How 'Woke' Liberals Convince Themselves That Gentrifying Is Okay

As a gentrifier myself, I decided to study how we justify what we're doing.

In 2015, my college roommates and I shared the top half of a brownstone in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant (Bed-Stuy) neighborhood. Historically Black, Bed-Stuy has been rapidly gentrifying over the past few decades, a transition made visible in the juxtaposition of discount calling-card stores and vegan juice bars. In 1980, Bed-Stuy’s population was only 5 percent white and median gross housing rent was $580 (in 2016 dollars). By 2012, the white population had jumped to 17 percent and the median rent skyrocketed to more than $1,000 (in 2016 dollars). According to a recent article in Curbed, median rent in Bed-Stuy today is $2,000.

As politically engaged young people, my friends and I were concerned about the displacement of longtime residents, who are overwhelmingly low-income and people of color. We often discussed these concerns at parties and on social media. We’d share posts about new high-rises being built in Brooklyn or elderly residents being tricked into selling their homes far below market rate, and comment with appropriate outrage. When we saw Starbucks replace bodegas, we’d shake our heads and exchange “there-goes-the-neighborhood” looks.

But we were noticeably silent on our own role in the process. As relatively affluent college students, our presence in the neighborhood was driving up rent and fueling the changes we lamented. This made me wonder: How do liberal gentrifiers, like my friends and I, reconcile our worldviews with the reality of these behaviors and the consequences? Do we have a political blind spot when it comes to our own actions? I put it to the test with a study, which was recently published in City and Community Journal.

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"How 'Woke' Liberals Convince Themselves That Gentrifying Is Okay"; By Katie Donnelly; VICE newsletter; July 15, 2019

Keywords: Affordability, Gentrification, HousingCrisis

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