every week i have a moment where i wonder what the end of the week topical post is gonna be about.
see, i'm a white lady.
i'm a white lady who was was born outside of new orleans. i'm a white lady who lives in new orleans. i'm a white lady who just bought a house in new orleans. the bullshit and fuckery that Janna Perry-Haller enacted this weekend as captured and fought against by Stephan Cole is MY PROBLEM to deal with.
much like the idea of racism without racists, us white folks like to talk about gentrification without talking about how we are gentrifiers.
this email is intended to demonstrate the extent of the problem of gentrification and what we white folks need to do to stop being the problem.
"gentrification is happening everywhere."
i once found myself at brunch in a conversation about gentrification. two blonde women from opposite coasts sat across from me and a friend who i consider family. he is a black new orleanian with the type of last name that tells you what part of town his people are from. we listened, amused and ready to dunk on these women as they made points like the one in bold above.
new orleans is not like any other place on earth. i believe that issues and solutions are hyper-local in general, but nowhere is this more true than here. new orleans has been a city unlike anywhere else since its founding and to compare gentrification here to other cities is to miss the point entirely. for more i bring you a Franklin grad and "Treme" creator, Lolis Elie:
"Outsiders (who used to only visit) are putting down roots, tilting the delicate balance between those residents who move to the city because they love it and those who naturally embody the city’s culture because they live it. About a decade ago, 77 percent of New Orleanians were born in Louisiana and had spent most of their lives there. After the town recovered from Hurricane Katrina, however, those numbers started to shift. The city has become less populous, less black, more white, richer at its historic center and poorer in many surrounding neighborhoods...In 2018 some storied areas saw housing prices rocket by nearly 30 percent in just half a year. Recent data from Richard Campanella, a professor at Tulane University, show how between 2012 and 2016 over 13,000 people moved to New Orleans from outside the state; many are affluent, influential and brimming with disposable income and fresh energy. But they’ve also brought threats to the city’s New Orleans-ness: What may be felt as run-of-the-mill gentrification anywhere else feels like an epochal shift here...Americanization and globalization have proved inevitable almost everywhere else on this continent. And further inequality seems inevitable as sea-level rise ravages the nearby coast and realtors bid up those neighborhoods away from flood zones even more. But New Orleans’s culture survived slavery, the Louisiana Purchase, the Civil War, Plessy v. Ferguson, hurricanes, oil booms and busts and post-Katrina privatization. So despite it all, somehow, I have faith the city will survive this wave, still feeling like some version of itself."
new orleans is a black city
from its music to its food to every other component of its culture, new orleans is integrally black. yes, it is a melting pot, but don't get it twisted, "everything you love about new orleans is because of black people."
cw: katrina. scroll past next two graphics.
aaaaand yet, black people are often the people who least benefit from NOLA's abundance. below are a couple of graphics. the first shows how the storm impacted areas of the city. the second shows a gentrification map published by Richard Campenella in 2013 (EIGHT YEARS AGO, so you already know it's worse now).
you can feel however you want about it, but the facts are that white people are colonizing new orleans.
let's unpack this masterclass in gentrification:
here's Perry's written response from instagram:
every time i read this i want to go slash the tires on that mini cooper.
like actually. there are people who think Mr. Cole's language was too much, too aggressive, etc. to the white people who think this, my question is: who are we to decide what is too much? what makes us think we have the standing to determine what is respectable? how do we have the audacity to decide what the appropriate reaction is to watching your neighborhood be taken over in real time?
anger is an absolutely justified response to violent displacement.
we white women are fucking violent.
despite a lack of crying, this response is exemplary of white tears. what are white tears?
"White tears can be a pointed but lighthearted way of asking someone to set aside their defensiveness for a moment and take part in the conversation at hand. "It's basically satire," Thomas says. "So if you understand satire, and the use of satire, you get that when people say, 'Oh, could you stop with the white tears?' or 'Do we have to take time out in order to indulge the white tears?', what's really being said is, 'Could you stop the violence right now that is happening in the conversation?' ... 'I'm not denying that people have pain," she says. "What I'm saying is that you can sit with discomfort. And the discomfort of the conversation is not equivalent to the kinds of violence that are going on in the world, [which] we're responsible for as community members and allies and citizens.'
Perry immediately clings to her status as a woman to claim marginalization
she defends her unhinged decision to literally show her whole ass by saying "=) it's my body remember" and proceeds to accuse a black man of sexism to deflect from her own racism. she says she reached out to as many neighbors as "she could" despite video interviews with white neighbors who say they told her it was a bad idea and clearly documented evidence that she did not contact her black neighbors at all. she expects us to not see this as racism. she claims that her friends, one of whom is wearing an incredibly racist costume imitating indigenous americans and another of whom shows up in her jim crow finest to flip Stephan off, are the nicest people she knows.
this is our problem to deal with. we claim niceness. we use politeness to mask our audacity. we take up space that is not and never was our own. we criminalize righteous anger towards us.
am i a gentrifier??
here's the part we're not gonna like, but i'm gonna give it to you straight.
if you own more than one property, sell that bitch for its appraisal value.
i'm not kidding. you benefitting from owning more homes than you live in is white supremacy in action. i can't make it clearer than that. there are black new orleanians looking for a home RIGHT NOW that cannot afford them because you are hoarding homes like a middle school bully hoards snacks. cut that shit out. if you are not in new orleans, this shit is still exploitative and you need to stop. there are no exceptions.
if you're white and own a home in a predominantly black neighborhood:
we are gentrifiers. period. you can try whatever mental gymnastics you want, but these are the facts. we are actively shifting the demographics of the area and depending on how much our homes differ from the local average (check here) we are pushing up property values which increases native folk's property taxes making it harder for them to hold on to their homes. this is just math & we like that shit, so i need you to believe me.
shit, so what do i do now?
besides sell your house and move home?? i'm not actually kidding. many of us know that we will be returning to the places our parents live. if this is you, sell your house and rent until you move home. rent from a black landlord if you can.
if, like me, you are white and unable to move back to your parents' or ancestral homelands and new orleans is your home, here's what we need to do:
- be fucking considerate. get to know your neighbors. say hello when you walk by or when you come in and out of your place. ask them if they're good. offer to get their groceries if they're older or disabled. check on them periodically and especially before storms / during season changes. show up consistently and NEVER promise more than you can deliver.
- make material contributions to supporting you community. Southern Solidarity (linked below) feeds unhoused New Orleanians every single mf day, 365. we need your donations to do so. click the link as a show of gratitude for everything you have. moreover, when you've got extra, reinvest it in your community. there are countless orgs that are doing right by black and brown folks in new orleans. reply to this email for more if you have extra resources.
3. remember that you are a foreigner and a guest. take that shit seriously. this means we don't need to lead events or organizations. take your time and talent and lend them to black and brown led organizations. again, if you want me to help you find folks aligned with what you want to do i am SO happy to help do so.
4. accept that you are inherently harmful and take responsibility for yourself. there is no way to be white in black neighborhood and not inflict harm. give up the idea that you are not problematic. focus your energy on minimizing your harm and increasing the ways that you support your community such that it comes as close to balancing your harm as possible. "harm reduction" is a term that comes from supporting drug addicts specifically, but i believe we have much to learn from harm reduction orgs and coalitions. below is the harm reduction 4 fires model as developed by the Native Youth Sexual Health Network. i want to be clear that not all of our neighbors and community members are addicts or users, but i think this model is useful to think about:
as always, i hope this was useful. i am thinking deeply about what it means to reduce the harm that i create here in new orleans. if you want to link to talk about this, i'd love to connect.
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katie wills evans