“Rising Property Values” = “Pushing Out Blacks”

The front page story on the daily Chicago rag The RedEye, “Taming the Bloomingdale Trail” is a feature on a long, thin park in the making, developed from unused railroad tracks running through newly gentrified and soon-to-be-gentrified neighborhoods here. And it’s sad that such great things are coming here, because the way that Chicago works, investment in the neighborhoods (like art spaces in my Logan Square or improved public schools) means higher property values.

And higher property values means mass displacement of poor folks – usually Black and Brown people.

Displacement is usually couched in terms of “improving the neighborhood.” And that depends on what one means when one says “improving.” There are other ways to reduce crime and living conditions that do not rely on kicking out Black and Latino residents. But those aren’t as glamorous, and they are investment heavy, with little going back into the banks and coffers of White investors –  investors who specifically profit from Black, Brown and Poor poverty.

House of Quality - 900 W Randolph

So investing in arts and parks is kinda expensive. But like investing in condos or privatizing schools, they know they’ll get their money back with interest.

The median family income for a family or four in the Chicagoland area is $70,500.”

Often, what passes for “affordable housing” in Chicago is targeted toward this manufactured “median”, comprised of pitting extremely rich and middle class  neighborhoods and suburbs against poor neighborhoods, rather than basing it on those who need affordability the most. Consistently, poor people lose when forced to go to battle with the wealthy on the terms of the rich. 

In the region, there are over 740,000 households with incomes at or below $35,000.”

For them, affordable housing that operates under the assumption that $70,500 is the normal income and if affordable means 1/3-1/2 of that spent on rent and utilities means they are displaced. This is the evil of gentrification in one form. The school closings and defundings; the shootings and murders placed in fluxed regions heavy with post-displacement people; the lack of investment; the secrecy of operations in City Hall; the silent white churches; the compliant white renters who talk favorably about rising property value; the white land developers who purposefully use dirty tricks to kick out black and brown businesses, renters, and landowners in fashionable (or soon to be fashionable) neighborhoods – these are direct effects of gentrification. They are only as distant from gentrification in the sense that the gentrifiers can erect protective walls to deny the evil effects of what gentrification does.

Here’s a game, White Chicagoans. Every time you hear someone talking about “Rising property values” think “Pushing out the blacks.”

Every time you hear the phrase, “This neighborhood has improved” add the voice, “Since we moved the Blacks and the Mexicans out.”

Because that’s what those phrases mean. Just be honest about the passive and active racism of White Supremacy. And if it hurts to think of it in those terms, think how much the effects of displacement and apartheid hurts.

Here’s another game: Invest in neighborhoods of color, in local businesses of color as much as possible. Then more people win.


2 thoughts on ““Rising Property Values” = “Pushing Out Blacks”

  1. ‘Every time you hear the phrase, “This neighborhood has improved” add the voice, “Since we moved the Blacks and the Mexicans out.”’

    I live with the converse. I live in Waukegan, where we have a large non-white population. They live here because it’s still affordable to be here. And I cannot tell you how many times I have heard how Waukegan “used to be such a nice town” – code for “before all those Mexicans moved in.”

    I’m white, cisgendered, straight – still unpacking the privilege. And I say, early and often, that I love living here. I chose to move here twenty years ago and have no plans to leave.

    • Yes!

      In fact, these very same gentrified neighborhoods (and here I’m thinking specifically of neighborhoods like Logan Square and Bucktown at least) had the very same phrases and meanings used about them (often without the hidden code).

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