It’s sneaky and quiet yet extremely visible and loud. It gently creeps up and makes an appearance but there is nothing gentle about it. It disguises itself as an economic issue but its effects are personal and felt both individually and communally. Gentrification is a complex beast that we need to continue to learn about.
This now buzzword, which is synonymous with young folks moving into neighborhoods of Brooklyn, New York (i.e the well-known Williamsburg, Bushwick, Bed-Stuy), and many other transforming cities, is often negated as wrong and harmful in the name of wokeness. But the conversation of gentrification should not and does not stop there.
Acknowledging that gentrification is wrong does not equate to an understanding of why gentrification is in fact “bad.” Unless you have experienced gentrification first-hand, how can it be known how deep the effects truly go, what devastation really feels like, what it’s like to lose your home, your community, your livelihood, and your culture in the name of the shiny and new. True: all that glitters is not gold.
The question then becomes how can we most effectively learn about gentrification and its many harrowing stories? A possible solution is to continue encountering stories of such displacement and investing the time to listen. Listening requires encountering. Encountering equates to knowing. Stories are the most powerful tool we have in understanding what is not known. The root to understanding the true effects of gentrification is by investing in the stories of gentrification which exist today and tomorrow.
How one chooses to act after encountering such a story is entirely up to the individual who hears it. Whether you view gentrification as good, wrong or both is a matter of ethics and morals. But once you know someone’s story of devastation and personal erasure of identity, you cannot say you would have lived your life differently if only you had known, if only you had the knowledge. The potential to know is there, so please continue to encounter it.