I walked home from work last week down Mission Street, and I was amazed at how many white faces I saw on the street – certainly more than there were last week. Where’d they all come from? They felt like intruders! This is clearly ridiculous, coming from a white girl who first walked down Mission Street almost exactly a year ago. But my first instinct was to regard them as outsiders who are ruining it for the rest of us, meaning the rest of us white folks who are already there. Again, completely ridiculous.
It’s hard to face up to being an agent of gentrification on a daily basis – it makes me feel evil. I know that I’m an active part of the process of gentrification. I know that my presence paves the way for whitewashing and yuppies. But I only make about 50% AMI (area median income) and I too need housing that’s safe and affordable. I also make an effort to support local businesses, so that I give as well as take from the neighborhood. Does that make a difference? No, not really. Would it end gentrification if I lived somewhere else? Again, no, not really. These things happen in aggregate, not individually – but there is no aggregate without a critical mass of individual decisions. All things I know, but nothing that gives me a clear indication of how to be a positive force instead of a negative one. This is a new struggle for me (I grew up in a state that is 96% white), and so maybe there’s something I’m missing. Is there a solution I should be seeing?