Gentrification Fears Forces Grocery Store Chain to Abandon Project
Last month in Portland, Oregon where I live, a west coast grocery chain called Trader Joe’s decided to pull the plug on a project that would have placed one of their stores in the northeastern area of the city. This area, along with North Portland, have historically been where the black community is located.
Before I go any further, I need to clarify one thing. I use the term blacks as opposed to African-American. Many, many eons ago, I went through basic training with a man who, at the time that the term African-American was just coming into vogue, got very upset if anyone referred to him as such. He kept insisting that he was not African, but West Indian. So, I use the term blacks instead.
The lot in question is a two acre piece of property that has sat empty for a long, long time.
The Portland African American Leadership Forum sent a letter to city officials stating that they would “remain opposed to any development in north/northeast Portland that does not primarily benefit the Black community.”
It’s true that Trader Joe’s is not a cheap place to go grocery shopping. It is an upscale market targeting higher income patrons. I’ve shopped there only once and was not impressed with either the prices or what was on the shelves, so I choose not to shop there.
The community leaders in the area express a concern that opening a Trader Joe’s would “increase the desirability of the neighborhood for non-oppressed populations.”
In other words, gentrification.
There are those who believe that allowing a business that is owned by whites to be opened in an area that is predominantly black, the local government is trying to drive blacks out of the area.
I don’t believe this to be true. I believe that a business owner looks at an area and studies it to see if they can make money.
The last statement from the community leaders disturbs me, though. Non-oppressed populations. For a city that prides itself on it’s “diversification”, blacks, or at least their leaders, still play themselves as victims.
I live in a predominantly white neighborhood, but there are still a lot of Latino.Hispanics and Asians in my neighborhood. There are a few blacks who live around here, too.
Imagine for a moment, that the white community where I live banded together because a black man wanted to open a business. Say we went to the newspapers and city council and demanded that we only wanted businesses that primarily benefit the white community. What would you think of me and those statements?
You would be completely justified in your thoughts.
Gentrification is the new word for segregation. Not segregation that is enforced by law, but voluntary segregation. In other words, the black community wants their areas to stay black They want businesses that are owned by blacks (I am not opposed to blacks owning businesses. If people want to make money and open a business, it doesn’t matter to me what color their skin is, they should knock themselves out and go for it.). They seem to want property values to remain where they are, and no one come in to improve the neighborhood. In other words, they do not want diversification.
Community activists claim that improving a a black neighborhood forces poor minorities out of that neighborhood.
It’s a claim that benefits only the activists, not the community at large.
According to a study by Lance Freeman, an assistant professor of urban planning at Columbia University, this could very well be untrue.
So, if gentrification is a boon like this professor claims it may be, why are activists in the black community so resistant to it?
The only reason I can think of is that they want to segregate themselves from the rest of the community.