I do not care if you are talking about Harlem, Houston, or Brooklyn, there appears to be a few certainties such as: black-on-black crime, poverty, police brutality, inferior educational institutions, an absence of Black leadership, and economic exploitation of inner-city residents by people who do not look like them. Although the aforementioned ‘ills’ significantly impact the lives of African-American urbanites, as I pen this piece, there is no doubt that the most pernicious danger of all is gentrification.
What exactly is gentrification? A working definition of gentrification is to renovate and improve a housing district so that it conforms to middle-class tastes, meaning to make people and their way of life more refined or dignified.
Make no mistake about it, gentrification has been occurring and there is not much that a disassembled community such as ours can do about it. In fact, things have gotten so bad within the Black community that there is a segment of Black America that is welcoming gentrification.
Damon Thomas, a teacher who left Harlem and relocated to Brooklyn due to a skyrocketing real estate market, shared that “It (gentrification) is in many ways a double-edged sword. With the arrival of other groups who have significant financial means comes several things: (a) better city services, (b) more businesses in the form of restaurants, retail, etc., (c) the diluting of ‘cultural flavor’, (d) the destruction of our political base.”
Retired school teacher Carl Scott extended Thomas’ sentiments by relating “There is one thing that has occurred in Harlem with the influx of whites, crime has somewhat decreased. Regardless of what one wants to say about this matter, the issue of Black-on-Black crime has not been adequately addressed within or acted upon in a serious way by our community. Man, I’ll tell you; those perpetrating Black-on-Black crime have made me reverse my opposition to the arrival of whites in Harlem. I guess that you can consider them somewhat of a necessary evil.”
Quite possibly the most disappointing aspect of historic Black neighborhoods disappearance has to be the total lack of a significant, meaning something beyond a community meeting or angry outlandish public statement with absolutely no teeth behind it, response by African-American political leaders. Unfortunately for African-Americans who have been privileged to reside in historic Black neighborhoods, the African-American community rarely has a response to white “urban developers” encroachment upon historically Black areas.
It is during what should be highly contentious battles over America’s central cities that the saying “money talks and bullshit walks” comes to life and displays the gross disparities between African-Americans and other groups in regards to education, skill, economic resources, political acumen, and economic collectivism.
No moment more clearly displays the gross lack of power Black leaders hold than when other racial/ethnic groups enter historic Black areas and swiftly capture its political base and real estate market. What is the Black response to such encroachment? Embarrassingly, it appears that so-called Black leaders have little response at their disposal beyond yet another public forum that invariably denigrates into yet another griping session or an even more ridiculous action such as calling the community together for a Barbecue.
It is for this reason that I maintain that there is a woeful lack of Black leadership within our communities. What we presently have is not leadership, rather a reactionary cadre of individuals who offer blasé commentary regarding politico economic developments that even they realize that they have no chance of reversing.
The most upsetting aspect of these developments is that matters such as gentrification would not be occurring if our community had placed their emphasis upon long-lasting things such as education, economic collectivism, and politicization. Ironically, it is these simple building blocks that have repeatedly been used by those who opportunistically exploit disassembled communities such as our own at every turn. Unfortunately for the African-American children who will inherit this mess that contemporary Black America has created, so-called Black leaders are not interested in working toward the creation of Saturday schools, advocating for ‘circulating our dollar within our own community’, or raising funds for the independent Black school movement.
It is for the above reasons that whites, and truly every other group will continue to do whatever they desire with the African-American community, including extinguishing its existence when it benefits them.
Inexplicably, while so-called Black leaders continue their self-promotion campaigns and the Black community is still being exploited; a sizable portion of our community will fall behind their chosen leader and cheer him on as he takes them closer and closer to an abyss. It is most certainly time that African-Americans divest from this cult-like fascination with charismatic Black leaders and realize that such individuals are extending one of the greatest traditions of futility civilized man has ever known. That tradition is none other than ‘talking loud and saying nothing’.
If the loss of historic Black communities has taught us nothing else, it is that when it comes to real-world matters such as economics, politics, and real estate that ‘money talks and bullshit walks.’ And I am certain that you would agree that our cadre of so-called Black leaders have been bullshitting for far too long. I just wonder when will our people tire of their antics and adopt a position that calls each and every one of us to take responsibility for ourselves and work collectively to uplift the entire Race. In the words of Marcus Garvey, “Up You Mighty Race, Achieve What You Will!!!!!!”
Dr. James Thomas Jones III
©Manhood, Race and Culture, 2016