It’s true, gentrification isn’t the new colonialism, it’s just the old one.
Colonialism/Gentrification is the phenomena of white people being entitled to whatever land they go and what happens on or to it while displacing, exploiting and erasing Indigenous bodies, kidnapped, migrant and local.
I read this piece “Gentrification Is Not The New Colonialism” from the Last Real Indians and, sigh….No.
I hear the rightful fury and frustration Indigenous Americans have with conversations about gentrification and land that do not include or discuss the experiences of Indigenous peoples under colonialism and name that we are, first and foremost, standing on their land.
I also honor and respect that though Indigenous American and non-Indigenous American peoples share many experiences under white supremacy, they yet have unique experiences under colonialism that needs to be heard and a right to be named by them, for them. I commit to do more to give space to and uplift Indigenous siblings and stand in solidarity with them.
But the frame of the article isn’t Indigenous people’s right to name unique experiences and ways intentionally or not that we benefit from their oppression while respecting Black/Urban POC experiences with colonialism. Instead, it was essentially an essay from a non-Black/non-Latinx guy admitting he willingly goes to victims of gentirification and goes welp, this is all stolen by settlers via colonialism anyways and, well, you just wouldn’t understand what that’s like,because you’re not Native American, so you’ve never been through it.
Indigenous Americans do not have a monopoly on that experience. Just like we know that slavery got transformed and modernized into mass incarceration, gentrification is not a symptom of colonialism but the latest manifestation of it, as they already stole and yet exploit the land and labor of Indigenous peoples, both kidnapped and local. As kidnapped Indigenous African peoples, Black people are just as much a part of the narrative of colonialism, land theft, and the struggle of belonging altogether, and to reduce colonialism to “Colonialism is only what happened to Native Americans and their land,” especially considering that reinforces European borders and ideas regarding Indigeneity, is colonizing. It’s harmful to essentially tell other surviving descendants of settler and slave colonialism experiencing colonialism via gentrification today that they’ve never lived it just because you yourself have an incomplete idea of what colonialism is and who it has has impacted.
Black people were also taken from their land, and said ancestral land is yet exploited by colonizing entities, usurping and violating Indigenous sovereignty all over the continent. Millions upon millions of our people were killed in passage and throughout slavery across the Americas, killed during Jim Crow and other similar ages of social racial code, through civil rights and liberation movements, through the creation of ghettos and slums, through mass incarceration and policing. Black people also experienced the removal from and destruction of their tribal/ancestral languages, religions, etc.
And while it behooved white supremacy to wipe out Indigenous American peoples, they didn’t want kidnapped Africans dead, they wanted us muled-submissive, empty, nameless, landless, zombies, without a mind or identity-so we would work and not resist a national narrative that see us as subjugated racialized labor class. A kidnapped African who understands herself as such is dangerous, she cries and fights and screams for what she has lost and will allow no more of it. One who instead sees herself as just an ill-designed inferior version of a white person, always aspiring but never reaching, striving to be paler, more Christian, etc, is easy to subjugate and control.
So to perpetuate the narrative of an identity-less, land-less Black person who is encroaching on the conversation of colonialism as opposed to recognizing them as a foremost authority on it having experienced it themselves is reinforcing that identity-less, a-historical zombification of Black bodies.
Naming gentrification as the current manifestation of colonialism also means acknowledging that Black people experiencing gentrification have since slavery little to no say regarding where we went and lived. I see this cycle repeated in the communities I am from.
African American vernacular English asks where one “stays at” as opposed to where they live or are from, as there is an understanding that between broken families and cycles of migration/gentrification/slum living under white supremacy, one “stays” in upwards of dozens of places, but lives and is from nowhere, likely having no access to roots beyond a great grandparent or, if they’re lucky, an enslaved African.
As for my own family, in the 80s, after centuries of experiencing the repercussions of colonial Spanish anti-Blackness and slavery, my family moved to the (stolen land currently known as) United States, from our land our ancestors were wiped off from/kidnapped to, the first land colonized by Columbus, for a chance at a better life. Instead we continue moving and belonging nowhere. I have lived in over 20 different places in historic Seneca and Anishinaabe territory in poor to lower class communities experiencing varying levels of gentrification/white flight. A double diaspora. No matter where I go, never home. A quote in the Last Real Indians piece from Savage Feminism goes “Even people experiencing gentrification still have more access to Indigenous homelands than the people whose ancestors have lived on them for tens of thousands of years do”. I do not have free access to this land as a poor Afro-Latina living in a patriarchal, anti-Black police state and haven’t once in my life been to either of my ancestral homes, same as millions of people in my community historically, thus the “Diaspora” aspect of our identity. Here and globally, we often live in lesser quality spaces with little to no autonomy over their movement or their land/spaces’ usage and its safety and upkeep, much less ours in it.
Knowing all of this, it isn’t overly allegorical or carelessly hyperbolic to compare the phenomenas, to understand one as the continuation of the other. And the comparisons of their facets and its tolls on affected communities can continue on for ages. Crimes against Black and Brown women including TWOC, happen in both historical colonies/plantations/during European land stealing and currently on reservations/reserves and ghettos and gentrifying urban spaces. The over-policing and incarceration of Black and Brown bodies and the destruction of Black and Brown families happened historically and continue on today in reservations/reserves and ghettos and gentrifying urban spaces, so on.
Ghettos, favelas, slums and barrios, like reserves and reservations, are white-constructed concentrations of exclusion and racialized poverty where violence of all sorts flourishes. And when those spaces get gentrified, whether through the ignoring of treaties to exploit land (DAPL) and resources or the influx of whiter, more affluent class and race foreign masses, forced removal, mass forced exodus and migration, rape, invasion, overpolicing, the death, destruction and dismantlement of existent vibrant cultures and so much more occurs. Trauma and PTSD is handed down. The cycle continues, the people of those experiences and places are the descendants of yesterday’s colonialism and displacement, re-experiencing the trauma of the past in the current day. It happens here and globally.
It is true, Decolonization is NOT a metaphor, and anyone who erases Black and other people of color from the framework and ideology (though it was in large part built by global south peoples!) is engaging in white supremacist and dangerous, historically inaccurate recolonizing of our histories, rendering any discourse on Indigeneity and decolonizing null, void and violent in its incompletion.