Gentrification has gotten to the point where every time I see a group of young white millennials in the hood my heart starts racing and a sense of anxiety starts falling over me. This actually happened not too long ago when I was in Jackson Heights and it always happens whenever I return to Bushwick. As one of my friends who grew up not far from me told me yesterday, "sometimes I can't even go back."
Recently I had to deal with Rob Abner, the manager of the "Bushwick Flea", which opened up on an empty lot right next to my family's home. One day Mr. Abner decides that he is going to allow some hipster transplant named London Kaye to paint on our wall without asking permission because - as she said in an interview with the "Bushwick Daily" (an online publication dedicated to transplants living in Bushwick) - she wanted to "claim the wall for herself" in order to "express herself". So she decided to put up the mural below.
I phoned Mr. Abner about the mural politely informing him that he didn't ask our permission to put it up, and that it couldn't stay up for too long due to some work my aunt was planning on doing to the house in October. Abner started to yell at me, curse me, and even threatened to call the city on my family because one of my aunt's sells Salvadorian food on the front yard - something she's been doing for years and is well loved in the community for doing. Abner later sent me a condescending email with a meek apology asking that he keep up the mural until October. "Besides", he said "we've just raised your property value." Little did he know that I am a community organizer and legal coordinator, specializing in dealing with asshole gentrifiers like him.
Now consider the sense of entitlement, privilege, the blatant lack of self awareness, and condescending attitudes towards people of color. Consider the fact that it's art when white people put up murals on private property but when we create our own art in Bushwick it's considered "vandalism". Observe how Ms. London Kaye can just "claim the wall" for herself, not unlike many colonizers who claimed indigenous lands for themselves while displacing the people that were once there. Or how about the fact that Knickerbocker Park is now a place where white folks can walk their poodles even after the sun goes down, whereas I and many other folks that I know were being stopped and frisked on our way home by the police in that same park! And consider the fact that a white man feels so entitled to yell at us poor Latinos because we can't appreciate the "art" he's painted on our wall to "increase the property value".