An African American blog of politics, culture, and social activism.
We’ve all heard this idea, mostly from rural conservatives, that it feels like President Obama is “destroying America.” When challenged about how Obama is changing America, folks usually fall short of specifics. Even when they cite policies they don’t like, say health care reform, they can’t really quantify how it’s “destroying America.”
The same train of thought exists among some long-time Detroiters who feel that newer, wealthier residents are pushing them out of the city, or otherwise making them feel unwelcome in their hometown. When you ask for examples or quantifiable evidence of gentrification, the specifics are few and far between.
Jan. 5, Detroit News: Many potential home buyers in Corktown, Midtown and downtown often get outbid, many real estate agents said. It’s a combination of not enough high-quality inventory and stiff competition.
Amber Wilson, 28, knows this firsthand. The Southgate resident wanted to move to Corktown, but quickly found herself outbid on at least three residences earlier this year.
“Some Oakland County couple paid more than $100,000 cash for a loft, because they wanted their daughter to move back from Chicago. I can’t compete with that,” said Wilson, a graphic designer who had been pre-approved for a $120,000 mortgage loan. Nor did she want to buy a home in disrepair, which seemed the only other option for her in that neighborhood.
In downtown, the Trolley Plaza apartment complex was bought by new owners, who upgraded the facility, changed the name to Washington Square Apartments and increased the rent 20 percent or more.
“It went from diverse to mainly young and white,” said Jack Sexton, a former resident. “That’s too bad because a lot of people wanted to stay but they couldn’t afford it.”
Leaving aside the irony of a suburbanite complaining that she’s been displaced from the loft market, what’s the takeaway here? That, on some micro-level, Detroit’s downtown real estate is being treated as downtown real estate? The horror! Market-rate real estate is worse than Hitler!
Let’s not forget that life at Trolley Plaza’s before “gentrification” was hardly idyllic. One resident was killed in a tragic elevator accident. Poorly maintained buildings at bargain prices aren’t exactly the same thing as social justice.
What’s more, long-time Trolley Plaza resident Andy Olesko disputes the claim that the building is lily-white. Olesko says the rent increases followed significant and necessary upgrades to the Washington Blvd. high rise. While he’s witnessed more professionals move into the building, he says the population remains diverse.
“There’s been an influx of young whites for sure, but this place is still pretty diverse,” Olesko wrote on his website, Hot Fudge Detroit. “No one is confusing it for a J. Crew catalog model hostel. Unless you’re trying to make a point for a story I guess.”
But, of course, the gentrification narrative in Detroit isn’t about displacement or quantifiable demographic change, it’s all about feelings.
Jan. 5, Detroit News: Two years ago, a group of young adults took over an abandoned house near North Corktown and attempted to make it into an art project. The problem is no one informed the neighbors, said Jeff DeBruyn, who runs the Manna Community Meal soup kitchen and the art/community project called Imagination Station.
“It mysteriously got put on fire twice,” he said.
No one claimed responsibility for the fires. DeBruyn said he has talked to neighbors, many of whom felt threatened by a group of newcomers who made no attempt to engage with the residents.
So, the people working on an abandoned property is more threatening than the abandonment and decay itself?
More to the point, did old-time Corktowners torch the thing or not? I mean, if you’re going to infer this was a crime of xenophobia, lay out the evidence. There’s a big difference between someone who doesn’t like the kids down the street, and someone who torches their house.
Maybe to DeBruyn it feels like this property was torched because neighbors were afraid of change, and maybe Sexton feels Trolley Plaza’s owners wish to make the building your new Birmingham, and maybe Southgate graphic designer Amber Wilson feels like she should get a place in the Grinnell Lofts for $80 grand, and maybe some people feel like Barack Obama is Malcolm X’s love child, but one’s feelings can’t will something into reality.
Feelings don’t count. Sorry if that sounds mean, but life isn’t a kindergarten. What one feels, no matter how deeply they feel it, is irrelevant unless it can be backed up with arguments rooted in logic, reason, and facts.