On a micro level, almost everything I write and think about is related to one another, as they all come down to our personal power. However, they are also divided into subcategories in order to prevent myself (and others) from being confused or losing my mind. One of the subcategories I’ve written about before is gentrification. I spend a lot of time outside, walking or riding the streets of Northeast Portland, and this neighborhood “revitalization” trend is shoved in my face almost every block.
This morning, I did as I do every morning (when I’m not hung-over); I took my dog to the park for some pooping and exercise. Most dog owners don’t talk to other dog owners (half of this city knows Sheena’s name, but only one or two people have asked for mine) but the owner of two pugs engaged me in conversation this fine day. She was a short woman who I estimated to be in her mid to late 40’s. After commenting on how often we frequent the park and how nice of a place it is, she told me (as do most people who have lived here for more than a decade) that it wasn’t always like this. She said that she grew up a few blocks away, and as a child she and her siblings weren’t allowed to play outside – even on their own front lawn – because there were so many drive-by shootings. She said that two houses on her block were full of Crypts and one could walk five blocks in any direction and score drugs or sex for less than $10. One day, she told me, the police came and kicked all the gangsters out and within a few months young white people piled into the neighborhood. After a year, it was a safe place to raise your children, and the value of her parents’ house went from $35,000 to over $300,000.
I tend to make issues like this one black and white. There is a right and a wrong, simple as that, no questions asked. However, the more I think about gentrification the more I confuse myself. I think if you look at things from a distance, then gentrification is fine; who wouldn’t want to live in an area where they don’t have to worry about their children getting shot in the head while playing in their sandbox? I’m pretty sure no one wants to have to carry a pistol, wear a bullet proof vest, and rid their wardrobe of red and blue clothing just to walk to the grocery store.
However, if you look at things through the right lens, you will ask different questions. Like, why were people in this neighborhood selling drugs and sex? Why are they poor? What measures did the government take to move these people out of their homes, in order to provide ‘safety’? Where are these people living now? What’s being done to cut off poverty at its source instead of reacting when things get out of control? Is there a middle ground, a way to make an area safer without kicking out the residents? I don’t know if there is an immediate answer to this last, more important question. We could topple the government, put more money and passion into education, restructure the prison industrial complex, redistribute wealth, give everyone equal opportunity. I think these are all solutions that would ultimately work to get at the roots of the problem, but most people don’t care about the underlying issues when they have to dodge bullets and hookers just to get the morning paper.
I like to end most of my blog posts with solutions, but I’m having trouble thinking of one. I live in a gentrified area because the rest of the country is either too expensive, too dangerous, or too far away from anything to survive without a car. Anyone?
OTHER HAPPENINGS IN THE WORLD:
Israel normally depends on the decisions of the UN to justify its actions, now they threaten to take military action if they don’t get their way.
Check out the new blog that Rebecca and I started. We’re using it to talk about all issues marijuana. If you’re interested in submitting something, email me at clydesdaleryan at gmail dot com.