Attention Media: Neighborhoods Existed Before Gentrification

On the media's responsibility for narratives that enable displacement, rather than inclusion.
September 24, 2015, 7am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Luciano Mortula

Ben Adler writes a provocative piece about the tendency of the media to act like some neighborhoods didn't exist until they were gentrified:

"If you go to a gentrifying neighborhood and ask around, or just look at Census data, you will find that the neighborhood did in fact exist before it became trendy. Its population may have been lower; it certainly would have been poorer, and probably less white. But it was inhabited. And yet the media tells us otherwise, suggesting that until new residents showed up, these neighborhoods were 'a no man’s land,' still waiting to 'emerge.'"

Adler views these types of perspectives as a new version of American colonialism, with The New York Times providing the object of Adler's critique. Recent examples of the privileged perspective od colonialism includes takes on neighborhoods like Gowanus in Brooklyn and the South Bronx. Adler also finds an example in the Washington, D.C. local public radio station WAMU.

Instead of relying on easy, but false and, yes, offensive, tropes, Adler provides the following call to action:

"There is nothing wrong with news outlets reporting on these ongoing transformations, or with noting that affluent professionals weren’t looking for housing in these neighborhoods a few years ago. But heralding these population shifts as if they were filling a void — as if places lie fallow until a certain type of resident arrives — reflects exactly the sort of attitude that leads to displacement instead of integration."

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Published on Tuesday, September 22, 2015 in Grist
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