Paul R. Lehman, Gentrification is a double-edged sword for the African American communities.

May 5, 2020 at 2:21 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, American Dream, American history, American Racism, anglo saxons, Baltimore, Bigotry in America, blacks, Brown v Topeka, chicago, Community relationships, desegregation, Disrespect, employment, equality, ethnic stereotypes, Ethnicity in America, European Americans, fairness, Oklahoma, poverty, Prejudice, Race in America, riots, segregation, social justice system, Tulsa Riot 1921, white supremacy, whites | 1 Comment
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Occasionally, on talk radio, television talk shows, and social media the topic of improving the African American community is discussed and reasonable and logical points, as well as opinions, are offered in that regard. In many of those discussions, the most salient point regarding success in the African American community revolves around ownership and control of the property. Many people of color have experienced financial success in these communities usually because they owned and controlled their businesses. However, the primary lesson we learn from history is that all African American communities are tentative because the ultimate control of their property is not in their hands.
Many of the opinions and advice offered for improving African Americans involve four essential elements: finance, subsistence, education, and religion. Take away any one of these four and the community cannot endure very long. Even when all four of these elements are functioning well, the community is constantly at risk. Yes, individual people of color can and do fair very well financially from their efforts within the African American community, but their businesses are usually confined to that community and not the larger European American community. History reminds us of what has and can happen to successful African American communities in the examples of Wilmington, North Carolina; Tulsa, Oklahoma; Atlanta, Georgia, and Rosewood, Florida, just to mention a few. These examples are not given to indicate that efforts to improve one’s condition should not be made, but to recognize that the social progress that has been made has not altered the conditions facing African Americans relative to their community including owning and controlling property.
In the cases of the four African American communities mentioned above, each was met and destroyed by violence, abuse, and death. Today, African American communities have one major destroyer that comes with a plethora of weapons; that enemy is known as gentrification. Unlike the violence of the past, gentrification works so slowly and gradually like cancer that the loss is hardly noticed until it becomes obvious. An article appeared in (The Charleston Chronicle, February 20, 2020) that identified and described this process: “Gentrification involves the transformation of under-invested, predominately poor communities from low value to high value. During this transformation, long-time residents and businesses are displaced; unable to afford higher rents, mortgages, and property taxes.” The article added that “For some, gentrification is a process of renovating deteriorated urban neighborhoods through the influx of more affluent residents. To others, gentrification magnifies the racial divide as it shifts a neighborhood’s racial composition as white residents move in and minorities are moved out.”
In essence, this process can rob a community of the four essentials it needs to exist. A brief example can underscore how the process works. In his book Boom Town, Sam Anderson states that the Land Run that occurred in Oklahoma and particularly in Oklahoma City “was for white men.” The spirit of dominance and control by Anglo-Saxons was quite evident during his event. He noted that African Americans did not take part in the actions of the first day and when they did arrive, “They found themselves relegated to the least appealing pockets of the remaining land, up against the railroad tracks and down by the river. One of their neighborhoods, Sandtown, flooded so often that its houses were built on stilts. Residents were frequently rescued by boats.”
As time progressed, the African American community gradually began to expand north from the river and the railroad tracks and eventually was permitted to establish businesses and residence on the south side of 2nd street. The north side of the street was reserved for European Americans until in May of 1919 when through the efforts of Roscoe Dungee an African American family was able to move “into a house on a street that touched the very bottom edge of a white neighborhood. And so, after many years of confinement, by the tiniest possible increment, OKC’s black world began to expand.” This area became known as the “deep duce.”
The expansion of the African American community continued and by the 1940s had grown to include the south side of northeast 8th street. The area from the railroad tracks to northeast 8th street and east from Walnut Street just passed Bryant Avenue came to be known as “The East Side,” or “Colored Town.”The community experienced success in many areas, except the majority of the homes occupied by African Americans were not owned by them, but rented. Homeownership for African Americans also came in the early ’40s with the arrival of Hassman Heights (Edwards Addition) and Carverdale Addition. Edwards was an African American while the owner and builder of Carverdale was a European American. Other additions reserved for people of color soon followed.
The enterprise areas that defined The East Side were located on 2nd Street, 4th Street, and Bath Street between 5th and 6th Streets. However, once desegregation came into effect after 1954, the African American community began to slowly disintegrate. First to suffer was the mom and pop businesses because they could not compete with the new, larger, and generally, lower-priced choices offered by the European Americans’ goods and services. Today, because of gentrification, little to nothing remains of those once-thriving areas to makes reference to earlier days of The East Side. Certainly, some African American businesses still remain on the northeast side, but they are simply businesses that no longer comprise an element of an African American community. Two businesses that continue to embrace the concept of the community are the churches and funeral homes. Any plans for revitalizing that African Americans community as such are no longer viable.
The article made note of a study that was done on gentrification and noted that “In Washington, D.C., 20,000 Black residents were displaced, and in Portland, Oregon, 13 percent of the Black community was displaced over the more than decade period that was studied. Seven cities accounted for nearly half of the gentrification nationally: New York City, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Baltimore, San Diego, and Chicago.”
In Oklahoma City, slowly over the years, gentrification has come to deprive a once vibrant African American community of a powerful population, political voices, community leadership, health, education, and food facilities owned and controlled by African Americans. Segregation and bigotry invented these African American communities and gentrification is destroying them.
Consequently, since gentrification is today’s reality, our thinking must shift to that of participating within a diverse community where the well-being of the individual is the concern rather than one defined by ethnicity. For a novel example of how gentrification is manifested in society today, just tune into the TV show, “The Neighborhood.”Hopefully, we will all get through this together.

1 Comment »

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  1. I think the apartment complex where I used to live in Massachusetts is gentrified now.

    Like


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