Sunday, July 15, 2007

livin' just enough for the city

Okay, so first off let me apologize for being such a slacker and not updating- Kaya has given me the appropriate scolding and so I'm back. Anyway, after my relocation and starting work the only thing I really get to sit around and think/talk about is stuff that has to do with this crazy, hot, cramped city.
And what is the first thing that comes to mind when I think about New York? The fact that this is one of the few places where you can see SO many awkward social interactions, visible hierarchies and class divisions and just plain weird shit. I remember when I was younger I used to think about this city, how fun it would be to live here and do all sorts of fabulous things in the cit- but when you actually are in a place where you can get up and relocate, work, bills and rent definitely come into the equation and change up the way you think about things. The first example that I can think of in terms of changing the way you think about things is definitely the issue of housing and finding a place to live.
Before getting here and learning about different areas of the city, where is expensive, where is cheap, what has a lot of nightlife and which places are somehow desolate wastelands (in the middle of Manhattan, mind you) I thought that I'd just live in some cute little neighborhood where the rent would be expensive but it'd be worth it. As I got here I realized more and more that I'd have to live in a cheaper area- which doesn't bother me at all, but my own attitudes in finding a place to live (regarding the area, people in it, etc.) kind of did.
For example, I often found myself making a mental note of each and every white person I saw in the vicinity of a neighborhood I was considering moving to. This one is wearing chinos, that one has a fitted, that one is walking a dog- that one has a little fluff dog while the other has a large mean looking one. As awful as it is to say and think- I judged the relative safety of a neighborhood by the amount and kind of white people that deigned to live there. Tragic, I know.
And of course this brings us to the awkward, often avoided issue of: gentrification.
Let me be very upfront about this- I'm definitely not for gentrification- it's a process that displaces people from their homes, tears up communities and can often strip a place of its history, its culture- and just all in all messes up a lot of people's lives. On the flip side, gentrification definitely fixes up areas and helps in a reduction of crime... although a reduction in crime for who? For the people who move in the area is "getting better"- but what about the people who move out? Where are they going? How much farther from their jobs do they have to live? What is going to happen when the move into another bad neighborhood where they aren't familiar with the people (because anybody who has ever been to/known anyone in or lived in the hood- there are some places you just don't go if you don't know somebody there) and will they even be able to find a place as affordable with the same kinds of dimensions/amenities/etc?
And even though I have all this stuff to say bout the evils of gentrification and how it ruins communities and displaces people, the fact of the matter is that with my Harvard diploma and my Manhattan job- I am very much a part of the process of gentrification myself, and while I can find the evil in it, I am most certainly a part of it. Then again, I am a Black woman who comes from a lower class background, so my sympathy isn't just superficial...
Man, being a Black person.. so nuanced.
So meta.
Okay, maybe I was reaching with the 'meta,' but you know what I mean.

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