Here's the Wikipedia entry for "gentrification:"
Gentrification, or more specifically urban gentrification, is a process in which low-cost, physically deteriorated neighborhoods experience physical renovation and an increase in property values, along with an influx of wealthier residents who typically displace the prior residents.
I don't bring this up because I'm coming from a defensive place. I don't seek pats on the back and encouragement, "Oh you guys aren't gentrifying, Whitney." I'm simply trying to open up a discussion about what's inevitable and what's not when two young, white kids buy a house in a predominantly Hispanic and black neighborhood.
And let's be totally honest here too: we're not from the neighborhood. I grew up in suburban Amherst for the majority of my childhood, and Steve lived downstate. I've got a lamp from IKEA in my bedroom, too.
I also won't say that we didn't move into the neighborhood with an idea to improve it and I think maybe in here lies the crux of the gentrification question. Herein lies the unexposed racism, the misguided good intentions—the real sticky stuff.
I find myself talking about our plans for the house and our desires for the block differently depending on with whom I’m speaking. I tell my family members that of course I want to see our property values rise and that it’s really an up-and-coming neighborhood. I hear myself using words like “pioneer,” as if I’m some sort of savior out there in the ‘hood dealing with shit that thousands of poor and disenfranchised people have been dealing with for years.
Other times I’m less ambitious, it depends on the audience.
The truth is that I don’t have any sort of conclusions about our situation and the larger question of gentrification except that it is a complex tangle of racism, classism, and institutionalized disinvestment. I can’t decide if I’m fighting it or joining it—maybe both.
Bring on the discussion, this is just the start as I will write more soon. Thoughts?