OPINION: Poverty and Progress

by Villainus

The word “progress” is often a euphemism for “gentrification.” The impact of so-called progress are dire for the communities being gentrified. If you think I’m wrong, I would bet it has something to do with your material interests. Because when progress comes, so does displacement, so does incarceration, so does houselessness.

As working class black people, when we hear progress, we see destruction. In truth we were never included in this so-called progress. We were seen as impediments to progress. We are the weeds that they say need to be weeded. We were the elements that they seek to remove. Replacing outlet stores with PCCs, replacing our youth with theirs. We are never the one seeded (outside of the prison system that is). Our Chubby & Tubby stores disappear, our urban markets are replaced with theirs. Who are they? Suburbanites, programmers, those of economic privilege.

It doesn’t stop with the land. It is also our art, our music. Hip Hop, soul, reggae, R&B. And it also applies to our identities our style, our lingo, and our culture. All things seem to be commoditized as if our very being, our essence, is still for sale.

In truth progress and gentrification are just forms of colonization. Not just the erasure of our identity, but the erasure of our very memory. If we do not assimilate, if we cannot reach the social expectations of this Eurocolonial system, then we are relegated to be displaced, to death, and to incarceration. We are seen as the stagnation of this society. Despite the fact that they quickly utilize our culture to accumulate capital. Despite the fact that they quickly utilize our inventions and take credit for them. Despite the fact that they have been, and still are dependent on our slave labor.

Yet we still attempt to strive. Unfortunately that is often seen as a threat. We are blackballed, we are smeared, and we are seen as less intelligent (ask Black Wall Street). Nevermind the fact it’s the gentrifiers who can’t figure out how to conduct themselves in a way to not have problems in others’ communities. It’s the sense of entitlement granted by capitalism to those who are able to assimilate an figure out the game. Who choose to, in spite of their community, play this morbid game of vampiric Monopoly. Who then sell their other community members and land to those who seek to possess them.

Then those who prospered from our strife have the nerve to ask us why we stand in the way of progress. They know very well why, they know their initiatives are aimed to push us into houseslessness. But because we don’t accept that narrative, we are seen as somehow unevolved. It’s kind of funny how much the mindset mirrors that of eugenics,  Jim Crow, and the slave trade.

Many of those who are part of the problem try scapegoat President Donald Trump. Many of us see it as a continuation of an existing problem. For us who are from here, the north is not less racist, liberals are not less classist, and the left is not more empathetic to our struggle. For us, the left is the new moderate that Martin Luther King Jr. spoke of. We see that we are surrounded by enemies on all sides. The manifestation of white supremacy comes with smiling faces, and even sometimes comes with black skin.

In no way do I think it is just us in this situation. I know many Native comrades who are experiencing very similar things when it comes to the rez. Because in the end the hood, the rez, shit, even the trailer park are facing the same epidemic. We are seen as expendable our way of life is seen in opposition.

This is what I think about when I say we need to decolonize. That we need to remove  the western powers from this land. That’s for another day though.

So we’re stuck in this predicament, and we have some choices to make. Are we going to choose to follow the narrative of the powerful, of the exploitive, of those who feel entitled two others bodies, culture, and lands? It’s a choice we all have to make within ourselves and then will manifest outwardly in the world in which we live. I choose to decolonize my mind. I think about the ramifications of my actions at all times. I would rather be a resistor then be someone who for their own material gain puts aside the welfare of their community and its children. So I got a question: What’s the choice that you are choosing to make?

—Villainus


Featured Image by Justin Baeder.

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