Everybody needs a little gentrification, but too much of it can turn you into a snob, The same is true for our cities, where empty buildings, collapsed property values and empty space have created opportunities for urban homesteaders and real estate predators alike. Places like Detroit and Flint badly need investment – in their economic base, in their physical infrastructure, in their neighborhoods, in their schools and public institutions, and in their people.
But in their desperation to increase their tax bases, city governments seem only too willing to once again displace their poor. The signs are not hard to see. The downtowns in these cities are relatively safe places, as the first step of most investors is to provide security for the suburban workforce and monied visitors.
“Gentrification wants to move us out, however they can,” said Charity, “Benign and malicious neglect, market forces, erosion of services, even eminent domain.” She knows. Her childhood neighborhood on the river was taken by eminent domain and turned over to a developer. There are gated communities even within the city limits, places that have almost no interaction with their neighbors, who are sometimes only a block away.
The current cliché of the 99% misses all this. In the neighborhoods, where crime is rising and is primarily “black on black,” there is little sense of community, no great solidarity. People talk of the sense of powerlessness and the apathy, the epidemic of alcohol to numb the pain.
Any effort to revitalize our inner cities that once again pushes these people out of the way will fail, as it should.