Saturday, March 19, 2011

gentrification involves more than the gentry

This piece in the Washington City Paper by Shani O. Hilton about gentrification and race in DC has been generating a lot of positive vibes. It's a very fraught and deeply important topic; the recent Jalen Rose/Grant Hill affair has hit home once again that the relationship between the advancement of black interests and ideas of black authenticity is a tangled and often contentious one. I will echo the praise for what is present in the article, as it is indeed insightful and honest, but I have a very major reservation.

Where are the interviews with poor people?

This is a several-thousand word article on the relationship between race and socioeconomic class, and about the tensions between old and new residents and poor and rich residents of a city and a neighborhood. Yet in those thousands of words there isn't a single interview with a poor, long-term, black resident. It's a glaring omission.

I don't mean to come down too hard on Hilton, who really has done yeoman's work with a lot of the reporting for the piece. The problem is that she's so unexceptional in this omission: elite media consistently and systematically excludes the voices of the worst off. I don't think that this is intentional; I think it's a result of a confluence of factors involving visibility, accessibility, fear of appearing condescending, and worry about being in physical danger in poor neighborhoods. If we're going to confront these questions responsibly and fairly, the journalistic class has to overcome that.

1 comment:

Jethro said...

"Where are the interviews with poor people?"

Good question - thanks.