The Rapid Gentrification of Harlem

The Harlem gentrification: From black to white

The article discusses the rapid gentrification that Harlem has been undergoing in the past couple of years. A historically Black neighborhood in New York City, Harlem has been a safe refuge for African Americans since the early 1900s. But while Harlem traditionally has been written about for its vibrant culture, it has largely been in the news lately because of the influx of, mainly, young Whites into the area.

With this new population that has infiltrated the area, the author notes, has come a complete transformation of a once beloved and predominantly Black neighborhood. Gone are the soul food shops that lined up the corners of Malcolm X Boulevard and in are the overpriced French restaurants and organic food shops that most of the original residents simply can not afford. Rents have also skyrocketed as landlords have taken advantage of the new tenants moving in, which has resulted in a displacement of people whose families have literally lived there for decades. Some of the Harlem tenants interviewed for this article also noted how all of a sudden improvements are slowly being made to the schools in the area, how the garbage is being picked up more regularly, and how the police have changed the way their policing strategies. The influx of White folk into the area has brought some improvements with it, but at the expense of kicking out the original tenants and stripping Harlem of its historic culture.

I mainly decided to write about this article because it reminded me of the conversations that we had in class during Unit 3 when we discussed sterilization and how the supposedly poor health of Puerto Rican women was used as a justification for US colonialism. I think we can make similar comparisons between gentrification and colonialism, especially since one of the main arguments used to justify gentrification is that it brings needed improvements to the neighborhood it occurs in. The writer of this article actually compares one of the gentrifiers to Christopher Columbus, describing the man as someone who thinks he discovered a new land. There are also clear similarities between gentrification and colonialism, most importantly how they both result in the displacement of the people who originally lived there. This article makes me wonder, since we know how devastating the outcomes of colonialism are, would it inspire others to act more quickly in addressing gentrification if we began to think of gentrification as a new form of colonialism and/or as an extension of it? 

2 thoughts on “The Rapid Gentrification of Harlem”

  1. What’s interesting to me the argument for gentrification that says that it adds improvements to the community. That argument in it of itself admits that there is a disparity between the access to resources that people of color receive in their neighborhoods and the access to resources that white people receive in their neighborhoods. What’s bothers me the most about this is that people who make this argument use it encourage others to continue this form of displacement of people of color essentially under the label of “white-knighthood.” This idea that by increasing the amount of white people in these communities, we are helping the people of color gain access to resources….It’s warped and twisted in my eyes

  2. This trend of gentrification has been on my mind a lot this semester. It is alarming that this trend is happening in New York City, Miami, Los Angeles, Chicago, and so many other urban centers. Additionally, it is not surprising that gentrification effects communities of color at higher rates. One thought that ran through my mind while reading your post is how gentrification has a way of creating additional generation trauma. Especially when we’re looking at communities of color in the United States that either have histories of forced/inevitable migration from outside the U.S. or migration within the U.S. between different sites.

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