Your blog post for the week should make connections between these three readings–are forces of gentrification similar or different than colonialism via “development”?
We would also like you to generate two (or more) questions for our panelists on ethical community engagement with displaced people. Include these in your blog post, and be ready to engage in conversation with the panelists on Monday evening.
Firstly, I thought To Hell with Good Intentions was a powerful read. It called to mind the concept of “poverty tourism” which is something that I think has become a growing concern as it grows in popularity. I think I agree with Illich here and his sentiment of “to hell with good intentions.” There was a moment that really stuck with me from the Citizen University conference in March that had simply not occurred to me before: I don’t remember who the speakers were (I’ll check with Kathryn) and I may be forgetting some of the details, but the general gist is that an organization was doing a toy drive for low income or homeless families. Once all the toys were gathered, they were distributed and given to the children. Some of the mothers got upset because they didn’t just want their children to have toys, THEY wanted to be able to earn and provide the toys. So they were then given the opportunity to do some work to earn toys to give to their children, instead. The problem here is that people, who think they are doing good, tend to view people in poverty as not intelligent or wise enough to make decisions for themselves. That others need to decide what they need and what’s good for them rather than asking and letting those in need tell us what they want and need. I think that some people are so eager to “help” or do good, that they go rushing in thinking more of their own satisfaction at having “helped” rather than actually trying to give people what they need. It becomes more about the “doer” than the “receiver.”
Secondly, the first question about gentrification and development put into words something that I’ve been struggling with as I learn more about future city development. I’m inclined to say that no, there really isn’t any difference between gentrification and colonialism.
There’s a big push to begin developing space in Seattle – such as the alleyways in Pioneer Square. (There’s some details of the project here.) At first glance, it seems like a cool project. I’m a big fan of Pioneer Square, I spend more time researching, noting the graffiti, and wandering around than any other area of Seattle thus far. The thought of sidewalk cafes and tivoli lighting strung up over the alleys is enticing. This is a project that falls under the category of “public space activation” but after my initial oohing and aahing, I realized this isn’t really “public” space activation. It’s activation of space for a very specific set of people – namely tourists (people with the means to travel) and people from a certain class (a class who can afford to spend money eating dinner and drinking nice wine in pretty outdoor cafes.) At it’s heart, the project is meant to clean up the alleys – not just of the trash bins but of the people who might otherwise take refuge in the alleys or do things that are frowned upon in our society. (It’s also hard not to hear about tivoli lighting and sidewalk cafes and think about “stuff white people like”.) Yesler Terrace was the site of a nearly 20 acre low income housing development. The community and residents of Yesler Terrace (here in Seattle) were kicked out so that their homes could be torn down to make way for a new “mixed use” “mixed income” urban center. The residents were sent away from homes they’d resided in, some for 20+ years and told they could either find a new home or come back to live in this new place. (There’s a really moving documentary about the residents called Even the Walls – this is the website with info on the movie and a link to see it in it’s entirety, as well as the trailerThe Faces of Yesler Terrace.
In my mind, the only difference between colonialism and gentrification is that, historically, colonialism involved people from one country (a Western country such as the US or in Western Europe) going into another country to begin development. Whereas gentrification is within the same country as the “colonizer.” I found this article which compares the two and I found point #2 particularly applicable: “Gentrification makes cities safer = neutralizes the savage”. One could say that people in the West view immigrants and refugees as similar to savages (particularly from the Middle East and North Africa) who need to be contained or “tamed”.
- How do we begin this process of changing how people in the West view refugees, immigrants, etc. There seems to be 3 main categories or stereotypes that people hold: refugees and immigrants are either lazy and want handouts, or they’re going to take all the jobs, and/or they’re dangerous and going to attempt to kill us all. How do we begin to combat and change these stereotypes? Facts and statistics don’t work (meaning, if you give someone who holds these stereotypes in their mind, giving them figures on how immigrants help to bolster the community and contribute to the economy don’t work; pointing out that there have been no attacks in the US by anyone from the seven countries banned by Trump doesn’t make a dent in their minds.)
- I think that “wanting to help” can be a slippery slope sometimes, in terms of what I spoke about in the first paragraph. How do you think someone can best be of service to immigrant communities in a way that’s genuinely useful and helpful, in a way that keeps *me* out of it?