I’m sure most are familiar with gentrification, at least as a word if not the actual phenomenon. Some of us are actively participating in it.
For the unfamiliar, gentrification is the process in which white people move into an economically depressed area, usually urban, and in awe of its unmediated authenticity, they inhale sharply, sucking up all the culture, suffocating the native population, and exhale it all as one large breath of corporate coffee chains and those big condos that look like Japanese pencil boxes. Then as any cultural unsustainable people would, white people move onto another area and repeat the process, desperately searching in vain for some kind of homeostatic identity.
Now, when they do it with neighborhoods, it’s all fine and good. Sort of. Sure people are displaced, but at least they get some new brands. I mean who doesn’t like Chipotle and Coffee Bean? Who doesn’t enjoy wandering around the Apple store, even if they can’t afford anything in there? Who doesn’t enjoy dismissing all their ethnically unfamiliar salespeople, rendered unthreatening by ill-fitting super casual baby blue t-shirts that accentuate their dearth of athleticism, pretending like they’re in the future, on some Apple-branded space ship, where everyone is rich and we’re all mixed race? I certainly do. I’m sure other poor people appreciate that as well.
But there’s a new type of gentrification we need to worry about. What happens when white people do it with ideology? What happens when white people start gentrifying the right side of history? Bad things happen, that’s what.
You see, white people have historically been on the wrong side of history. Always. Every time. Some might argue that they beat the Nazis. Okay fine, they beat the Nazis, but they were also the Nazis. Sorry white people, being right doesn’t really count if you were hedging your bets.
Honestly, white people shouldn’t even be allowed on the right side of history even as casual observers. We need to contain them here, in the land where everyone is wrong and everything is for sale. It’s only a matter of time before some asshole with a Macklemore haircut and a meticulously crafted mountain man beard laces up his $300 vintage army man boots and marches into one of these Mike Brown protests with artisanal #blacklivesmatter V-necks. I’m sure he’ll find a way to give a significant chunk of the money to the families of victims, but the idea of just giving the shirts away for free would never occur to him. That’s what white people do. That’s what gentrification is. They take something that has no value and assume it has no worth. Value, for white people, must be expressed through property, and so almost effortlessly they take the intangible, free, and ubiquitous and somehow make it scarce and exclusive.
I mean hell, even if they don’t try to profit off the protests, you don’t want someone with a Macklemore haircut in those Ferguson pictures. They hurt the credibility more than any looting ever would. You know how stupid those haircuts will look in 5 years? Didn’t white people learn a valuable lesson about the ephemeral shelf-life of white-rapper haircuts in the era of Vanilla Ice inspired high top pompadours and steps? Or the embarrassing half decade of cum-glazed Caesar-cuts that drove Eminem to publicly announce his status as the Real Slim Shady – back when every white guy looked like Suzanne Powter and walked with an affected limp? Can you imagine if you saw a picture today of the Million Man March and some gangly Irish dipshit looking like Sinbad was in the frame? It would turn the whole thing into a cartoon.
This is where we need to draw the line white people. Keep gentrification in the physical realm. Go ahead and transfigure every neighborhood into a milquetoast tableau of fast casual uniformity, but don’t turn rhetoric into trademark. Keep your price tags off the moral high ground. Don’t ever stop being wrong, leave at least something for everyone else. Stay out of the right side of history.