How the Hipsters Are Erasing Memories: On Gentrification

By now, everyone has heard about the people that we call hipsters and the culture that surrounds them. Usually we talk about them in the context of fun and laughter. Other times, we look to hipsters as the trendsetters of culture, music, and more. What many people don’t know is that hipsters do more harm than good to the communities that they decide to go into and live. And what’s more, this practice has been going on since slavery was abolished. What is it called? Gentrification.

Gentrification, according to Wikipedia, is the buying and renovating of houses and stores in deteriorating urban neighborhoods by wealthier individuals, which in effect improves property values, but also can displace low- income families or small businesses. Gentrification is often used in the context of bettering the community, and making things nice again. What isn’t discussed is the other side of the coin, the state of the communities that are already in place. We talk about the lighter, funnier sides of the hipster phenomenon, but when it comes time to get serious, people tend to shy away. This is where I come in.

In 2012, 35 percent of back people lived in poverty, rising from 33.6 percent in 1970. The percentage of white people in poverty was 13 percent, up 3 percentage points from 1970. While the growth seems about equal, you then have to factor in the fact that black people are in fact a minority and only make up about 13 percent of the US population, and that doesn’t break it down to see the percent of foreign born black people. So for 33.6 percent of the black population to be in poverty, it affects the state of their communities, as well as the jobs available.

Many critics often take to blaming the people in poverty. “Oh, they could just go to school or get a job instead of receiving government handouts.” Being below the poverty line means that the communities that they live in don’t have the resources to have a decent school system, and many people don’t want to work in those areas, thus job opportunities aren’t created for that area. What results are food deserts, run-down houses, and schools that partake in the school to prison pipeline. I don’t understand why it becomes so hard to believe for people, but those who live below the poverty line don’t really enjoy being on government benefits. Yes, it is helpful, but there is a stigma on being on assistance, and if discussed with employers, it is likely that they will most likely not receive that job due to the perception of laziness. Many people below the poverty line end up renting a place from the owner, who has the ability to exhort these people for more and more money despite the terrible conditions.

Gentrification occurs when people above the poverty line move into the area. It isn’t a snap change, rather, it’s a gradual change.  In order to keep these owners happy and to attract more owners like them, the area begins to be cleaned up, jobs are created, and property prices increase. As a result these people who are already there are forced to move to even cheaper places, which may not be available locally.

Gentrification has been going on since the abolishing of slavery. Governments as well as white communities would either be outright racist and not allow people of color into the community, or they would write laws or acts that would  as a result include those people of color as people they don’t want. These people would be forced to move to cheaper places with terrible conditions. Then, with the assimilation of the Jewish and Irish, amongst other events, blacks would once again be pushed out of the neighborhood and forced to leave.

So it may be all fun and laughter to see the hipsters come in and try and find all the “undiscovered” coffee shops, think about what they do in the process and who they displace.

-JW

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