Last night, filmmaker Spike Lee spoke at Brooklyn’s Pratt Institute. When the discussion inevitably moved to the topic of gentrification, one particular question sent the night in a fevered and badass direction: a 7-minute rant by Lee, who is a well-established anti-gentrification advocate / Brooklyn preservationist. Citing articles like this and this wherein efforts are made to find a silver lining to the whole “white people taking over whole neighborhoods, forcing black people out, changing everything, and making it too expensive for anyone other than rich, white people to live there” thing, an audience member asked Lee what he thought about the “good side of gentrification”.
Here is how he responded to his questioner, or rather, “killed him”:
NY Mag transcribed the whole thing, but here are a few quotable gems:
- “Why does it take an influx of white New Yorkers in the South Bronx, in Harlem, in Bed Stuy, in Crown Heights for the facilities to get better? Why did it take this great influx of white people to get the schools better? The garbage wasn’t picked up every motherfuckin’ day when I was living in 165 Washington Park… The police weren’t around… When you see white mothers pushing their babies in strollers, three o’clock in the morning on 125th Street, that must tell you something.”
- “Then comes the motherfuckin’ Christopher Columbus Syndrome. You can’t discover this! We been here. You just can’t come and bogart. You have to come with respect. There’s a code. There’s people. I’m for democracy and letting everybody live but you gotta have some respect. You can’t just come in when people have a culture that’s been laid down for generations and you come in and now shit gotta change because you’re here?”
- “So you’re talking about the people’s property change? But what about the people who are renting? They can’t afford it anymore! You can’t afford it. People want live in Fort Greene. People wanna live in Clinton Hill. The Lower East Side, they move to Williamsburg, they can’t even afford fuckin’, motherfuckin’ Williamsburg now because of motherfuckin’ hipsters.”