Y’all Means All: Raleigh Gentrification is Geographic Bigotry
Affordable housing, diversity, urban renewal: these are all pieces of the repeating campaign slogans from political candidates. We claim to care about lives more than capital—donating money to charity, showing up for Moral Monday, and displaying our “Y’all Means All” signs in our urbanized front yards.
We bring the neighborhood revitalization dollars with us when we move back into urban areas: façade upgrades, greenways, 300 acre park, and an artisan grocery market in a decades-old food desert.
Diversity means that we are the white people moving in and around black neighborhoods.
If we call the police 1500 times over a year it just reinforces public opinion about the need for us to be involved in uplifting the community. We’ll donate even more money to the nonprofits we’ve verified responsible enough to “save” the poor. We’ll demand the inclusion of historically black neighborhoods in Raleigh’s 2030 development plan. The City Council is happy to comply—affordable housing is a priority! And hey—how about an ice skating rink for Chavis Park?
We measure social change and progress by the passage of years instead of the number of generations; by my guess, the average 40 year old resident is no more than 4 generations away from the Dixiecrats—unapologetic bigots and lawmakers that first passed Jim Crow laws.
Their names are canonized on streets and schools, engraved on buildings, the Confederacy cast in monument all over NC. Their intent cast in the invisible fences of restrictive land covenants that prevented persons of any race other the white race use or occupy any buildings on any lot, this a deliberate response to growing black electoral power in areas like the Fourth Ward.
It’s bad enough that gentrification creates living conditions unsustainable by the original residents of a neighborhood, but it, much like the hate that prompts a white man to drive a speeding car into bystander bodies, is a symptom of the disease of white supremacy both in NC and the US.
When white nationalists attack with violence it allows all white Americans—progressive and conservative– to dismiss our place in the hierarchy of systemic racism. We won’t examine the ways we serve to reinvent white supremacy in our politics, emotional tone policing, schools, recreation, and neighborhoods. Conservatives like Berger disavowed that hatred, ignoring the violence of gerrymandering, HB2, and under-funded schools.
Progressives view ourselves as necessary to fixing crumbling streets, ignorant of how the crumbling exists because we jack-hammered those same streets with decades of discriminatory mortgage lending/insurance practices codified by law. Conservatives and Progressives feed White Nationalism, because the two of us won’t name our shared, white supremacist DNA.
People think that the rapid development of urban areas to be an organic response of young adults seeking diverse city lives.
There’s nothing organic about an estimated $60 billion dollars worth of federal tax incentives awarded to developers and lenders in less than 7 years. Over the last decade Raleigh and Wake have added hundreds of millions of federal community block grant dollars and tax credits to their budgets, money freely used to create local partnerships with developers, lenders, investors, and nonprofits.
We praise community investments, but truthfully this money is also state/local government’s reward for maintaining a population comprised of very low income residents. With a minimum hourly wage at $7.25, poverty becomes both self-sustaining and profitable.
Crooked Creek in Fuquay wants Wake County to use The Conservation Fund to purchase—on credit– their failed golf course because the existing 21 parks for a population of about 18,000 isn’t enough. Soccer fans yearn for a MLS stadium in downtown Raleigh, but even if the construction doesn’t use tax dollars, who pays for the demolition of 10 buildings, a parking deck, and relocating the data lines and heating/cooling facilities? Oh- and a new city hall!
We, The Gentrifiers, won’t know our diverse neighbors, the elders of Southeast Raleigh who maintain the memory and oral histories of the growth of their communities. Oberlin, Method, and Haywood Streets, St. Augustine, St. Ambrose Church, South Park, Idelwild– all places most white folks never considered living in until the early 2000s.
We won’t see how necessary we are to maintaining white nationalism when we stand behind our “Y’all Means All” signs to call the cops on our neighbor’s black grandson walking down the street. We won’t ever know our neighbors because we make every street we touch part “our” community, in all of the ways that matter, but never in the ways that matter most.