Before we called it gentrification, we called it plain ole’ segregation, you know, separate and supposedly equal. Gentrification is basically white people snatching back the neighborhoods they forced us to live in. From Reconstruction to the Civil Rights Movement, public officials created policies and supported practices that made it socially acceptable and legal to maintain racial segregation in neighborhoods. Through exclusionary lending practices, local customs, and angry white folks, black and brown people were excluded from certain communities and relegated to live in neighborhoods with little to no resources. However, as black people often do, we made a way out of nothing, and we turned these neighborhoods into our own cultural enclaves, which made them even more enticing to some white folks. But, since it was primarily black and brown people living in those racially segregated neighborhoods, property (for non-blacks mostly) was selling for the cheap, cheap. Once developers purchased the property for the low, they renovated it to make it pleasing for a certain “class” of people. Then, when a good number of that “class” of people moved in, they opened up these cute little tapas bars and specialty coffee shops and micro-brewery pubs because, you know, this new “class” of people need somewhere to go. They can’t go to the corner liquor store or the corner Chinese food store with the glass partition or the greasy carryout that has no tables or chairs. God forbid.
And guess what happens next – now they want everything, including the homes black families have lived in for years, but they can’t just burn a cross on your front lawn like they did in the past, they have to be a little sneakier about it. Plus, we do have these federal laws which supposedly protect people from discrimination and reduce overt racial exclusion. Instead, the practice of racial segregation and exclusion are cloaked in the push for redevelopment, historical preservation, and community transformation. Gentrification is absolutely about exclusion, which encompasses segregation but points to more sinister methods to keep people of color racially isolated and disenfranchised.
Fifty-two years ago, my mother’s family was the first family to integrate an all-white neighborhood. This would be my mother’s first home as they previously lived in public housing in D.C., so you can imagine my mother and her siblings were excited. On move-in day, they walk into their new home to find it completely trashed. Evidently, the previous owners, knowing a black family was moving in, spent their last days in the home kicking holes in the wall, tossing beer and soda bottles everything, and emptying bags of trash all through the home, which my mother and her family were tasked with cleaning up. Can you imagine being 12-years-old and walking into your family’s first home to find it trashed for no other reason than you are black? Can you imagine how my grandmother and grandfather felt, who both fled South Carolina in the 1930s to have a better life in the north? Anyway, you know the rest of the story — all the whites eventually fled, all the blacks moved in, the neighborhood fell apart when crack swept through the area in the late 80s, the neighborhood pretty much remained depressed throughout the 90s and early 2000s. Now, in 2018, the whites are back, and homes are worth half a million dollars. Funny how life happens, right?
When I purchased my home two years ago in Baltimore City, I knew I was moving into a neighborhood that was transitioning. When I moved in, there were several vacant homes, and there were some random gun shots, some burglaries and some vandalized cars — all the regular crimes that come with neighborhood disinvestment.
Before we called it gentrification, we called it plain ole’ segregation, you know, separate and supposedly equal. Gentrification is basically white people snatching back the neighborhoods they forced us to live in. Click To Tweet
Two years later, my home is worth about $30,000 more than what I paid for it. The reason my home has increased in value is because all those vacant homes are now full of new young, white couples and their cute little dogs and their dainty little smart cars. Along with my new white neighbors, there’s also been a heavy police presence. I can’t walk my own dog more than 2 or 3 blocks without seeing an officer on foot or in his car patrolling the community. We have all these nifty little amenities too, the field that was overgrown is not mowed regularly and has become an impromptu dog park. The block behind me (which only has 1 black family that still lives there) even gets their street swept weekly. The additional city services are all a byproduct of the neighborhood’s gentrification and since I live here, I get to take advantage of it too, right? Well, maybe.
The problem is, every single time I leave my home, I am filled with anxiety. Why? Because a few weeks ago, a white woman called the police on a black family having a barbecue in the same public park they’d been barbecuing in for damn near 20 years. The white woman decided those people didn’t belong in her newly gentrified neighborhood and called the police. And then three black women were detained by several officers as they were leaving the Air BnB home they rented in a white neighborhood because they didn’t smile and wave at the neighbor. I also don’t smile and wave at my neighbors. And before that, a 22-year old was shot dead by police officers in his grandparents’ backyard because the cell phone in his hand was mistaken for a weapon. And then before that, a 12-year old boy was shot dead by police officers while he was playing in a park. It goes on and on and on. Maybe my white neighbors are different. Maybe they are good, culturally competent people, but I can’t tell who’s who just like the police can’t tell a gun from a cell phone.
White people have been allowed to use fear as an excuse for their racist behavior for too long. And yes, we know that some of it is about how black and brown people are portrayed in media, but most of it is about the fact that white people absolutely believe they are the only ones that deserve rights, freedom, guns, anger, wealth, and peace. They really are like that insolent, only child yelling ‘mine’ every time you touch one of “their” things. And what makes it worse is that the police, regardless of race, seem to go along with it.
White people, if you’re scared, go to church…but wait, isn’t that where all this fear originated?
Jay-Z, Colin Kaepernick, and Toxic Black Capitalism
Jay-Z’s recent decision to align himself with the NFL has rubbed a lot of people the wrong way. And for good reason. Colin Kaepernick has been blackballed by the league for 897 days. With no sign of him returning, despite maintaining a rigorous fitness regime, many are wondering why Jay-Z did not consult Kaepernick before signing on.
Five am workouts five days a week for three long years. Colin Kaepernick has been waiting in the wings since the NFL colluded to bar him from playing amidst player protests. Eric Reid, who stood beside Kaep in solidarity, has been subjected to excessive random drug tests for just as long. As season after season dredges on, Eric says he has no desire to refrain from protesting and has pledged to kneel during the national anthem this year as well. With NFL viewership in steady decline due to boycotts within the Black community, the league has reached out to an unlikely partner to repair their image and boost their ratings, Jay-Z.
A one-time supporter of the national anthem protests that brought awareness to blatant police brutality, Jay-Z has decided that there’s no time like the present to profit from his brother’s struggle. Billionaire rapper Jay-Z has brokered a deal with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. The Roc Nation mogul is now positioned to serve as a gatekeeper, deciding who’s worthy to take the stage as a Super Bowl halftime act. As the internet reflects on Jay’s very vocal criticism of the NFL and recent Super Bowl Halftime Show performers, the irony and hypocrisy of this situation is lost on no one.
“Don’t Do This”
When news of Travis Scott’s participation in the 2019 Halftime Show reached Jay-Z’s ears, he was quick to ask the “Sicko Mode” rapper not to perform. Citing the poor treatment of Colin Kaepernick as the league turned a blind eye to police brutality, Jay-Z urged Travis to change his stance. But now, the “4:44” rapper is the one that’s turned the other cheek. Stating, “we’re past the point of kneeling”, Jay has all but embraced the ideals of his peers. Considering this partnership an opportunity to change the beast from the inside, Jay said in a recent interview that “this is the next phase.”
“We forget that Colin’s whole thing was to bring attention to social injustice. In that case, this is a success. This is the next phase. There [are] two parts of protesting. You go outside and you protest, and then the company or the individual says, ‘I hear you. What do we do next?”
Ever the capitalist, Jay-Z has turned the ostracism of Kaepernick and scrutiny of Reid into a means of personal profit. While preaching Black solidarity, he cradles the all-mighty dollar. To onlookers, this poses a moral dilemma, but we forget billionaires often lack morals and have questionable ethics. While it is unlikely that Kaepernick will respond with his thoughts on the matter, his longtime girlfriend, Nessa, and Eric Reid have made their thoughts known.
You can’t trust a man who cheated on Beyoncé to make good life choices
Eric Reid took to Twitter yesterday afternoon to chastise Jay-Z for his decision. Stating, “Jay-Z knowingly made a money move with the very people who’ve committed an injustice against Colin and is using social justice to smooth it over with the black community,” Reid says the fight is on. He believes that it is “unjust” that the NFL is now “championing” social justice to cover their own systemic oppression in blackballing his former teammate. What Nessa has to say was much more scathing.
Sharing a video on Instagram of her boyfriend, Colin Kaepernick, training with his ally, former 49er Eric Reid, Nessa included a lengthy statement regarding Jay-Z’s decision.
Knowing that Jay-Z is helping the NFL rebrand itself is disheartening but predictable. After all, he is a prominent figure in the Black community. It was inevitable that the league would reach out to a “respected” rapper to leverage his image to increase viewership. In fact, it’s the same strategy they used when they reached out to Travis Scott. The only difference here is that Jay-Z is well within the ranks of the wealthy, privy to those dubious politics, and versed in the manipulation of exploiting his own community for financial gain.
Do you believe that Jay-Z’s efforts will lead to further dissension in the NFL? Or will his position as a gatekeeper lead to a fitting resolution? Do you think his relationship with Robert Kraft influenced his decision?
Merited Whiteness: Why Chris Cuomo Responded Violently to “Fredo”
Instead of talking about the obvious wrong of comparing “Fredo” to the n-word, let’s discuss merited Whiteness and Cuomo’s response.
While out with his family, Chris Cuomo was accosted by a man who compared him to the Judas Iscariot of the Corleone family, Fredo Corleone. It’s easy to see why Chris would have perceived the sudden hurling of “Fredo” as an insult, who wouldn’t. Fredo was a man out of his depth. He was intelligent, sure. But he lacked the cunning necessary to navigate life in the mafia. Fredo was a soft-hearted, loveable idiot who said more than he should have to the wrong people. His unintentional slight got him in trouble with a community that felt entitled to his allegiance. This is the very same entitlement that possessed a stranger to believe he held the authority to pull Chris Cuomo’s merited whiteness card.
Fredo’s offense in many ways is seen as something lateral to Chris Cuomo’s presence as a journalist at CNN. The child of the 52nd Governor of New York and brother of the current Governor, who is a staunch critic of Republican politicians and their constituents, Chris stands on the wrong side, to some, in a fight for “American Values.” He is outspoken and detached from his beginnings as a political analyst on Fox News. Being the descendant of a family that is only two generations removed from their Tramonti, Campania Italian origins, The Cuomo’s represent a side of American history that is not often discussed, the assimilation of European immigrants to American whiteness.
When Italians began immigrating to the US, they were not looked upon favorably. But like the Irish and members of other European communities, they united in their “othered” state to gain acceptance, overcome their backgrounds, and race toward the American Dream. But the American Dream isn’t a big house with a white picket fence, 2.5 kids, and a dog, it’s whiteness. To be White is to be distinctly American, devoid of cultural attachments and devoted to racial supremacy. But like the Borg, whiteness requires assimilation and shared consciousness. Like their hive-minded chant, Magats would also believe “Your culture will adapt to service us. Resistance is futile.”
For families like the Cuomo’s, who were privileged enough to own a business and accumulate wealth shortly after their arrival, the trajectory to acceptance was higher than most. As Henry Pratt Fairchild said when discussing the bestowed privileges of whiteness to immigrants, “If he proves himself a man, and rises above his station, and acquires wealth, and cleans himself up — very well, we receive him after a generation or two. But at present, he is far beneath us, and the burden of proof rests with him.” So how, after a single generation, did the Cuomo’s ascend their station? By becoming fast friends with the Trump family.
After Mario Cuomo represented Fred Trump in an undisclosed legal matter, their families maintained contact. Golfing trips in Florida and New York, letters filled with flattery, and partnerships that benefitted the Trumps as developers and the Cuomos political ambitions. Beyond the business relationships of the two families, you have to wonder what values they grew to share. Judging by a 2008 remark regarding Barack Obama where Andrew spouted “You can’t shuck and jive at a press conference.” and Chris’ false equivalence of Fredo and the n-word, they share quite a few. Still, you must wonder why “Fredo” would elicit such a response from Chris. Is it because he feels his status demands subordination? Is it because he felt his whiteness was challenged?
Perceiving the use of “Fredo” as an anti-Italian slur, Chris Cuomo found himself feeling as immigrants did upon their arrival to the “land of dreams.” As explored by Maria Elisa Altese, there is a perception that Italian-Americans have forgotten what it is like to be targeted. Chris Cuomo has lived comfortably in the US as a white man, never before having his status challenged. As written by Robert F. Forester, in a country where the distinction between white man and black is intended as a distinction of value… it is no compliment to the Italian to deny him his whiteness, but that actually happens with considerable frequency.” So in his rage, Chris expressed how entitled he felt to the benefits of whiteness, it’s inclusivity, and how no one like him wants to be Black.
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