The Gentrifier's Blues and Other Urban Tales

24 Jan

Patrick Geans-Ali's thoughtful post in HuffPo Detroit raises interesting questions regarding the issue of gentrification, the role of newcomers to the city and the need to work together to create economic opportunity for everyone. He is responding to Tommy Simon's post, Lost in Detroit: A Gentrifier's Story, which appeared earlier on the site.

For starters, I'm sure Simon and his "droves of partially employed but well-educated friends" were well aware coming into Detroit that the "good old days called the 90s" were made obsolete when many of their suburban parents supported political candidates that supported the exportation of the city's manufacturing base and tax holidays for the businesses whose record profits derived primarily from those jobs going to slave wage-having, no-union having, no-environmental regulation-having countries around the globe. So announcing yourself as a Tommy-come-lately who deserves a job at a time when thousands of hard-working, well-educated Detroiters are losing theirs may not be a successful strategy.

Of course, Mr. Simon and his friends are only going on what they've been told by the true gentrifiers. These are the same real estate and banking interests that have played the political shell game for decades by preying on white fears of integrated communities and profiting handsomely off white flight, giving us the urban sprawl we have today. Now that they've run out of room going outward, the game goes back to buying up undervalued real estate in the city and luring the children of suburbia back into the city with a narrative that casts you all as prodigal sons and daughters returning as saviors who will clean up the city and make it livable again just by gracing us all with your presence.

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