The topic of gentrification has always been a conversation since I was younger. My first time hearing the word was in a freshman political science class that I attended when I was about 18 years old. In all honesty, my only interest in gentrification was to memorize the definition to past an exam. At the time, the concept didn’t resonate until the following year. I took a speech class and heard the lengthy “G” word from political science again. It was during a speech from my classmate, an older student, that really broke down the nature of the gentrification beast. She was from 3rd Ward Houston and had had personal experiences with the “beast” .
The horrors of rent inflation, historical landmarks replaced with condos, and rooted traditions destroyed by new regulations to attract newcomers filled her speech. After she finished, my thoughts of empathy and rage plagued my thoughts but in a good way. I had some more research and comprehension of my own to do. It wasn’t until recently that I’d decided to revisit my plan of analyzing gentrification after having an odd dream about Puff Daddy asking me to spell the darn word. Yes….. Puff Daddy orchestrated a spelling bee in my dreams (or nightmare). (Remember I said it here first folks). So anyway…. When I woke up, I instantly looked up the spelling of gentrification (lol) and then revisited the definition:
According to my old Webster’s dictionary:
- gentrify (jen’tri fi) means: 1. to convert an aging neighborhood into a more affluent one; as by remodeling homes 2. to raise a higher status.
- gentry (jen’tre) means: (See Gentle) people of social high standing; people of gentle birth
I found a special interest in the synonymic word, Gentle, provided by Webster. I decided to do etymology research on the second portion of the word – fication which means: making or causing.
So we have: gentry (a.k.a gentle) +-fication (to make or cause)
After adding those two factors together, gentrification seems to mean: to make or cause something to be gentle. If this is the case, an assumed harsh neighborhood is made “gentle” by raising the status with condos, new inhabitants and cool boutiques alongside the older homes….. Oooooohhhh I-get-it-Not-get-it!!!!
Not A Race Issue but A Social and Race Issue
Gentrification is not a new concept innovated in the 90’s to start kicking Blacks and Hispanics out of their homes in the inner city, which I assumed before doing some research. It was in ancient Rome and Rome Britain where the origins of gentrification was born when large villas began replacing small shops in 3 AD. The term was actually conceived by Ruth Glass in the 1970’s that referred to the alterations she observed in the displacement of social classes and housing markets in certain areas of inner London. For centuries, gentrification in Western civilizations continue to display a system where the poor gets whatever is left from the plate of the rich; causing a social class issue and in most countries non-whites have a higher percentage of individuals in poverty, therefore, evolving gentrification into a race issue as well.
In the 1940’s to 1950’s, the suburbanite times roared with an American dream of having a home, picket fence, and 2.5 children; abandoning the inner city as a place to commute ONLY for work. According to theorist :Bruce London and J. John Palen, the 1970’s is when the attitudes, lifestyles, and values of the middle- and upper-middle-class whites changed to be more pro-urban. They were the rebellious crowd that compelled of a possibly hipster dual working household that weren’t interested in having a family life their parents but living “inner city chic” (London and Palen). After years of people creating and building culture out of a forsaken and abandoned area of destitute, here comes the well-to do-money-powered Caucasians invading the community to “gentle” up the place with “gentle birthed people” or “gentrify” the area
Houston, We Have a Problem!
The woman’s tale of gentrification did not hit home until about 2011. I was attending University of Houston-Downtown campus. It was a construction nightmare downtown as the city began several projects on major freeways and high rises. On the way to school, I would see these beautiful modern condos next to a grisly, run down home. It was quite repulsive to see such a sight. I asked myself: Couldn’t the developers let the house next door borrow some paint or siding or somethin?…. gosh…. or fix the older home before building the alluring condo right next door.
Over the years, I have continued to see images of gentrification bullying its way throughout the city…..OZ tormenting Dorothy’s home in Kansas. The first time that it really stood out was when my cousin moved to Houston in a brand new development on Cavalcade St. For those who are not familiar of the area, Cavalcade is considered inner city with a 69% Mexican population with majority of the remainder from other countries. Basically, this area is heavily occupied by minorities. The neighborhood has to be over 60+ years old, as it lacks the modern structures and shopping centers that litter the contemporary suburbs. If you are not familiar with the area, you get a “wrong-turn” feeling when you arrive to the area… (in all honesty but much respect). But anywho, the property that my cousin moved into was very nice but was not cohesive to the surrounding homes. The complex was surprisingly (not surprisingly) gated with features of playgrounds and smoothly paved parking lots. It was strange. On the way to his house, I saw a deserted Church’s Chicken, mangy feral cats, and dissipated older homes. It seems like the money was allocated to only one project but not to one ENTIRE community.
“Instead of investing in a rent guzzling apartment home, why not invest in the homeowners or residents that have lived in the neighborhood for years or even decades?” I thought to myself. According to neighborhoodscouts.com, the poverty level in the area shows that the neighborhood has an income lower than 94.4% of U.S. neighborhoods, with 57.3% of the children here below the federal poverty line. This neighborhood has a higher rate of childhood poverty than 94.3% of U.S. neighborhoods.(https://www.neighborhoodscout.com/tx/houston/elysian-st) More than anything, the city should think about building better schools to prevent poverty or provide more transportation methods in order for these individuals to commute to better jobs.
As I stated before, gentrification is everywhere and among different races but it is mostly an imperious notion that the wealthy can have their way with the poor whenever and however. There is no restoration found in the concept of gentrification therefore I do not understand its presence in Houston or anywhere else in the world. Gentrification seems more like colonization or people displacement.
It seems the only answer to this “colonization” problem is for minorities to take complete CONTROL as far as govern, protect, and vendor to its own community. At that point, gentrification would be unnecessary and inexistent.
Also check out some of these videos on gentrification as they will provide more insight on the topic from their point of view.