‘Gentrification’ is ethnic cleansing

Ethnic cleansing is an international human rights violation. Black people across the U.S. are being ethnically cleansed from our traditional communities. If Black folks accept the myth that the devastation inflicted on us by “gentrification” is simply the result of neutral “market forces,” we will fatally underestimate the danger we face as a people.

Whenever white folks say that the “gentrification” of Black communities is not about race but economics, get your guard up. The entire history of the United States demonstrates the inextricable connection between economics and race. Colonialism and developing capitalism reduced Africans into things, commodities to be bought, sold and to create profit. European “Christians” invented the concept and ideology of racism—of white supremacy and Black inferiority—to rationalize the practice of slavery. Economics lies at the very root of racism.

If you want to destabilize a community, you attack its housing base. As one of the presenters at the March 3 “We Ain’t Going Nowhere Tribunal on Ethnic Cleansing of the Black community” observed, when you do not have a residence, it is almost impossible to concentrate on or fight to improve any other aspect of your life. So the process of so-called gentrification—inflated purchase prices for homes; building of poorly constructed, new high-rises with rents unaffordable to the present working-class community members; and increased rents in the entire area—is presented as non-violent in intent, but violent in result. In fact, one of the new tactics being used in our communities is the rise of Airbnb, the transformation and elimination of resident housing into day-to-day/week-to-week commercial hotel transactions. This important component in the ethnic cleansing of the Black community can be further seen through its documentation by Inside Airbnb’s released study “Faces of Airbnb: NYC, Airbnb as a Racial Gentrification Tool”:

Across all 72 predominantly Black New York City neighborhoods, Airbnb hosts are five times more likely to be white. In those neighborhoods, the Airbnb host population is 74 percent white, whereas the white resident population is only 14 percent

White Airbnb hosts in Black neighborhoods earned an estimated $160 million, compared with only $48 million for Black hosts—a 530 percent disparity

The loss of housing and neighborhood disruption caused by Airbnb is six times more likely to affect Black residents, based on their majority presence in Black neighborhoods, as residents in these neighborhoods are 14 percent white and 80 percent Black.

Seventy-two percent of the population in neighborhoods at highest risk of Airbnb-induced gentrification across New York are non-white

The problem is compounded by the driving out of small, community-based businesses; the attack on community institutions (e.g., complaints about Sunday church bells being “too loud,” drum circles being too “noisy”); the education “solution” of Charter schools for a fortunate few and under-resourced public schools for the many); the police terrorizing and killing of Black residents; and the easy availability of weapons.

This problem is not simply a Harlem or a Bedford-Stuyvesant problem. Although the tactics might vary, the same process is going on across the country, with examples in Boston, Detroit, Chicago, Houston, San Francisco and even Portland. We must not forget that in New Orleans it was not Hurricane Katrina, but the man-made manipulation of that natural disaster, that has reduced New Orleans’ Black population from 75 percent to 50 percent.