What to Call Gentrification By Blacks, Latinos

Gentrification occurs when middle and upper-class people move into low-income communities, heralding renewed investment in these neighborhoods. It often results in some displacement of low-income people. Usually people think whites are the ones doing the gentrifying, particularly in D.C., but that’s not always the case.

An ongoing discussion is taking place on DCentric and our Los Angeles-based sister blog, Multi-American, which first wrote about “gentefication:” the process by which upwardly mobile and second-generation Latinos invest in low-income, Latino immigrant neighborhoods. We asked whether a more specific term should be use to describe what’s happening in some D.C. neighborhoods, where middle and upper-class African Americans are moving to and investing in low-income, black communities. Multi-American breaks down the discussion by reviewing readers’ comments.

For those concerned with housing costs in minority neighborhoods, the fear is that what are traditionally considered building blocks of gentrification – developers, high rents, wealthier white residents from outside the area – have a tendency to follow first-wave investors regardless of their ethnicity, with the next step being the area’s lower income residents pushed out as prices go up.

Readers of both blogs had quite a bit to say on the issue, good and bad.

Read more at: multiamerican.scpr.org

  • no

    No.  The word gentrification is free of race.  That this troubles you is merely a sign of your own bias.

  • Anonymous

    Hey, thanks for the comment.

    It’s not so much that this “troubles” me, rather that it’s an interesting question that’s generated a good deal of discussion. As I noted in the post, gentrification can take place regardless of the respective race of the players involved. So when blacks or Latinos are the gentrifiers, the word “gentrification” is still applicable, it appears. But is it useful to have a term more specific than “gentrification” to describe that situation?

  • Gentrification?

    From my understanding, gentrification is simply the revitalization of a neighborhood by newcomers. Displacement refers to outpricing and removal of formerly entrenched communities. Thus, I don’t consider supposed gentrification in Anacostia to be of the same, much hated ilk as that in other parts of the city. Sure, wealthier blacks are moving in, but has business followed? Where is the redevelopment? Who is being “kicked out” because of their presence? Exclusionary gentrification is associated with whites because its businesses cater solely to white people, unfortunately. Anacostia is not a gentrified neighborhood. I would agree that “gentrification” by blacks and Latinos requires its own terminology. 

  • Eaaae

    Exclusionary gentrification is associated with whites because its businesses cater solely to white people, unfortunately. ”
    I think a better word might be “non blacks”. In case you didn’t know, the main divide in DC is black and non-black, not white and non-white. Non-black minority are basically the same as white people in this area culturally and economically (pockets of hispanics not withstanding).

  • http://twitter.com/monkeyrotica monkeyrotica

    Are middle class busnesses geared towards whites that much different from middle class businesses geared towards African Americans? Sure, they each tend to go to different nightclubs, barbershops, and hair salons, but they both go to the same upscale eateries, grocery shops, and clothing stores that underclass residents have been priced out of.

  • http://profiles.google.com/x.oboe.x Oboe Eobo

    What situation?  The process of a neighborhood becoming less run-down, attracting more middle-class residents, becoming less run-down, etc, etc…?  Or specifically the process of a traditionally poor black or Latino neighborhood trending “whiter”?

    Two things:  almost all the evidence shows that individuals do not get “displaced” in the commonly understood sense of the word.  The populations of such neighborhoods have traditionally been quite transient, the difference is that whereas once a resident who made it out of the high-poverty area was replaced by another poor resident, now they’re replaced by middle-class resident.  Also, the poor people who do stay behind have been found to do much better economically in gentrifying areas than non-.

    —Back in 2003, Lance Freeman, an associate professor of urban planning at Columbia, wanted to find out just how much displacement had occurred in two predominantly black, rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods: Clinton Hill and Harlem (Freeman’s home). But “much to my surprise,” he wrote in his book There Goes the ’Hood, he didn’t find any causal relationship between gentrification and displacement. More surprising, he found that “poor residents and those without a college education were actually less likely to move if they resided in gentrifying neighborhoods.”—


    Secondly, because of socioeconomic realities in the larger society, any inner-city neighborhood that is able to begin attracting more middle-class residents is going to get “whiter” to a greater or lesser extent.  You see this even in areas where the majority of “gentrifiers” are black.  Most gentrifiers EOTR are black, but while that’s true, gentrified areas EOTR are still “whiter” than they were pre-gentrification.

  • Gente Negra

    Thank You for the article Elahe.  I have witnesses this phenomena in Orlando, and Miami, in which upper class and affluent African Americans are rivitalizing formerly blighted areas which were once Historically African American communities. In the Orlando Parramore district they have relocated FAMU (an HBCU) Law School, renovated an African American history Museum, built a mixed income housing complex, and relocated the Orlando Magic stadium. Unlike the case when city developers destroyed the Parramore in Orlando, and Overtown in Miami, with I-4 and I-95 respectively. This new form of gentrification and AA led gentrification seems to be more sensitive to the preservation of the historical nature of the surrounding areas.

    Can you point me to the direction where I can find some research concerning communities in which “gentefication” and African American initiated gentrification is happening on a wide scale.