The Gentrification of Movements:
4 Ways Funders Can Stop Putting Raisins in the Potato Salad
Last year my family moved to Tacoma, Washington, after 17 years of living in Oakland, California. The decision to move was a heart-wrenching one.
My partner and I had spent our entire adult lives in Oakland. We’d built a vibrant community of friends, most of whom were involved in movement work to advance racial, economic and gender justice. We were part of a local group called Baby-buds, a queer women of color community that supported each other through the process of having children. Our kids were growing up together like cousins. We love Oakland. However, as rents skyrocketed, we could no longer afford the standard of life we wanted there.
Gentrification had finally pushed us out.
On our last night in Oakland – a full year before BBQ Becky and Permit Patty – we went to our favorite Ethiopian restaurant on Grand Avenue with some members of our Baby-buds crew. It was a lovely summer evening, and we were enjoying ourselves.
Suddenly, a white woman at the table sitting next to us turned and snapped at our friend’s 6-year-old son, who had flipped the light switch to a small lamp on the wall behind him on and off. One of his moms calmly told the woman that they were happy to tell him not to flip the light switch again but would appreciate her using a kinder tone and addressing them rather than their child. The woman was incensed; she glared at us and spat out her words, “You should know better than to let your kid play with a light switch in the first place. No one should have to tell you that.” She threatened to call the police on us and then proceeded to finish eating her plate of delicious Ethiopian food, apparently oblivious to the fact that threatening to call the police was a threat on our lives – particularly for the Black people at our table.
Gentrification is infuriating and, for the
communities and cities we love, heartbreaking.
The gentrification of cities involves affluent white people moving in, sometimes because they are attracted to the culture, i.e., the “ethnic” food, etc. The trouble is, they often don’t like the people of color who created that culture.
So they call the police on us (in Oakland, this included an attempt to shut down a 65-year-old Black church because the singing was “too loud” and to ban the playing of any musical instruments without a permit around Lake Merritt, a popular spot for drumming).
They displace us (between 2000 and 2014, 31 percent of Oakland’s Black population was pushed out, an indicator of a similar trend of push out among other groups of color).
And they engage in theft and appropriation of the culture.
Before you know it, there are white women donning saris and putting their image on their own line of “artisanal” Indian ghee. There are white hipsters opening soul food restaurants. The restaurants look OK from the outside, but something isn’t right.
There are raisins in the potato salad.