth for people in this country. And no, it’s not easy to own. Most people have to save for years to afford a home/apartment of their own. But they reap the rewards of their sacrifice by never having to worry about getting priced out of their neighborhood.

  • belle/demetria

    I assure you that was not nostalgia.

    that graph began with “there’s a part of me that rejoices that some of those old comforts have finally hit my neighborhood, even if it took an influx of white faces to do so…” that was recounting what was, what changed and what I was thankful to see gone.

  • belle/demetria

    @hmm. safe for which women though? middle class women? or all women?

    because the women that can’t afford to stay in those neighborhoods once they are cleaned up and rents increase, have to move to places they can still afford. and where they go that is affordable is often filled with the same problems of the original neighborhood– the addicts, the smelly grocery and the street harassment.

    gentrification isn’t so much fixing problems in a not so good neighborhood as it’s MOVING them elsewhere.

  • http://dannidee1.blogspot.com/ Danni

    Maybe as a people we should begin taking more pride in the communities that we live in. Demand a higher standard from those who serve us. Its not that it cannot be done, its just that we have not really tried.

  • EssDot323

    Pretty much.

    The “Stop Snitching” ethos and lending solidarity to EVERY member of your race is a recipe for a ravaged community.

    I understand that gentrification lacks scruples with regards to displacing well-meaning, hardworking people. But the typical counterargument that just mobilizing poor people alone will strengthen a community is simply short sighted. I believe mixed income (working class alongside middle class) neighborhoods can help in revitalizing a neighborhood.

  • http://www.myblackfriendsays.com myblackfriendsays

    Where were the police patrols when the neighborhood wasn’t gentrified? Did the citizens demand police protection? Or did they see the police as an intrusive force that should be avoided? I think people in low income neighborhoods need really think about how they feel about the police–are they friend or foe? Are they a force to look to to help make/keep a neighborhood safe, or something else?

    A black female police officer was just killed in my city. Shot in the head as she was trying to break up a fight. She was a single mom of a 12 year old daughter. That’s got me thinking about a lot of different stuff these days…

  • Pamela

    Gentrification+ Globalization= KILL OFF THE POOR

  • IvetteZ

    This is a great read. But, I can’t help but notice that when minorities move to a new neighborhood its not considered “gentrification”, in fact it makes the existing residents nervous. When white people move to a neighborhood its considered a plus, but it should be noted that its a plus both ways.

  • SkinnyCheeseGritsPlease

    This is happening in a lot of former majority Black neighborhoods in the city I live in. The sad part about it is that with the changes come something that nobody ever talks about outside of local newspapers, massive increases in property tax. What they do down south is buy up all of the property for cheap and then they tear the homes down and make what we call down here “Mc Mansions”. The people that have been living in the area end up priced out of their homes and far too many have become homeless. Nothing feels good about seeing elderly folks on the street. I am not stating this is what happens everywhere but this is what I’ve witnessed. The nicest areas in my county were areas we used to dominate. And now they look at us cross eyed when we reappear.

    I give them the same look they give me.

  • Jinamae

    Gentrification does not equal “white.” It’s a socio-economic phenomenon when one group is displaced by a more affluent group. So all you young, gifted and Black folks out there who graduated from college and moved into neighborhoods such as Ft. Greene, Bushwick or wherever are as much a part of the process as anyone else. In fact students and artists are usually the first wave in the gentrification process of many neighborhoods now viewed as hip locales. Just because you look like the original residents does not mean your presence in their neighborhood is benign.

  • Fa

    Exactly my thoughts! I am one of those young, gifted, Black people and I know that I can “blend in” because of my race, however, my socio-economic status may be completely different . This is an important point and we can never overlook class.

  • iQgraphics

    agreed. and brooklyn is not “next”, brooklyn is NOW!
    I saw a Realty firm marketing bushwick as “EAST WILLIAMSBURG”
    Are you kidding me??!!

  • iQgraphics


  • Hmmm

    First of all, I like your work.
    I agree. But I agree because I have an all-encompassing idea of “blackness” and that is not always 2012 popular; I’m not ashamed or too Bill Cosby-critical about black folks. But I suspect many of the women who read Clutch and express their discomfort in these communities are indeed a part of the middle class demographic, and outside of black cool it is this demographic that they more closely identify with. Some are Obama post-racial. Not all of course but many. To be honest with you I do not think they care about the women who have to move. At least, they do not care beyond their own personal/social comfort. I’m not coming down on middle-class black women or their desires to feel comfortable….there are middle class black men that do not care outside of their own comfort either. Shoot, not caring is the start, middle, and end of all of this.

  • Me

    @Danni & @Belle/Demetria I agree gentrification doesn’t fix the problem of broken communities, but sometimes it feels like the only alternative. How exactly do you eradicate the woes that poverty brings? Not that all poor people add to the problem, but destitution can lead to crime, crime diminishes safety, lack of safety reduces property values, and low property values draw fewer resources, which heightens destitution and further erodes the state of the community. What would it take to get downtrodden people to maintain enough pride in their community to choose to build it up rather than move elsewhere when they see it falling to the wayside, especially if they’re only renters, which makes it easier to just pick up and move rather than address the problem?

  • Jane

    I have to agree with Carol, if black folks in these areas demanded more from their stores, neighborhood and police AND worked more as a unit they could have nice things as well. It’s up to us to complain or boycott until things get done — the squeaky wheel gets the grease.

    Also, as much as I’m annoyed by gentrification in brooklyn and beyond, I do understand that that is the economic system at work (supply and demand). This is why it’s important for us to own things, not just borrow/rent.

  • http://gravatar.com/nolakiss16 binks

    Agree! And this is not to say that a lot of people don’t try to fix our neighborhoods because some people who generally are trying and want to see a difference in our communities but a few bad apples is spoiling the bunch and most people are generally tired of the nonsense, so most take on the “why bother…” attitude. Gentrification does not fix anything but spread the problems elsewhere, prime example New Orleans. After the storm, land/neighborhoods was up for grabs and white people (and other nationalities) living in parts of the city that they would NEVER have stepped foot in while crime is rising in areas (aka lily white communities) that didn’t see it before. Just a temporary Band-Aid to a growing displaced and fed up population. I hate the mixed income think gentrification brings too like you want to attract a higher “grade” of people but you are still letting the bad apples slide in instead of the people who generally have pride in the community go so it defeats the purpose.

  • Bored@work

    You are so right. I usually can pin point who to stand in front of on the E train. But ive been noticing white people going all the way to jamaica station. they’ve even made it on the buses, not to long island, but further into the hood. Granted where i live isn’t really the hood (in my eyes) but ive seen them waiting at the bus stop of places i would never dare to even get stranded.

  • http://gravatar.com/chanela17 chanela17

    why do people assume that all white people are rich and have “disposable income”? we need to quit giving white people such credit like that. we’re some of the main ones putting white people on a pedestal when we say things like that or “only white people read books” or “you sound so proper, why are you acting white” we’re putting them on a pedestal while lowkey putting outselves down at the same time. SMH

  • Me

    Great point. My question to Fa & Jinamae is when you move back to familiar areas after college/moving up in the socio-economic world, do you feel like you still “belong” in that area? Basically I’m asking does your station in life change how you view your old neighborhood–like the author secretly longing for and celebrating the arrival of the amenities, while taking comfort in the familiarity. For me, once I came up even in the slightest, I booked it and the only time I look back is when I’m visiting people I know that are still there (otherwise, I might even be inclined to forget where I came from) because once I left, I almost immediately stopped feeling like I belonged where I was. Would be interested to know how you felt once you crossed that invisible line.

  • Kacey

    I grew up in NY and still reside here. It seems like the city is becoming more segregated and gentrification is at the heart of it. What I see is instead of whites co-existing and blending with the blacks and latinos who were already in these neighborhoods, they are making it more expensive and slowly pushing people of color out and to the margins. These whites will brag about living in such a “diverse” neighborhood when the reality is that the neighborhood is becoming all-white and increasingly hostile to the people of color who once lived there.

  • Kacey

    I think the problem is once all these positives start to happen and the neighborhoods become increasingly white they also become hostile to black people – not just the ones who already lived there, but even to well-to-do blacks who can afford to live there but get shut out by realtors and condo boards that don’t want blacks there anymore.

  • Jinamae

    @ Me. That’s a really interesting question to which I don’t have an answer. In my opinion if you grew up in a particular neighborhood, left only to return and work to improve conditions in that neighborhood then you yourself aren’t necessarily a “gentrifier.” However that doesn’t mean your efforts won’t lead to gentrification.

    As far as a change in perception, I imagine that would vary from one person to another. I grew up in an idyllic suburb which I couldn’t wait to escape. My choices of college and grad schools were always in urban areas and I have only lived in cities since. As a result of my choices I fully recognize my role as a gentrifier in all the neighborhoods I have chosen to live in despite the fact that I look like everyone else. As Fa said, I might feel I have the ability to “blend in,” but the locals know I’m not from there and they view me much in the same way they view any other newcomers.

  • Fa

    I will always feel like I belong in my old neighbourhood which is a mixed income, culturally diverse area that is going through some gentrification but still has remnants of its old vibe. My situation may be different to yours though- I moved away for work and to work on my graduate degree and I visit several times a year. When I go home it’s nostalgia and happiness all at once. That said, I definitely would consider buying a home there if/when I go back I think there’s no better place in my city to live!

  • http://gravatar.com/saysomethinelse saysomethinelse

    It’s happening in St. Louis.

  • CocobeanCool

    I love this article!!!! As a NYC Harlem resident I see this everywhere I go . I used to live in a mostly white community in Midtown Manhattan. And I choose to leave that neighborhood for a” black” one. I needed to feel safe, accepted and wanted. I’m out numbered every where I go in NY, I wanted to atleast come home and be able to get a real beef patty and grab some african shea butter. Hhahaha. I saddens me everytime I see a new white face in the neighborhood. I just feel like say ” Where can I go to just get away?” As messed up as it sounds its exactly how I feel. I’m college educated , work for a Fountune 500 company , make good money and can live anywhere I choose. But not every where I go I can call home.

  • Brit

    I live in that same Brooklyn neighborhood and I happen to love the mix. The sad thing is that the lovely mixture that gentrification has created is only temporary. I moved to the neighborhood for it’s diversity of cultures and people and soon it will be just like everywhere else. Just because I am educated and may make a little more money, I still love to be surrounded by the people who remind me of some of my relatives out of state.

  • Srenda

    I cannot stand gentrification. It is absolutely disrespecful to the poor and working class people who have lived there for generations and did the best they could with the resources they could acquire. Gentrification displaces so many people. It is not inclusive it is entitled and exclusive. Gentrification shows us that if you do not have the money to stay in the neighborhoods your people lived loved and died in for generations than to hell with you. Gentrification does absolutely nothing but disrupt and dismantle communities. Give me your cat piss bodegas any day over shiny soulless coffee shops and artisanal BS. Give me people who have soul who aren’t perfect but are trying to maintain and thrive in a world that has become increasingly hostile towards people who have trouble making ends meet. This is a rotten economy. Where are all you monied folks coming from? While we’re at it I cannot stand the prison industrial complex either. I cannot stand “stop and frisk.” Poor people are human beings, too.

  • simplyme

    I was kind of thinking the same thing….is she too not part of the gentrification process? I wonder… If a bunch of Black middle/upper middle class people moved into this neighborhood would the effect be the same or different from the current situation…??

  • steve

    Sasha, its a blessing if you can afford it, Im from this area in question, a 2 bedroom that was going for $1200 a year or two ago is now going for $1800 cause they put in a new sink. Last time i checked unemployment was 8% and black unemployment ranging around 20% in major cities . this is a blessing for a few black folk but not the majority

  • Lexu

    To say “pick a side” you truly don’t know how police handle minorities in NYC. Police handle us with fear, apprehensiveness, and aggression. In Mid town Manhattan, they “protect” the neighborhood. Friend or foe is a question that has been answered long ago. They have been trained and ordered (regardless of their race) to handle my people with aggression and no benefit of the doubt. Stop and Frisk isn’t for “safety” it is another scare tactic to “keep us in our place”. When we needed police to protect us in our neighborhoods here they harassed us instead. We grew intimidated and it’s hard to call someone a friend when you are gripped with a senseless fear of what they can do to you rather than what they are supposed to do FOR you.

  • http://beautyinbaltimore.blogspot.com BeautyinBaltimore

    Sasha, I will probably follow you. Lexington Market on any given day at 12 noon looks like the set for 28 days later.

  • EssDot323

    You have a point. There are a lot of gentry cases where there are single, upwardly mobile Black people moving into a one-bedroom apartment and where there are three white people (students, artists, office professionals) sharing a one bedroom.

  • belle/demetria

    in this case, it is not an assumption. the property values would not go up, nor other prices if the people moving in did not have disposable income– whether it’s one person in a one bed, or three.

  • http://gravatar.com/rastaman1967 rastaman

    In my own way I to have been a gentrifier because I bought into a neighborhood that was in an economic upswing and where a great percentage of the inhabitants have been priced out. Many of the people who have come and have stayed are people of color just like me and I know for a fact that they in general do not get preferential loans because of the color of their skin. One of the facts that came out the recent housing mortgage debacle was just how many people of color were stared to expensive subprime mortgages as compared to whites even when their credit situation was equivalent. So if all things were equal, gentrification would be an example of urban rejuvenation. But it is not. Whites are only economically superior because the economic system in this country is rigged to continually favor them. If we had a level playing field of access to opportunity, the results such as gentrification would be more palatable. But what this “white” gentrification represents is just how powerless we are in the current economic system. We get fewer opportunities in education, employment, income and financing and on top of that we then have it rubbed in our faces by displacing us from our communities.

    You think the first time the cop shows up on the corner to make sure the junkies and winos don’t congregate is the first time they were called?
    I can guarantee that Ms Agnes has being calling 911 for many years to complain but no one thought it was important to improve the quality of her life.

  • with an opinion

    I’ve noticed it here to. I live in a suburb in Baltimore that is predominatley black. Now I am starting to see white folks at the movies, in the grocery stores, etc. It wasn’t like that 5 years ago…

  • I see them too!

    DC!!!! SMH!!…I live in Northeast in Ivy City (think West Virginia Ave), and 2 blocks over I witness white people walkin a dog and gettin on the bus!!! Really!!?? So bold, I say. I really want to have a dialogue with everyone in my neighborhood to find out how they understand and feel about that rapid gentrification that’s going on all over DC. I caught myself sayin “I see white people” just yesterday when I was on the bus.

  • Ty

    I’ve always lived in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn and the author isn’t lying. More and more White faces and moving in and its so strange because just last year is was predominately Black Americans, West Indians and some Latinos. My neighborhood has never really been bad or had run down stores or what not so, we never had to really worry about that. Prices have gone up though. As long as the rich culture of my neighborhood stays the same I don’t mind if White people move in and blend in and become one with the already existing dynamic. It happened soooo qucikly though, I’m really suprised about that. I wonder what it’ll look like by next summer.

  • SweeTee

    Gentrification is a class issue, not a race issue. It happens when people of higher income bracket take notice of a particular area that they deem to be up and coming. It’s popping up in urban areas across the country now because people are realizing its better to have denser communities where walking, cycling and transit access are viable options for getting around. Real estate developer and business people are taking advantage of low rents and great desire. There are plenty of people of other races that are also moving into those area so lets not just say white people mean gentrification is happening. If we want to keep our communities as OUR communities, we should take on these roles and secure affordable housing options and creates businesses that produce livable wages and fair treatment. If we’re not doing that then everything is up for grabs.

  • Liv

    as a resident of chicago’s infamous south side, i love my neighborhood and am deeply saddened by the crime that it has become known for. as much as i would love to give my children the same upbringing i had, the kind that would allow to be comfortable in every neighborhood in the city, i also know that if gun violence hits too close to home i’d leave my hood in a heartbeat. this article does a great job of capturing the many conflicting emotions about these complicated issues.

  • chinaworld

    I live in Long Island City in a high rise where my view overlooks United Nations across the river. My situation is is unique as I am now “gentrifying” a poor white neighborhood. You rarely see the local inhabitants shopping at Food Cellar, Duane Reade Express or dining at any of the number of restaurants in the area. But, I see them sitting in lawn chairs on the sidewalk in front of their apartments when I walk past on my way to Bread Box for brunch or on my way back from Vernon Blvd. And, they stare. Not sure if they are starring at me because I am a strange face or because I am a Black (’cause there is only a handful of us out here) able to spend $3000/mo for a 1 bedroom and they are not able to. Blacks don’t speak to one another, Asians don’t look in my direction (although I speak fluent Mandarin and spend significant time in China), and Whites may crack a smile here and there. I would love to live in a more predominantly Black neighborhood like Chicago’s South Loop, but the view outside my window is very important to me.

  • Dionne

    Exactly. Whats funny is whites always look so surprised and shocked when Blacks give them the look Blacks get in white neighborhoods. Wrong or not, whenever I see them I cant help thinking what are you doing here.

  • Dionne

    Youre right, Rastaman.

    The money you put in the bank gets flipped and they give it to whites and asians, but usually not Blacks to open businesses, buy homes, etc. That is why they can come and gentrify our neighborhoods.

  • Dionne

    I see white people on CHURCH AVE, too. Shocking!!!!. Never saw that a few years ago. I always thought Whites were afraid of Blacks and Black neighborhoods.

  • http://beautyandthestreetmag.blogspot.com Amber

    I live in Brooklyn as well and I have been noticing this for a few years now. I was born and raised here originally from Crown Heights but moved around now I am on the L line (last stop). I remember being in HS not too long ago and riding the train to school. It looked nothing like how it looks now. Granted some places will never change like East New York, Brownsville, and super low income neighborhoods that are far from Manhattan whereas Bed Stuy, Crown Heights, and so forth is close to the train station so many settle there. I doubted than anyone would come to my hood since its far from in the South of Brooklyn; we are very secluded. However because we are so close to the oh-so-trendy new Williamsburg and Bushwick there is a possibility. I see my neighborhood changing nonetheless but its mainly lots of Hispanics; Dominicans, Puerto Ricans, Mexicans, El Salavdorians….I am assuming they are leaving Bushwick and Wiliamsburg because it is too expensive now and are moving further down the L line. Things change so I just embrace it whatever, I just wish the new residents of our area weren’t so rude and stuck up. I deal with their attitude quite often….

  • Dionne

    Not to be racist but them too

  • Jac

    Dionne, that just shows how racist you truly are.

  • Jac

    You’re ridiculously racist, and you probably don’t even know it.

  • PRWat

    Had to respond. There needs to be a cohesive mix. Are we continuing the hate by looking at them as interlopers. Ever think to just say hello or strike up a conversation. I live on a diverse block in Philly. Most of the newcomers are great, you have few that o_O you when you say hello but I give them no weight, they are not OPPRESSING me. They are not rich, just middle class like me. I will take my diverse area over pissy bodegas and fights in the street or Ray Ray busting shots down the avenue when I go buy a meat pie. I seriously doubt that any upwardly mobile person wants to raise their kids in an environment where Ray Ray and nem are selling weed on the corner. You would not send lil Briana to buy a loaf of bread at that corner store. FYI, Ray Ray was not denied education or the pop to be mobile. Bottom line is, parents need to constantly educate themselves on education, opportunities, housing information and programs and activities for our children so that they aren’t idle and hanging on corners. Then, just maybe our neighborhoods wouldnt disintegrate before our eyes. Whew, off my soapbox.

  • Dionne


    If you say so

  • http://diaryofasmalltowndiva.blogspot.com/ Petite Diva

    I concur.

  • http://www.facebook.com/celinai Celina Inman

    Baltimore here too. Shudders @ the thought of Lexington Market–such a tragic eyesore. You’re absolutely right about diversity–racially/ethnically and socioeconomically–and it’s evident that many in Baltimore, black and white, could benefit from it greatly. As a 6-year transplant, I’m amazed at how polarized and isolated some of these neighborhoods are–still carrying on like 1982.

  • http://www.facebook.com/MuchMoreThanPretty Jess Ica

    This is the point that stuck out to me also. Its a real shame.

  • http://N/A poopsie

    The city I live in once had a thriving Black economy, so much so, that it was known as Black Wall Street. Now, that was in our hey-day, but unfortunately I see white people there nowadays. Prime real estate, walking distance from downtown. Once upon a time there were theaters, grocery stores, and schools. All black owned and operated.

  • Stef

    So they get pushed to areas they can afford like Brownsville, east ny, to areas that have less services, to areas with higher crime, more drugs and gangs. To areas that no matter how much they beg for help get nothing because it’s about who has the money has the power

    While the new black middle class like yourself get to eat sushi, drink at wine bars and beer gardens and feel you have made it and live in a post racial America cause you get to eat thia food with white hipsters

    Your comments illustrate the new great divide growing each year between the socalled black educated middle class and the black poor.

  • WhatIThink

    Unfortunately this bigger picture here is that this is happening all across America. New York city is simply the most visible case as many thought this was the “mecca” of black folks. But people do not understand history nor economics. Number one, for most of its history, black folks were not allowed to own anything in new York and the rents they received were almost higher than that for other people. Bottom line: black folks during the great migration were never really desired in the North but tolerated, because most of the urban areas built around the turn of the century were built primarily for white European immigrants. That goes for all the major cities on the East coast. And before that blacks were primarily slaves. So now things are going full circle. After being abandoned in the inner city due to white flight (by the descendants of European immigrants) the current economic factors are driving these people back into the cities, while at the same time these same economic factors are driving black folks out. There is a new great migration now as blacks flock out of the cities and into the suburbs and back to the South. In 10 to 20 years former black meccas will be mostly white, Asian or other. Do not misunderstand, this is simply an ongoing process that never stopped even after affirmative action. The “powers that be” never really wanted black folks to stay in America and definitely not to become part of the power structure economically or socially and therefore this is simply a gradual process of ethnic cleansing. Of all the ethnic groups in the census, only the black population is projected to stay the same size by the year 2050. What does that tell you. W.E.B. Dubois was one of the pioneers in the field of social science and analysis going by zip code and income but for some reason today these patterns and trends are left unused and dissected by the folks that need the information the most.

  • persephone

    where? what suburb is predom Black here in Baltimore?

    (not trying to be smart… honestly curious)

  • Tanesha

    @Me I do understand and agree with what you’re saying wholeheartedly. I think one way to eradicate this issue is to offer home ownership options for people with low incomes. For example, there is a federal government program entitled, Farmer’s Home, which helps people with low incomes, and typically with children, get approved for mortgages. It works similarly to subsidized housing, where one’s monthly mortgage is based off of their yearly salary. As, your salary increases, your mortgage increases until you end up paying the full mortgage on the property.

    I think if states and/or cities start some initiatives to get low income people in homes that they own, then maybe the people will begin to take more pride in their community. Instead of states providing subsidized housing for people to live in the “projects,” why don’t they team up with construction companies and have homes, or in New York, apartments built that low income families can BUY and not merely rent. Also, when the families sign up for mortgages, financial classes should be mandatory, which teaches them about how one’s neighborhood affects their property value. For example, if there is a liquor store on the corner and a cat piss infested grocery store up the street, explain how they drives down their property’s value. Giving people options and explaining how real estate works I think would help eradicate the poverty and lack of pride situation in these neighborhoods. I know many may call this a hand out, but it is not. The families are still earning their own homes, but it giving people an incentive to take pride in their neighborhood and accumulate wealth. Many times people just want to see that they can get ahead and when people know better, they tend to do better.

  • msmartin

    Honest and true.

  • http://www.facebook.com/tiffanylanecrane Tiffany Lane Crane

    This is the most powerful and well written article on this subject I have ever come across. The struggle between the blessing and the curse of this matter is well put. We shall see in future generations if this benefits us in any way at all. It will surely prove to improve neighborhoods for those that can afford the change. Hmmmmm.

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