When The Gentrifiers Aren’t White


    This article from the Washington DC City Paper is a few months old, but a reader just brought it to our attention and it seemed relevant to some of the discussions that have been going on around here recently about gentrification and shifts in the population (like this and this). The author, a young black woman who graduated from Howard University in 2006, writes in the first person about changes during her school years as well when she moves back to LeDroit Park neighborhood in 2010 after a four-year hiatus.

    White professionals and hipsters trickled in, slowly, visible even through the bubble of being a black college student, surrounded by 10,000 other black college students, in a largely black neighborhood, in a mostly black city. By 2004, they were regularly spotted making their way to and from the Shaw–Howard University Metrorail station. And by the time I graduated, white people were jogging up 4th Street NW through the campus, and walking their large dogs on the green lawn of Howard’s Louis Stokes Health Sciences Library—something longtime black residents never did.

    Four years later, the author is walking her own dog on the green lawn.

    For neighborhoods where it suddenly feels like white people are “everywhere,” the U.S. Census Bureau says the vast majority of residents in LeDroit Park and Bloomingdale (and Petworth, and Brookland) are still black—more than 80 percent of the residents in some gentrifying census tracts in a 2009 estimate. Perhaps that’s because just as “black people” is a proxy term for poor people in D.C., “white people” is a proxy term for the young professionals who have moved in—and neither term is being accurately used….Newcomers to D.C. of any race tend to arrive for the same kind of high-powered jobs, the kind of jobs you can’t get without education and social capital. The people who are already struggling to find work when newcomers get here, though, are likely to be black.

    Later in the piece she writes this:

    “Gentrifier” can’t be equated with “white person.” After all, most poor people in this country are white (though it’s definitely a numbers game; whites are still less likely to be poor than blacks and Latinos—there are just more of them). The gentrifier is a person of privilege, and even if she doesn’t have much money, she’s got an education and a network of friends who are striving like she is, and she has the resources to at least try to get what she wants.

    Any of this resonate with gentrifiers of color out there?

    Photo by Angry Eel

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