Tuesday, December 30, 2014

gentrification in east Austin

This post was contributed by Rene Gonzalez from this fall's undergrad social stratification class. This post was later cross-posted to The Sociological Cinema.

Gentrification radically transformed my neighborhood. Growing up in and around east Austin, I have experienced first-hand the changes that can occur within an area over a mere decade. As a child, I visited family members throughout east Austin. All of us are Latino, and everybody not only knew everyone else, but also where they lived. Now as the city rapidly grows, many in my family are being forced by rising property taxes to sell their homes. These homes are primarily being bought up by young, affluent, white real-estate developers, who are scrapping such dwellings and doing complete renovations in order to attract young, affluent, white occupants

I have seen Boyz N the Hood many times, but the scene featured above really stood out to me after our class discussion. Furious Styles (Laurence Fishburne) takes his son, Trey, and a friend to a nearby neighborhood where a billboard has just been put up offering to buy-up homes. Furious explains the specifics of how the property values in a neighborhood are brought down, while the land is bought out and sold for big profit. He also notes that this could be prevented if residents maintained solidarity by retaining black ownership.

Placing gentrification into a larger historical context, this clip from the Broadway play, Clybourne Park  features a mix of humorous scenes that collectively illustrate salient attitudes and behaviors accompanying neighborhood succession over time: residential areas that were once white and middle class in composition transformed through white flight into those with predominately black working-class and poor populations, and then ultimately with gentrification, back into white upscale neighborhoods. See also this recent piece featuring Spike Lee, arguing that gentrification reveals government racism in the provision of far better public facilities and services to an area once it is gentrified. 

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