Tag: white supremacy

dcgentrification

The District of Columbia is being sued for gentrification. A lawsuit against DC alleges that “The city is intentionally trying to lighten black neighborhoods.” Gentrification does “lighten” black neighborhoods but the issue is far deeper. Gentrifying neighborhoods are warzones. Gentrification is a battle for physical spaces in cities but in the ultimate sense, a fight to maintain white power and dominance in America. Babies of color now outnumber white babies, who will be in the minority by 2050. Cities are power centers — of government, commerce and culture. To control cities is to maintain white power, even in an emerging majority-minority America. Gentrification is war and black people sit in the crosshairs.

dcgentThe Civil War was launched, in part, because Southerners could not match the electoral muscle of their industrial counterparts in the North. Despite their hatred of Abraham Lincoln the South simply did not have the numbers to beat him, so they fought. Whites today are waging a different type of war in order to avoid being relegated to insignificance socially and politically — gentrification. Illinois has 18 congressional districts, 7 contain some portion of the city of Chicago. The Illinois General Assembly has 59 senate districts, 20 contain some portion of the city of Chicago. All this means over one-third of the state’s political power is tied to one city. To the degree blacks in Illinois — 15 percent of the state population — have enjoyed political influence, it has been a function of our concentration in the city. In 2010 the city was roughly one-third black. A gentrified Chicago erases any reasonable possibility of black political power in the state for at least a generation.

The average white 26 year-old moving into Bronzeville, Brooklyn or Northeast DC may not think of gentrification in terms of war. Black people, however, can’t afford not to. The fate of black America rests on whether or not we are erased from the American city. The viability of white power in this century, conversely, hinges on the ability of whites to populate urban centers. The urgency of the matter has activated a variety of forces against black communities, including the police, financial institutions and the gentrifiers themselves. Consciously or otherwise, these forces are not simply fighting for space in urban centers but the continuation of white power.

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This war is not simply theoretical, it features armed and hostile combatants. When gentrifiers move into historically black neighborhoods they utilize an often lethal force —  we call them police. “There’s some evidence that 311 and 911 calls are increasing in gentrifying areas,” Harvard sociology professor Robert Sampson said in a recent interview with The Atlantic. Neighbor-related complaints to 311 disproportionately originate from gentrifying neighborhoods, according to research done by Dr. Joscha Legewie, a sociologist at New York University, and Dr. Merlin Schaeffer of the University of Cologne. Legewie and Schaeffer found that that neighbor-related complaints (read gentrifiers complaining to the authorities about their new neighbors) to 311 were 26 percent higher in transitioning neighborhoods. Often this takes the form of complaints about music or other longstanding practices in a community but it can be deadly.

Alex Nieto’s body was mutilated by 14 bullets from police. Nieto was shot at the age of 28 because he was a man of color living in a San Francisco neighborhood he’d lived in his entire life — it just happened to be a gentrifying neighborhood. On the evening he was killed, gentrifiers thought Nieto to be suspicious so they called the cops on him; in his own neighborhood. Minutes later Nieto was dead. Nieto’s case just happens to be one of the more “Googlable” ones but we shouldn’t think it unique.

What happened to Nieto is ultimately rooted in a long tradition of whites using law enforcement to police the movement of black bodies, a tradition which gentrification brings into focus. This feature of American life extends at least to The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. In essence, law enforcement across the nation was tasked with finding and returning anyone suspected to be a slave. Ordinary white people were empowered and bound by law to police black bodies and control black life. It is in our collective DNA for whites to monitor black motion and use law enforcement to restrict it. It manifests when black men at a Starbucks are arrested for sitting. It first happened to me as a seminary student, when cops were dispatched to question me for the crime of walking. Gentrification only intensifies this dynamic. When an influx of whites suddenly find themselves in regular and immediate proximity to people of color, a war of subjugation is inevitable.

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Our conversations around gentrification are far too shallow. It is disheartening that longtime black residents are suddenly priced out of communities they’ve called home for generations. It is also a cruel irony that these black residents are generally replaced by well-to-do whites who wanted nothing to do with said communities just ten years prior. But the implications for white power and dominance in a changing America are far more important. Cities have long been beacons of diversity. As these power centers become more monolithic, however, how that power is radiated and exercised could determine the fate of black people for the next 100 years. Another century of uninterrupted white power holds menacing and even terroristic prospects for black people. America’s financial institutions are doing their part to secure that outcome.

*Part 2 Forthcoming*

LOS ANGELES - SEPTEMBER 19:  Actor Bill Maher and Donald Trump attend the 56th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards at the Shrine Auditorium September 19, 2004 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Donald Trump is anti-Muslim but more disturbing is the degree to which white liberals share his ideology. Rooted in white supremacy, it lives on the political left, trumpeted by thought leaders like Bill Maher. It views brown terrorists as especially scary and worthy of scrutiny but is incapable of treating whites in the same way. It cannot see that my (black) people still live in fear of white Christians, not ISIS. It extends white privilege to slavers and the Klan, insisting they were exceptional and not representative of Christianity yet regards every Muslim attacker as a perfect ambassador of Islam. It dismisses Timothy McVeigh and the IRA as ancient history while 9/11 dictates our national course daily. It fails to fully appreciate that although the Klan is not lynching black people today, Dylan Roof, police and James Harris Jackson are. White supremacy blocks conservatives and liberals from seeing the issue of terror clearly and we cannot afford blurred vision in this moment.

On this past week’s episode of Real Time, former UK Parliament member Louise Mensch highlighted that Khalid Masoon, the London attacker, was born in Britain and the tragedy should not be exploited to fan anti-Muslim flames. Maher, predictably, insisted that Islam itself was the issue. When Maher’s guests pointed out that we do not attribute terror to Christians in the same way, Maher cited false equivalency. When Maher asked whether there were in fact Christian terror groups today and his guests furnished modern examples, Maher excused them as being in the past. The only terrorists of interest to Maher are the brown ones. Unwittingly, Maher provides intellectual cover to overt racists, those in the Trump camp. As a liberal, Maher’s fixation on Islamic terrorists and broad condemnation of Islam as a religion only serves to empower bigotry, not halt terror.

As a black man I have great difficulty following the logic of Maher and the bigots he empowers because history lives for the oppressed. When there is an unwillingness to treat white extremists with the same urgency as brown ones, there is pause. When there is a dismissiveness of crimes in the past, as though they are not still present in our memory, trust is broken. As a nation we never dealt with the issue of white terrorism in the past, especially when Christianity was a motivating force. In the present we are told it is inappropriate to discuss white terrorists groups like FEAR because they somehow do not represent the same kind of threat as Islamists do. It would seem as though the time is never right to discuss white terror and for those who have suffered at the hands of white terrorists, we are unable to engage in a genuine discussion on the topic until these scores are settled.

To be sure, Dylan Roof and James Harris Jackson do not belong to groups seeking nuclear weapons. Still, white terrorists have demonstrated the ability to kill en masse and yet the hysteria is just not there. Timothy McVeigh and the IRA did not explicitly attack in the name of God. Yet it is undeniable that the Klan and the many extremists who have attacked abortion clinics have drawn from holy texts but Christianity manages to escape broad condemnation as a violent faith that produces such terror. It should also be noted that extremists often have a cultural association with Islam, much in the same way Timothy McVeigh was raised Catholic but not particularly devout. While we tend not to stress the link to Christianity in such cases, Muslims are not extended the same privilege.

I have been a huge fan of Maher since childhood. It was my greatest joy as a teenager to stay up and watch Politically Incorrect and Real Time is still my weekly obsession! My aim is not to takedown Maher so much as to point out the flaw in our national reasoning, which white supremacy enables. Terror is a serious issue and as such, our lenses must not be flawed when we view it.