Monday, August 9, 2010

All About You

It's funny how people take ownership of things that they can never really own.

I'm thinking about neighborhoods. How often have we read in recent years about African Americans being pushed out of communities through gentrification? Most of us have seen stories about hipsters and yuppies coming into depressed areas and bringing their Jamba Juices, Starbucks and Whole Foods with them. It's seen as an improvement to these areas  even if they are replacing more affordable neighborhood stores.

It's funny how a change in perspective can change the narrative.

That story is about a change in demographics in a Flushing Queens neighborhood, and the subsequent change in the products carried by supermarkets there. It appears that after traditional supermarkets moved out the neighborhood, grocery stores catering to Asian clientele moved in. That has pissed off some residents who complain that they can't find their regular products (like Boar's Head bologna, bagels and pet food) , and can't understand signs that aren't in English.

I'm not even going to discuss the glaring issue of supply and demand in a capitalist society. Instead, I want to look at the real problem here. People just don't like when things stop being about them.

If you read the story, you'll see phrases like "our neighborhood" being used. You will see complaints that people feel like strangers, that the neighborhood isn't set up to serve them anymore. You will see people who are upset that the world no longer revolves around them.

I appreciate how difficult change can be, and I understand how frustrating it is to go into a store and not be able to find things because you don't speak the language. Then again, I also realize that for many immigrants, that is their everyday life in America. I watched the move "Sugar" the other day. It's about a Dominican baseball player coming to America and what it drove home for me was just how much adjustment is necessary to survive and thrive in this country.  And yes, immigrants choose that life when they came to an English speaking country, but they also have the right to create their own enclaves within that country where they feel comfortable and secure. It's the American way and Germans, Italians, and Jews have done it for centuries.

According to the story, Asians make up roughly 50 percent of the population in Flushing. I think those demographics give them the right to have signs in their own language and sell the food they want to eat. I don't think they owe it to existing residents to make things easier for them, anymore than Jamba Juice and Starbucks owe it to black people to lower their prices. Sure, it might make good business sense, but there is no obligation and I get the distinct feeling from the folks in that article that many of them think there should be an obligation.

That's the arrogance of folks, and not just white folks. We think that because something has been one way for a long time, it will always be that way. I have more sympathy for the victims of gentrification because often they were denied the opportunity to move into nicer neighborhoods through redlining, and then had public services denied their communities. Some of their problems are not of their own making. But, for those left behind by white flight, my sympathy is muted. Yes, change is difficult, but the simple truth is that you don't own this neighborhood. The neighbor changes and shifts based on the power and desire of the residents living there, and it seems that these immigrants have that power. It would be nice if they made that transition easy for you, but since I doubt you made their transition easy for them, I don't think you have too much right to complain.

It's not all about you anymore. Deal with it.



Shady_Grady said...

Things change. The question which immediately is raised is that do the people complaining have the right to move to areas which might be more culturally amenable to them (ie. Staten Island) and then take steps to KEEP those areas as enclaves for their own culture/way of life.

Imhotep said...

They want their country back, and it ain’t happening. Ever notice how these white folks want to turn the clock back to a simpler time, a time when those minorities knew their place.

I personally would like to welcome these white folks to a brave new world, and a new but evolving status, that of the unwelcome guest!

Big Man said...

That's the same thing I was wondering Shady. It would appear they don't have the money to move like their friends who left in white flight, and thus are stuck. Speaking from experience, I can tell you that those are very angry white people.


I think we're seeing the reaction to the feeling that the country is changing too much too quickly. I'm curious to see how much more violent things get. I know that every time I go into Academy Sports, I see white people purchasing assault rifles.

Imhotep said...

If you really want to see them go crazy with the gun buying, just start the BNRA (Black NRA), them mofu will start to buy tanks.

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Raving Black Lunatic