Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Christopher Columbus of Brooklyn and 21st Century White Settlers

White Settlers of New York City

Sometimes people who don’t filter their thoughts do the world a great service. Such was the case in New York City last week when video of a fight over side walk space revealed the sinister nature of gentrification.

The video shows a white man arguing with a white couple after he claimed to be bumped by their baby’s stroller. In part of his tirade, the mystery man is heard to say, “The only reason white people are living here is because I settled this fucking neighborhood for you.”

Needless to say the man now dubbed “Christopher Columbus of Brooklyn” is not a person whose actions ought to be repeated. Notwithstanding the abject narcissism displayed by this person, he spoke a very serious truth. White people gentrifying Brooklyn or Harlem or Washington DC or Oakland or Chicago taker their role very seriously. They see themselves as conquerors and they act accordingly. When white people wanted to move back into the cities they had fled, they were called urban pioneers and homesteaders.

The use of these names is not at all accidental. White Americans still see themselves as pilgrims or pioneers stealing Indians land. The imagery is a powerful one even for people who did not play a direct part in that story. No matter. If they are white they are invited into the circle which they may find so intoxicating.

A settler community is violent and rapacious. They may live in New York or in an Israeli settlement stolen from Palestinian land. They may have arrived at Plymouth Rock or St. Augustine, Florida or Tasmania in Australia. The end result is always the same. Indigenous communities are wiped out and settlers get the spoils.

While the ill-mannered man in the Brooklyn video has been lambasted for bad behavior, the people who could stop him are silent. He is a villain and a figure of fun in social media, but the fracas has not inspired any serious discussions about the massive displacement taking place in New York.

Neither the New York City Council nor the democrats who control the state assembly chamber have come up with any meaningful legislative agenda to prevent the 21st century pilgrims from eradicating the native population. While luxury high rises proliferate and the number of protected apartments decline, the misleaders of New York do nothing.

The masses know that they are being chased out of town, but there is no one to help make their voices heard. Their concerns are diminished with foolish questions about whether people have the right to live where they like. Yes, everyone should have that right, but it ought to be extended to everyone, regardless of means. Harlemites and Brooklynites have a right to live in the neighborhoods they have occupied for decades. That right shouldn’t be dismissed because the newcomers have money and are present because red lining was reversed and big money has been poured into New York.

The only voice of reason in this sorry episode comes from a black person viewing the incident as he says, “Thank you white guy.” 

I’m sure he was being ironic.