gentrification // colonialism :: ????? // decolonization

You know the slogan “gentrification is the new colonialism”?

It’s been on my mind a lot lately. The logic that propels gentrification forward mirrors the logic of colonization—land as a static object, capable of being possessed by private individuals and monetized in as many ways possible, at the expense of displacing its previous inhabitants.

But I’m stuck on this—if gentrification is a form of colonialism, is resisting gentrification and coming up with alternatives a form of decolonization?

I don’t think the answer is yes, or at least not necessarily. Our bodies matter. Our bodies’ histories matter. Even if I organize for affordable housing models and collectivized land-ownership, my Irish family came here as settlers. My Xicanx family completed our transformation into settlers when we moved to Oregon, historically beheld by Anglos as a white homeland, and became the repressed white-passing people we are today. My recent arrival to NYC aligns with current patterns of migration and displacement associated with gentrification.

On many levels, I don’t know how to divest from the privilege my settler status gives me. There are a lot of things I don’t know. I guess this is just to say that researching the indigenous history of present-day NYC is on my to-do list, that knowing the true stories of the land is part of my project of radical queer homemaking.

And it’s to say that sometimes anti-gentrification activism feels like scraping off the top inch of a hundred foot deep history of racial trauma. But then again maybe time is cyclical and healing this top inch will reverberate across the centuries. idfk.

Anyways, go check out this amazing blog called Unsettling America: Decolonization in Theory & Practice. On the topic of the relationship between housing activism and settler colonialism, take a look at the Un-Settling Settler Desires essay by Scott Morgensen. They have much more to say about how settler relationships to colonized lands have implications for alleged (and sometimes real) anti-colonial activism. 100% worth a read.


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