Tuesday, March 27, 2007

On Gentrification

I am completely immersed in Michael Patrick MacDonald. Now I'm reading Easter Rising, his second book, which is totally fascinating in relation to the first, as well as on its own merits, but I'll save my thoughts about that till I'm done. I'm also thinking a lot about identity and guilt, about which I may manage to pull together a post. But today gentrification is on my mind--though, now that I think about it, gentrification bleeds into identity and guilt...

We are gentrifiers. There is no doubt about it. We've spent an outrageous amount of money to move into a formerly working-class neighborhood. I can kind of fudge it by saying that S grew up in Town and had friends in this neighborhood when he was a kid, so we're not as much the outsiders as some people. Also, we immediately got involved in the school and the community and the neighborhood, so we're not the kind of yuppies who think we rule the world and the world should conform to us. Still, we displaced someone who'd lived in this house since he was a kid. And yet, he got more money out of this house than his grandparents could possibly have imagined when they bought it. It's complicated.

But it's even more complicated, because I have been gentrified out of the neighborhood where I grew up. That neighborhood was not working-class in any way, but it was my neighborhood, a neighborhood where families lived, and where I knew every kid on the block. Now it's the kind of neighborhood where my old drugstore is a Starbucks and blondes drink cocktails and every baby rides in a Bugaboo, and we couldn't afford to live there in our wildest dreams (the only reason we can afford to live in our neighborhood in Town is because of help from my parents--and we are quite well-off in the scheme of things).

So what are we to do? We have to live somewhere; we can't live where I grew up; displaced, we turn around and displace someone else. I'm not happy about it, being the liberal guilt type, but if we want to live in East Coast Big City, which it seems reasonable for us to want to do, given that we grew up here, this is the way it plays out. And I do appreciate the privilege entailed in the fact that, in 2007, we can choose to live in East Coast Big City, and lots of people can't. But should I not live here in principled solidarity? With whom? I can't come up with a good ending for this post, because there just isn't a good solution to this dilemma.

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