Gentrification Is a Five-Course Meal — And the Indigestion Is Horrible
Hope you’ve got an appetite for an extended metaphor
Gentrification is the kind of thing you know when you see it, and that’s not nearly as dodgy as it sounds. A 2019 study released by the National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC) shows that almost half of U.S. gentrification happens in only a handful of cities: Baltimore, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, Philadelphia, San Diego, and Washington, D.C. Yet the process grafts so easily onto any given area that in nearly any city, investment in one neighborhood can be a harbinger of evictions to come in another.
Gentrification is a rat king of developers, city officials, community elitism, and police forces all tied at the tail; a gourmand 10 stories tall that devours platters of small businesses, devalued homes, and collateral lives, sopping up the gravy of surrounding culture and belching its dismissive approval. Every city it encounters becomes an ouroboros of vanishing institutions, willfully obtuse debates, and finally, a regurgitation of the very culture it destroyed to begin with.
And so, in 2018, a church that was founded by free Black and freed slaves and sat in the capital of the country had a baptism, an altar call, sang, prayed — and then closed its doors. Gentrification did in 20 years what Reconstruction, the Great Depression, and Jim Crow could not in 100.
Course I: Hors-d’oeuvres
Most conversations about gentrification start off in fog, lit only by gaslight. One side says, “You’re pushing me out of my home.” The other responds with talk of safe dog parks and bootstrapping one’s way to the affordable housing promised land. These are dishonest conversations, led by those seeking to avoid charges of colonization. Such defenses of the process hit the table in small portions: a new streetlight; a bus stop that finally gets a metal bench; a fresh segment of…