“The Panic in Wicker Park” (August 26) was startling in its omissions. The article focused on artists being victimized by gentrification. But most of the people driven westward out of their West Town homes have been Puerto Rican, Mexican, African American, and in far fewer numbers, Appalachian and ethnic white.
White artists as victims of gentrification? Like old-time settlers on the western frontier, they have repeatedly (Greenwich Village, Haight-Ashbury, Venice Beach, Old Town . . . ) allowed themselves to be used by real estate developers and bankers as frontline grunts in taking over other peoples’ living space. This is irresponsible, lazy, privileged, and, at core, racist.
I’m reminded of a term from Latin American liberation theology oft quoted by Latino activists–sin of omission. You are responsible for what you neglect to do as much as for the actions you commit. As a journalist, Huebner deserves praise for publicly exposing slimy developer tactics used by folks like the Bergers. But why didn’t the article include interviews at Centro Sin Fronteras or the Corretjer Puerto Rican Cultural Center, two West Town groups that have been fighting gentrification for years? Why did Huebner and the Reader editors choose not to quote any of the hundreds of defaced Coyote invitations directly denouncing the racism integral to gentrification?
I do not feel sorry for white artists (myself included) being pushed out of “Wicker Park” (West Town) by wealthier newcomers. If artists are sick of being herded from neighborhood to neighborhood, sick of having their homes and culture auctioned off by real estate companies cashing in on inner-city white skin and alternative culture, we should do something about it. It’s time for white people to stop passing the buck, to angrily and responsibly confront powerful higher-ups who fuel and profit from historic land grabs like gentrification.
Quoted in article mentioned above