Gentrification and Resistance: Racial Projects in the Neoliberal Order
Gentrification amplifies the precarity of marginalized people of color and reproduces white supremacy as neighborhoods are redeveloped in accord with affluent actors’ interests. Representations of poor Black communities as blighted neighborhoods inhabited by dangerous criminals and welfare queens demonize residents and construct them as threatening to neighborhood safety and stability—suggesting that they must be cordoned off in order to “improve” a neighborhood. Such constructions conveniently normalize developers’ rebranding efforts that effectively whitewash communities to attract capital and legitimize the annihilation of affordable housing at the expense of established residents, who are displaced from their homes when neighborhood property values rise. Similar to other neoliberal projects, gentrification often entails ramped up policing and surveillance to appease the new residents’ concerns about safety.
This article explores how exclusionary development practices in a Philadelphia neighborhood were rationalized by racialized neoliberal ideals and challenged by activists who called attention to the racism integral to gentrification. The conflicts between anti-racist activists and powerful real estate conglomerates illuminate the tempestuous racial politics of gentrification in the neoliberal city.
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