What we lost – gentrification part II


Don’t Displace the Southend yard sign from got green

A few weeks ago, I wrote about gentrification and how it shows up in little and big ways. After writing that post, Heidi suggested we take a little tour of what has been lost due to gentrification. We could take a tour of the neighborhood and point out places that were once there and now are big boxy buildings.

  • Viet-Wah Grocery Store
  • Inay’s Filipino Restaurant and Kusina Filipina
  • Imperial Lanes Bowling Alley – while this wasn’t POC owned losing it meant losing a big part of poc culture in my neighborhood
  • Head Start programs – United Indians of All Tribes and Mount Zion
  • Yasuko’s Teriyaki – this was my college teriyaki spot, right below my dorm with a plate of rice and chicken for about $5.
  • LEMS Bookstore, a community Black owned bookstore
  • African American and Black churches

When we lose POC businesses we lose a part of our community’s soul. I asked friends what has been lost because of gentrification. I thought they would have named businesses that closed, old houses no longer there, or other physical places. Instead, people mentioned a sense and feeling of losing culture and soul. These losses for communities of color extend beyond losing beloved restaurants and gathering places, it is a loss of identity and community.

My friends mentioned missing a sense of safety and easy living among people who are sturdy and not fragile. Another friend mentioned how she misses having neighbors who weren’t nosy. She said her new neighbors call the police for petty things like fireworks, cars parked for longer than 2-days, and they post their disgruntled thoughts on social media versus working to build tolerance and a sense of community.

If you want to see more of what we’ve lost, check out the Istagram and Facebook pages for Vanishing Seattle. Other cities may have similar social media feeds.

We need to do more to hold our communities in place – it is that simple.

I attended the Washington State Budget & Policy Center’s Budget Matters symposium a few weeks ago. It is a great event to nerd out on tax policy made more understandable. One of the panelist mentioned that unequal tax policies are aiding and accelerating gentrification. She talked about how internet companies, like the large one that smiles everywhere, didn’t collect state sales taxes for many states, while small mom-and-pop businesses collected and shouldered unequal tax burdens. Guess who is still smiling. Read this report on how reforming our ancient, unbalanced, and unjust tax code can advance racial equity.

When we lose critical mass of lower income people, especially people of color, we change as a community. We lose diversity and the empathy we develop by being in proximity to people who are different from us, this in turn makes us better thinkers and problem solvers.

Government policy, philanthropic support, and better governance practices could help to keep families in place. Housing policies that only focus on increasing housing units and not looking at supporting those with the highest barriers to housing are missing the mark. Such as for undocumented families and others without social security numbers or credit scores, the barriers and burdens of securing long-term housing is really hard to find and the cost to get into the unit is often out of reach for families.

We can build better solutions to support keeping our communities together and thriving. We just need to create some new ways of thinking so we don’t lose what makes us great. Greatness isn’t found in the homogeneity of Whole Foods and Starbucks. Greatness is found when we are a thriving and diverse community that takes care of each other.

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