'Predatory gentrification' on the way?

The following observation on Katrina’s aftermath is offered by T.S., my friend and colleague:

“I think some white people will try to take destroyed land from black homeowners,” he said. “That’s one reason why evacuation is such a double-edged sword. People need to leave for safety’s sake but when reconstruction begins, will they still own their land?”

This one gave me pause and energized reflection on an old community security concern. “Predatory Gentrification” is my nickname for displacing black inner city residents via sweet heart deals with white contractors and the misuse of eminent domain by local governments.

Like a giant broom, these measures force lower income African-Americans out to allow upper income whites in, all in the name of “revitalization” and -- get this -- “urban pioneering.”

I first heard the “urban pioneering” term after I’d given a security presentation to a Savannah College of Art and Design graduate school class. Visions of brave white settlers beating back hordes of wild-eyed Negroes came to mind, but I kept this to myself. The students were genuinely nice young people and there was no need to step on toes after such a good exchange. I’m confident the young man in question was articulating an academic term and not venting bias. He did speak eloquently to the position of urban America’s “Silent Majority,” those whose acts do not make headlines and wish nothing more than to retain property and their neighborhood’s unique character.

It seems this axiom of the American Dream doesn’t have the same staying power when the dreamer is in tha’ Hood. Too often productive inner citizens are lumped in with the crackheads, local terrorists and run-down buildings that prompt calls for revitalization. Their cries often are drowned out by bulldozers and photo opportunities of elected officials anxious to seem proactive about crime and decay.

Prior to Katrina, foes of big government, including the Peach State’s own Jim Crow Lite governor, were uniting around limiting local government’s land grab powers.

After Katrina, when some well-briefed bureaucrat solemnly states on TV how something new can rise Phoenix-like from New Orleans corpse -- especially when this pronouncement has the full weight of the federal government behind it -- who will be able to stop it?

Some recently opined the real estate bubble was near bursting. I’m sure they are slavering at the prospect of square miles of central city Southern landmass to play with, all in the noble name of Reconstruction. I note “Southern” because with already low property taxes, plus whatever grants and credits the feds will offer to reward development, this tragedy will have some well-heeled types dancing for joy shortly. Need I mention who won’t be at the party -- at least not in large numbers.

Like any other group, brotherhood in the black community can be trumped by dollar signs, especially real estate dollars. Lower class and working class black people are already being displaced in the name of progress. Ironically, in Savannah, sections of town where Jim Crow had labeled as “Black-Only” now experience a steady stream of white, Asian and Latino newcomers.

As a lifelong inner city resident, I am concerned by this changing demographic -- because when white people come to the neighborhood, it often isn’t too long before their predecessors are subjected to enough local government attention to warrant voluntary relocation.

City inspectors will appear for every real or imagined infraction of municipal code. The police, the white community’s bouncers, will be summoned whenever your new neighbor finds himself on the losing side of an argument with one of the indigenous residents.

Posit this against the staggering span of damage endured by black homeowners in the Gulf Coast and it would behoove the Congressional Black Caucus and their state counterparts to preempt any land grabs. The same advance action should be taken by every civil rights organization.

Crisis presents opportunity, the opportunity to give and -- as T.S. and others observe -- the opportunity to take even the land from the water-logged grasp of black hurricane victims.

Nadra Enzi’s SWS Results specializes in safety and success strategies for black events, organizations and individuals. E-mail him at nadrasws@yahoo.com. To comment in a letter to the editor, e-mail us at

Comments (0)
  • or

Right Now On

Now Playing

By Film...

By Theater...