Gentrification is the word of the day in Oakland. Everywhere you look people are asking, “Am I a gentrifier? Is it bad? Should I care?” What people don’t seem to realize is it isn’t the mere act of moving into a neighborhood that makes you a gentrifier; it’s what you do once you get there.
If you come into someone’s home, do you immediately start rearranging it and moving furniture in? Do you throw away their family photo albums and tell them they have to go to bed at an earlier time or play their music at a lower volume?
No, of course not. You get to know each other, decide if you get along, and, once your host has decided you can stay, you ask politely if there is space to put your stuff. So why do you think you can move into someone else’s neighborhood and start making it over as your own?
2. Recognize all the people outside of your door as your neighbors, even if they look different from you and live under different circumstances. This includes the homeless who sleep on the street, the drug dealers who sell outside the liquor store, and the prostitutes walking your streets. Replace the words homeless, drug dealer, and prostitute with the word neighbor. Treating these folks with respect and dignity from the beginning will give you later leverage to talk to them about changing their behavior and getting out of the life.
3. Change the way you look at said neighbors by changing the language you use to describe them. Think about the motivations for their actions. Instead of “that prostitute was out all night selling her body” think “my neighbor (insert name here) was forced by her pimp to stand out in the cold all night and have sex with multiple men she didn’t know.” See if that doesn’t change your opinion of her.
13. Recognize Oakland has a very unique and vibrant history and culture, and you were attracted to this city because of the energy that is already here. You should be here to add to that history and culture, not to erase it. We are not San Francisco. We don’t want to be San Francisco. So please don’t try to remake our city in San Francisco’s image. And remember, you don’t gain culture by eating a burrito. You gain culture by engaging in a real and meaningful manner with the person who makes the burrito.
read more: oaklandlocal, 30.01.14.