Gloria Malone Dispels the Myth of the #NiceGentrifier

Thursday, July 10, 2014

by Gloria Malone

While conversations about gentrification have taken off in the mass media, people of color who live in communities that are being gentrified have been dealing with systemic displacement long before these conversations started.

One of the most recent catalysts for the gentrification conversation came from film director Spike Lee in response to a question asked by an audience member at an event. Lee spoke fervently about his opposition to gentrification and the notion that it somehow improves the lives of the very same people and families it displaces. The myth of the “nice gentrifier” has emerged as a way to continue the myth that gentrification improves the lives of long term and often times lifelong poor individuals who live in communities they are being priced out.
This is something I know all too well. I’ve heard comments like, “I would be the best gentrifier ever”, “I’m a nice gentrifier because…[insert reason here]”, and “I’m not gentrifying a community, I’m improving it.” These comments are dangerous because they are a way for a gentrifier to continue to take part in the systemic removal of poor people from their communities. They are harmful because this lie is perpetuated in their circle of friends or investors causing more to flock to the ‘new place to be’ while raising the cost of living and forcing poor people to be removed from their homes. While the ‘nice gentrifier thinks they are ‘saving’ a community, they are not and that belief is from their own savior complex; a belief that a community needs to be ‘fixed’ and ‘saved’ and unable to support themselves.

After reading an article about a coffee vendor being told he can no longer sell coffee because Starbucks moved into the same business plaza, I could not help but to think of the ways in which individuals who believe gentrification is good would explain this away. I created the 
#NiceGentrifier hashtag as a way to highlight the “nice gentrifier logic” and explain how flawed, ridiculous, and harmful this thinking is.

To those who say simply tweeting #nicegentrifier is not enough, you are right. However, it was a way for me to explain my frustrations with gentrification and elevate the conversation. The hashtag was not created to fix anything. There are many local organizations, in the very same communities being gentrified, who have been fighting for decades for equal and affordable housing and supporting local business, with little to no financial support. Look them up in your community, donate to them, and volunteer for them. Go to your local public hearings about raising rent and zonings, look up your local community board and attend meetings, volunteer for local officials who campaign for affordable quality housing opportunities in your community (but make sure they are not funded by major real estate brokers who have a history of not supporting our communities).

#NiceGentrifier is an addition to an ongoing conversation. Let’s keep talking.

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