When I think of the idea of gentrification, I envision the little blond protagonist Carol Anne Freeling in the 1982 horror film, “Poltergeist,” who suddenly turns away from a distorted TV screen and announces, “They’re here.”
In predominantly black neighborhoods across Atlanta and elsewhere, hipsters, developers, and other gentrifiers are descending upon what used to be — or, in some cases, might still be — the family homes for generations of Black Atlantans.
The whites arrive one here, two or three there in neighborhoods that no whites have ventured into since their flight to the suburbs. And they all wear an air of entitlement that says, “I belong here, this is my world and what are you doing in it.”
Though under the guise of plastered smiles, none of these people are genuinely friendly or show respect for the people who have lived in the communities of color for years.
Yes, the whites all have a sense of entitlement. I believe it’s in their DNA from the time when their ancestors were explorers and conquistadors; they viewed the natives as obstacles to their goals of claiming the land for the king or queen of whatever European country they came.
So, they would slaughter the natives; those who they didn’t murder, they enslaved, baptized or colonized. An early example of gentrification, to me, is what happened on the island of Hawaii to the native ethnic people living there, who European explorers killed, colonized and drove off their land and forced these native inhabitants to work on pineapple and sugar plantations.
In Newsweek, “In the 1880s, American sugar and pineapple companies grew tremendously on the islands which at the time were subject to the rule of a native monarchy.
“The businesspeople had a problem with the royalty of the island, and in 1887, people who were affiliated with pineapple and sugar plantations forced Liliuokalani’s brother, who was king at the time, to sign a new constitution.
“The Bayonet Constitution, which was signed at literal gunpoint, reduced monarchy rule and mandated that only people of certain ethnicities and who were rich enough could vote.”
Now, Hawaii is a U.S. state and the original natives have either assimilated, are economically stuck putting on shows for tourist, have become drug addicts or live on the beach in communities of tents and are practically homeless.
The same thing happened to the native Americans. It also happened to the South Africans. It is happening all over the country today.
Another aspect, of gentrification is the phone calls and letters from predators telling residents of a targeted community they want to buy their home.
Who told these people the residents wanted to sell their properties? Did they advertise that their homes were for sale? Did they see signs in their yards?
No. These are the same people who congregate in courthouses looking for properties to buy and inspecting county courthouse records to see which residents may be behind on their taxes and purchase tax liens for investments.
They also obtain records from mortgage companies to see who is behind on their mortgage payments or secure county foreclosure lists of available properties. In addition, they buy lists of addresses and phone numbers of areas they think are low income and where many senior citizens live.
In fact, there is even a company that calls itself, We buy Ugly Houses.
Black people and other people of color, pay your taxes and mortgages at all cost. Don’t give these predators a reason to purchase your home from under you.
Because when they come, they spread like weeds and overtake the community (land), drive up property taxes.
Then, they bring Starbucks, Amazon, Whole Foods and fusion food restaurants, white women jogging with their dogs or behind strollers. Then they complain about, while some even call the police on, the original occupants of the community.
Suddenly, our houses of worship make too much noise. There are too many cars parked at our homes. That senior living center that’s been around for many years and has a spectacular view, its members make too much noise. There become “mobs” of Black people who threaten the safety of the neighborhood.
We don’t want” Freaknik” in the community because it will bring crowds of young, black people and crime. Even though,’Freaknik” was held in this community long before the whites moved into the community.
Next, the bike lanes come on the streets.
Now, I don’t have anything against bike riders; in fact, I used to ride, myself, in Phoenix and Portland. But why weren’t there bike lanes before the colonizers came?
Before their arrival, residents had to take their chances in the streets next to the cars or ride on the sidewalks; and, in the town I live in, the sidewalks are a new manifestation in the city.
Plus, many of them are too narrow for bike riders and people. Moreover, in my city there is even a “Beltline,” so bike riders can circle the whole city on this trail that follows railroad tracks.
In the name of gentrification, historic churches are bought so the new owners of properties can rebuild in their place luxury single family homes like in Los Angeles and stadiums like the Mercedes Benz in Atlanta.
So, how can we stop the spread of gentrification with all its injustices? Remember my reference to the film, “Poltergeist”? Well, a poltergeist is a kind of a ghost or mischievous spirit.
Therefore, to rid our communities of the expansion of the whites and gentrification, perhaps we need to learn the “Ghost Dances”—conveniently made illegal—performed by native American tribes to rid themselves of the whites. Maybe, this time it will work.