The single-story narrative of “everyone who is Black is poor” is the basis for most pro-gentrification argument. The idea is that if a person takes race out of it and were truly objective, gentrification can only benefit a community that is predominantly African American. After all, who wants to live in a slum? (Sarcasm, for those who may have missed it.)
Alas, I did not grow up in a slum. I grew up in a middle class, African-American community. Both of my best friends’ mothers were housewives. One of my friends dads was an engineer; and my other friend’s dad was an attorney with a small law firm in the neighborhood. This is not a boast or a brag, simply a matter of my own circumstances.
"In Morningside Park, [Inglewood’s] most heavily Black district, and the area with the most homeowners and registered voters, African Americans who moved in since the 1970s are better educated than the Whites who left,” said David E. Hayes-Bautista and Gregory Rodriguez of the UCLA Center for the Study of Latino Health and Culture in their 1994 paper titled “Inglegood."
I grew up in the predominantly African-American, middle-class community of Morningside Park. It is in the City of Inglewood, California.
“Inglewood boasts one of the most well-to-do black populations in the nation, according to census data. From the newer gated communities of Briarwood and Carlton Square to the older homes of Morningside Park, a large percentage of Inglewood's 54,000 Black residents own their homes,” stated a L.A.Times article by Michele Fuetsch about the 1992 riots, “Black Middle Class Helped to Contain Inglewood Damage.”
According to City Data, the median income in the ZIP code 90305 (which includes Morningside Park) is $65,000. The median income in California is $57,000.
Growing up in the 1980s and 1990s, I did not think my family was unusual or an exception. The fact that I was surrounded with two-parent Black families and Black-owned businesses was simply normal.
I still live in Morningside Park. According to a 2011 survey, 86% of Morningside Park is African American and 34% of Morningside Park residents have a college degree. In the 2012 NY Times article, “U.S. Bachelor Degree Rate Passes Milestone,” by Richard Perez-Pena it states that the average U.S. college graduation rate for African-Americans is 19.7 percent and that for all adults it is 30 percent.
In Los Angeles, we’re going through a renaissance.
Los Angeles has the largest homeless population in the U.S. The passage of realignment in California has given early release to a high number of convicted felons, and many of them will be released into Los Angeles.
The homeless population and convicted felons used to go to downtown L.A., but with that gentrified area being the hot new destination, that population is no longer wanted. They also used to go to South L.A., but many parts of South L.A. are by the new Metro rails and are now highly desirable to White people.
It appears that the powers that be have decided to actively destroy the largest African-American, middle class community in L.A. County. They have instituted a plan to lower our home values so they can move in displaced populations and in 10-20 years flip the slum properties that they created for a profit.
The City of Inglewood began with closing our community library. Our city has three libraries, but they chose to only close the library in the African-American, middle class community of Morningside Park.
Along our business corridor they made it increasingly difficult to open quality, middle-class businesses.
Then they began to litter our business district with programs like WIC for economically disadvantaged people and low end discount stores.
Then the City of Inglewood bought buildings in our community and let them become blighted, but refused to sell them, lease them or keep them up.
Companies that appear to be currently working with the City of Inglewood and Los Angeles County are actively sending letters to African-American, middle-class homeowners and telling them to sell their homes to an agency, so that said company can turn our single-family homes into Section 8 housing, group homes and transitional housing.
The happy gentrification story is part of a racist American narrative. African-Americans are the symbol for poverty in the U.S. whether our communities are middle class or working class. Under the racist U.S. framework, this country will always actively find a reason to destroy a thriving and politically active Black community.
It is a warning to Black people to not work together to build a community, but to work only to assimilate, because if white America isn't included then your community will be destroyed. It will be destroyed by movies like Grand Canyon (1991) which characterized my entire community as a gang-infested ghetto. It will be destroyed by the media which through health funded journalism grants pathologize African-American culture as sick and in need of being healed. It will be destroyed by active predatory lending by banks.
Gentrification is a race thing. It is not a class thing. A middle-class Black community is not valuable to institutional racism.
The idea that gentrification is a good thing is nothing more than another little white lie.
Teka-Lark Fleming is the publisher and founder of the Morningside Park Chronicle newspaper and lives in Inglewood, California.
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