Recently came across this interesting piece on gentrification in DC by a white woman who moved to a neighborhood in NE Washington, DC called Rosedale:
The very origin of the word “gentrification” to describe the process by which an urban area is rendered middle class is not neutral. The eminent sociologist Ruth Glass is credited with coining it in 1964 to decry the changes in working-class London neighborhoods. Though the word has only been in circulation for a few decades, gentrification has become another of the litmus test issues that define who we are on the political and—in the eyes of some—moral spectrum.
The lines of conflict are readily apparent in the comments readers leave on blogs that cover Washington’s transitional neighborhoods. Some writers are angry that the neighborhood is changing at all; others are angry that it isn’t changing fast enough. Some want to control the change, ensuring that a curated mix of businesses is established—no chain stores, please, but nothing too “ghetto,” either. And some want to curate the people. Gentrification, though driven by economic change, often boils down to issues of race, even among diversity-celebrating gentrifiers.
As I prepared to write this piece, I was struck time and again by people’s willingness to talk to me, a gentrifier who had moved into their neighborhood and was, in essence, asking how they felt about it. Thelma Anderson, a retiree who has lived in the house a few doors down from me since the 1980s, told me she is glad that whites are back and that they don’t show fear. But several longtime residents I spoke with expressed ambivalence. They’re happy to see the neighborhood improving but unsure what their place will be in the H Street neighborhood of the future.
It is a little long, but definitely worth the read…
Other links to some good content on gentrification:
Confessions of a Black Gentrifier
The first chapter of There Goes the Hood, Lance Freeman’s book on gentrification
Lance Freeman talking about his book on NPR