Friday, February 23, 2007

back from springfield...other thoughts

i'm thinking about...

my old city. well, my old metropolitan area in southern california, anyway. it seems like some folks there don't like the way their neighborhood is changing: Some in Chino Hills nervous about ethnic shift exemplified by Asian supermarket [h/t from angry asian man]

i love how, if you study how (mostly white) communities deal with increasing numbers of non-white peoples, the discourse of protest hinges on 'community standards,' a handy code for racism and bigotry.

(it's basically the NIMBY argument: 'they can live like that around their own kind, but not in my back yard!')

it reminds me of a book i finished: There Goes the Neighborhood, a study of 4 chicago neighborhoods undergoing racial/ethnic demographic changes, how they either maintained their racial composition or changed and the strategies they used in 'fighting' the change. it's fascinating. in the study on the anonymous southside white neighborhood shows how inhabitants use the language of 'neighborhood standards' to justify keeping their community all white. it's a really interesting look at how ingrained, generational racism (not simply bigotry) affect quotidian details like, oh, where a person lives.

(it also explains why, 9 years ago, i probably stopped dating a guy who lived in one of those south side chicago ethnic neighborhoods. there were issues, the biggest being the fact i was the first brown girl to be introduced to his friends and family EVER.)
thoughts of the anti-asian sentiment in chino hills (no one finds it funny that 'chino' in spanish means 'chinese'?) also lead me to think of how we respond to racial or ethnic changes - but from the other direction.

for instance, when a brown neighborhood sees signs that it's getting less brown and more white it's funny that our discourse isn't about 'maintaining community standards' but a reverse narrative of imperialism. (for instance, imagine the story of 'settlement' told from the vantage point of native peoples.)

isn't that what gentrification really is - urban imperialism? a markedly capitalist, consumerist population running out of resources sees how other populations/geographies aren't exploiting capitalism as much as they can, so it moves to annex and control the population in order to benefit and spread itself.

i read the arguments in favor of manifest destiny and can't help but see similarities in chicago's language in favor of 'community renewal' on the southside and its heavy investment in development in places like hyde park, lawndale, pilsen.

of course this also puts me in a weird position since participating in this kind of urban imperialism is part of my job (but without displacing original populations, somehow.)

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