I’m deeply disturbed by “Moving Up Main: The Cottontown/Elmwood Park Corridor Is Booming” (Free Times cover story, May 31). I’m a Charleston native but have lived in Elmwood Park for five years. Due to what I’ve learned about gentrification, I’ll soon be leaving this neighborhood.
Today, our city and state enact laws and policies that create new forms of racial and class segregation. Segregation determines who benefits from rising home prices, or who is robbed of wealth through common yet sometimes sinister real estate practices with cute sounding terms like house “flipping.”
My parents are retired teachers near Charleston. Partly because of racial and class segregation, their home is worth more than the exact same home in a low income neighborhood somewhere else. My parents borrowed against their house to pay for my college. This sort of asset access and building is denied communities that have been divested of their housing wealth through some of the forces you superficially allude to in this article. These laws and practices create systems that deny wealth from some groups (people of color, low income people) while pouring it into others (white, middle and upper income). This is white supremacy. It is also wealth supremacy. It is not hip. It is legalized, socially sanctioned theft and a form of violence.
Your article could have been a careful journalistic attempt to understand and courageously confront this, then provide examples of alternatives; a series with installments authored by various Eau Claire residents — people experiencing institutional theft and neglect, and also those entrepreneurs with creative visions they’ve already built or want to build.
Referring to gentrification as “The G-word” and offering nothing but quotes from people who have benefited or are actively seeking to benefit from this extremely unethical system is irresponsible.
Another unethical element is the fact that the mostly Black “upper North Main” residents are spoken about but never heard from in this article. Also, are any of the new businesses featured owned by people of color? When we see new business loans going almost exclusively to members of a racial category that already holds most of the city’s economic assets, we must pause, identify this as white supremacy, then organize radical shifts away from it.
People like USC professor Dr. Bobby Donaldson, and the Columbia SC ’63 project offer regular opportunities to learn about Columbia’s neighborhoods, specifically historically Black neighborhoods. BlackLivesMatter Charleston’s Muhiyidin d’Baha explains gentrification in an important YouTube video: http://bit.ly/gentrify-chas.
Journalists like Nikole Hannah-Jones have long taught about segregation in the U.S. I hope you take time to listen and meaningfully join the just housing work of groups like BlackLivesMatter and Movement for Black Lives. I hope next time you write about “development,” you ask whose voices are missing, then interview them and hire them as reporters instead of talking about them. I hope you never again gloss housing segregation as positive and lighthearted.
Public Art Brought Me to Columbia
I came through Columbia in the ’80s and noticed the different trompe l’oeil murals on several buildings and was impressed the town had done that. When I was moving north from Florida and looking for a town, I remembered those painted buildings and decided that was where I wanted to live. I’ve not been disappointed; I love this town! (“The Process,” Free Times cover story, June 7)
Runoff Elections Are Expensive, Unnecessary
I have reviewed the results of the British parliamentary elections just concluded and noted something South Carolina could choose: Their MPs are chosen by plurality, not by majority. Scarce capital is spent on senseless runoffs like we do here in so many elections.
I recommend that for local elections, and even for seats in the state legislature, we change our constitution to adopt a plurality election system and save money for other purposes needing it so badly.