By KYLEE BAGLEY
Gentrification is rapidly spreading throughout all major cities in the U.S. by erasing the cultures that once made these cities so vibrant. Gentrification is defined by Merriam-Webster Dictionary as, “the process of renewal and rebuilding accompanying the influx of middle-class or affluent people into deteriorating areas that often displaces poorer residents.” While the general ideas of renewal and rebuilding are a solid foundation, the phenomena that gentrification has become in recent years shows the increasing lack of compassion for things that do not directly affect us.
In cities such as Philadelphia and Brooklyn, gentrification stands out in stark contrast to the urban spaces that have yet to be enshrouded by hipster coffee shops, microbreweries, and luxury apartments. At first thought, gentrification comes off as a good theory. Most definitions lack the latter part, actively ignoring the thousands of people who are evicted or forced to leave their homes by rent increases designed to push out individuals and families that don’t fit the new white-washed neighborhoods. If utilized correctly, the basis of renewal and rebuilding could make neighborhoods such as those surrounding Temple University in Philadelphia, flourish in ways that celebrate the diverse cultures that make these communities home to so many people.
Instead of displacing those who cannot afford the increased price of living, couldn’t the city government assist the current residents and business owners in gaining a post-secondary education, evolving their businesses, and growing their own community? Of course, this wouldn’t make as much profit for the city government, and in a country as profit-focused as America, that’s a no go.
According to a recent study by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, about 15 percent of Philadelphia neighborhoods are being gentrified. Comparably, research by governing.com shows that 29.8 percent of Brooklyn neighborhoods have been gentrifying since 2000. The merger of the affluent and the low-income residents usually results in tension and misunderstanding. This leaves the minorities who were born and raised in the neighborhood feeling like outsiders, where they once felt most comfortable.
Jenae McDonald, a friend of mine who lives in the Crown Heights neighborhood of Brooklyn, is currently facing the harsh realities of gentrification, every time she walks out her front door. When asked what’s changed and why it matters, McDonald had this to say: “The culture behind the neighborhood is what’s changing more than anything. Kids don’t even play outside anymore. Block parties aren’t even thriving like they use to. Gentrification not only drives away people but the souls of the people. There used to be a comfort walking down the block and I don’t physically feel that anymore. Caribbean restaurants have even watered down themselves to accommodate the new wave of people. The fact that culture is blatantly being stripped separates us more than anything. Instead of unifying us in the community, gentrification only leaves disdain.”
We all enjoy overpriced coffee shops and perusing quirky clothing stores, but there are plenty of them in the more affluent parts of the city that make displacing hoards of people from their homes seem excessive at the very least. Gentrification takes culture and tradition and assimilates it into a bland “melting pot”, where the diverse cultures that created America as the powerful immigrant country it once was, are only showcased as Halloween costumes and in off-color humor.