Scholar and activist Andrea Smith talks about colonialism and the disappearance of the Indigenous as one of the three pillars of White Supremacy. In this type of logic, the indigenous is constantly being removed from the land so that the settler can claim rights to it. We see it in Western myths about the Bad and Savage Indians and in current myths about the Terrorist Palestinian. We see it in the mascotry of Indian peoples, customs, costumes, and tribes for sports teams, and in the appropriation of spiritual practices of Native peoples.
To expand a bit further: Gentrification is a form of and repetition of settler colonialism. Which is to say that gentrification is a method of stealing land and disappearing native peoples from their property, institutions, history, and even cultures. It’s wealthier, typically white people actively disappearing poorer, typically people of color from their lands and their own communities. The similarities do not end there, though. When we try to argue that gentrification is actually a bad thing, white pro-gentrification forces argue that they are there to improve the neighborhoods. The implication argument, is that people of color and their cultures and institutions are intrinsically inferior. They will ask for proof of the worth of black and brown communities and receipts as if the only piece of value is how much to get from real estate. As if the only thing Black and Latino folk do is gang-bang1 and sell drugs. And as if those are more violent actions than intentional financial destabilization and wealth-denying of white institutions of power for the last five hundred and twenty years.
People of color as individuals, as communities, as institutions are not trusted to have value. Their restaurants and churches and businesses schools2 and social clubs are bulldozed, swept out, shut down, overcome because they are judged inferior by the very forces that want them removed. Settler colonialism needs to continually harvest cheap workers, and so keeps destabilizing the communities of its cheap labor force so as to keep them disorganized, to keep them from demanding more, to keep them from speaking of injustice in ways that will eventually lead to justice.
Are white people ok with these acts of displacement, whether they occur in Australia, or Bolivia, or Palestine/Israel, or Humboldt Park, Chicago3, or within the mostly White missional and emergent church experiences, because we’ve never made peace with the fact that we have and are constantly disappearing Native people from North America? In the process of stealing their lands and constantly stealing their lands, we have said that their forms of education were not adequate, so we put them in the first public schools, with the aim of enculturating them to Middle Class Euro-American values and ways of seeing and doing. When we did not actively work to physically and psychologically erase and shame their languages and customs from existence.
And this process continues, and is always continuing. In the same ways where Israeli propaganda claims that Palestine was not an actual possessed land outside of Jewish occupants and that there is no such thing as Palestinians; in the same way that the First Nations did not have rights to the land since they did not operate by European laws and feudalities; in the same way that White missional churches enter into heavily churched Black and Brown neighborhoods to “bring the Gospel”; in the same way that children are being adopted out of Indian Country and into White families; so White hipsters, investment bankers, real estate agents, business bureaus, city halls, and developers converge to continually erase the identities and culture and institutions of Black and Brown communities to turn a profit and keep poor people in line.
1 Remember that the KKK was the first and the biggest racialized gang. Remember also that POC gangs in the Northern urban centers grew out of reaction to the strolling and violent actions of white gangs entering into black and Latino neighborhoods looking for black and Latino youths to beat up.
2 In one year, Chicago’s Mayor Emanuel closed down fifty elementary schools – almost every last one having a population made up almost entirely of Black and Latino students. Almost all of them in poor black neighborhoods. But two of these neighborhood schools were closed in Humboldt Park, where gentrification is building steam. A neighborhood middle school in West Logan Square (also on the fast track for gentrification) that had seen huge investment from the community and was a source of pride and joy for all was turned into a military academy against the community’s wishes. Because we can’t trust non-violent forms of Latino organizing and educating.
3 Where I grew up and there was no investment from white people then. But years later, a white coffeehouse owner would ask me if the neighborhood was getting better while White Supremacist Fox News was playing overhead on his screens