finally part deux of “screwed” is here! woohoo! i wanted to split the essay into three parts because i know how people lose patience nowadays with #longreads. plus, i wanted the first post to really sink in before blurting out more of my crazy thoughts about race and gentrification. if you haven’t read the first installment, stop and click here. for everyone up to speed, let’s dive in (no trey songz).
now that we know that we are both screwed, i want to discuss what we don’t know about each other to create some understanding between races. black people, as per you being the original man, you’re up first.
look, white people are simply just looking for affordable housing. that is the long and short of it. like i said in part one, my friend is looking for a place right now and it’s akin to spiraling down the nine rings of hell. looking for an apartment is a scramble in nyc, so it’s a bit unrealistic for us to ask white people to consider how they will raise the price of collard greens before taking a place. on the citizen level, gentrification is for the most part innocent. there is no big, bad white hipster monster out for revenge for white flight back in the day.
this brings me to the second thing that black people need to know about our white neighbors; they see the potential in black neighborhoods. bed-stuy and crown heights have some of the most beautiful homes i’ve ever seen, but a sentiment from a lot of locals is, “i can’t wait to get out of the hood”. i’m sure this played a huge part in the early sales of the brownstones in ft. greene/clinton hill. if someone comes to your door with a million in cash for your home, who wouldn’t jump on the chance to get up out the hood with a boatload of cash on deck? welp, you left in droves and now black faces are hard to come by in those areas. some left to head down south to get more bang for their buck. as much as i whine on this blog about leaving nyc for philly, I totally get (and co-sign) that sentiment. others ran to the ‘burbs because many of us believe that it’s a ‘better’ life there. sorry to break it to you fellow black folk, but we’ve played a part in gentrification thanks to our desire for the seemingly greener pastures (that essay will come soon) of the white american dream.
inversely, as a white person moving to a majority black neighborhood for the first time, it can be a serious culture shock. for all of us that grew up in a black neighborhood, we can all attest to the stark difference when visiting friends in white areas. it takes adjustment and new white neighbors should be allowed to have time to do that. adjusting to west end atlanta from philly for college took me a year, maybe more! i couldn’t even understand what locals were saying when they spoke to me. do you know how frustrating placing an order at popeye’s used to be for me?! cut your white neighbors some slack and check in on them a year from now.
hey white people, it’s your turn! unfortunately, your “need to know list” is longer than that of black people, but they are all pretty simple. promise. there is one quick thing i need to nip in the bud before we get started. please stop comparing gentrification now to the turnover of bed-stuy from white to black. southern blacks migrated to bed-stuy and whites chose to leave that area because they didn’t want to live next to blacks. be veryveryvery clear about that. now that we’ve gotten then out of the way, let’s chat guys.
the big, huge, gargantous, #1 thing you need to know is that contrary to popular belief, black neighborhoods are safe. i hear you yelling, “are you kidding me? it’s murders every day! it was so much crime before we came!”. well, spoiler alert, media and oral lore overexaggerate how dangerous black neighborhoods are. just like everywhere else in this city, you need to be aware of your surroundings. of course there are one-off situations like the terrible one erika encountered, but park slope has those too. here’s an inner-city tip, the black guy that’s always standing on the corner you complain to yourself about everyday, become his bestie! don’t be all weird and obvious about it. just start saying hi or ask for a drag of his black and mild. i’m telling you, make friends with him and you’ll be safe from all hurt, harm and danger. trust me, it works.
on the topic of exaggerations about black neighborhoods, you should know that we were fine before you moved here and don’t need your saving. any “improvements” that you think you brought are only serving you. there are more cops in the area to protect you…not the black natives or the black gentrifiers like myself. “but steph, the streets were filthy! we cleaned up the place!” look, if a flaming hots bag blowing in the wind and hitting you in the face once in a while is too stressful, maybs it’s time to take it back to montana boo. not condoning littering though!
as I said in part one, bed-stuy in the 90s was just as thriving, inspiring, and beautiful as it is now. it’s not just the ghetto to us. there is a strong, long-standing culture rooted in bed-stuy/crown heights that should not be eroded in the name of change.
african drum circles
stoop chillin’ til dawn
zillion hour block parties
random dj setting up turntables
old vets playing chess in the park
man bbqing racks on racks on racks of ribs
hairdressers beveling clients’ sassy short cuts
woman blasting teddy pendegrass and selling incense
brigade of massive church hats prancing down the street on sundays
these are just some of the things that make living in a black neighborhood awesome. i know a lot of these things are foreign to you, but how can you not see how fun and special they are? asking current residents to change their ways to accommodate your quality of living is just downright rude, my friends. most of you may not blatantly say “hey black people, change for me!”, but there are silent ways that this is done. the most popular is calling the cops with noise complaints. listen, my neighbors were jumping on a car and blasting drake at 4am on a tuesday and my landlord called the cops, so i get it. however, policing a culture by calling the cops on drummers in the park on sunny afternoons (keyword, afternoons) is the highest level of disrespect. i know that people want to live in a neighborhood that accommodates their needs and lifestyle, but can’t craft beer and fish plates mutually exist?
heeeeeeck yeah and in the next (and last) installment of the “screwed” series, i’ll explain how. in the meantime, play nice kids!