The Cesspool for Racist Gentrification
When I moved into my new neighborhood I was so excited to get to know everyone. Having lived in Hollywood for the better part of fifteen years, I was grateful to bid adieu to my drug dealing Armenian neighbors, the raccoons the size of baby bears, and the homeless person that moved into our laundry room and locked us out for a month or three. I was moving on. Bigger a better baby. A duplex in a quiet neighborhood, with a porch and a small patch of lawn to call my own.
The first thing that struck me was the people had furniture on their porches and didn’t seem to be afraid that it was going to get stolen. In Hollywood, everything that wasn’t nailed down was stolen so I wasn’t familiar with folks leaving their fancy porch furniture all out in the open. The second thing that struck was me was that everyone was nice. People waved and said hello on their evening strolls. People chit chatted while their dogs sniffed each other’s butts and I thought I’d found an urban oasis of jacaranda-lined streets, in Mid City Los Angeles. I was so excited to be in this neighborhood that I joined the Nextdoor Neighbor App. I was thinking, what could go wrong?
Well, the first summer was the summer of the coyote watch. Due to the droughts and fires, some coyotes, one coyote, or a possible pack of coyotes had been sighted in the area. Signs were posted, concerned neighbors huddled together on street corners with lap dogs who were at risk for being possible prey. Well toned middle-aged women of all races, asked me, with furrowed brows, that bore slight tints of botox with genuine concern, “Have you seen a coyote?”. I was reminded on more than one occasion to “Check out Nextdoor to stay up on what’s happening. Dogs are disappearing.” Well, first of all, I don’t have a dog, and second of all, I’d just moved from the Hollywood Hills where packs of coyotes roamed the streets like drunken vagabonds. I’d seen raccoons big enough to make me change my evening plans and opossums sleeping upside down in trees that brought a few drops of pee, in fear, on drunken nights I stumbled up the hill home. One Coyote wasn’t going to scare me, but I decided to log on and see what all the hub-bub was about.
Nextdoor is like twitter for old people. That’s the best way to describe it. It was a mash-up of garage sale postings, people seeking nannies, people getting rid of housekeepers but wanting to help them find new clients and then the infamous Coyote Gate. Someone’s dog had almost been accosted by a coyote while it was on a leash. Another dog had disappeared and there seemed to be evidence that it was death by a coyote. Neighbors were being warned to keep all pets indoors. Then shit got really crazy. People started talking about Wolf Urine and a black market Bear Urine and other seemingly ridiculous ideas to stop coyotes from being coyotes. Arguments were breaking out and I was pretty sure that we were on the verge of The Purge. Coyote Gate in full swing.
I thought there was something charmingly naive about those who seemed to have enough time on their hands to research each and every possible option to annihilate one of God’s creatures who was simply trying to find a new habitat. Little did I know that this would become a precursor what was to come.
So after Coyote Gate died down and black market Bear Urine was purchased and someone almost burnt their own porch down trying to scare away what may or may not have been a coyote, all efforts shifted to “Suspicious looking neighbors”. This is a neighborhood in which the average per capita income was $37k when I moved in. It’s racially and economically diverse. It ranges from homes worth nearly a million to government subsidized housing. It’s newly marketed as “Hancock Park Adjacent” because gentrifiers love to be adjacent to some shit, but we are also “Hood Adjacent”. We have a methadone clinic, a Half Way House, multiple 7–11s, a few check-cashing joints, a KFC, McDonald’s and Burger King, right next to a place that gives Car Title Loans. Suffice it to say that the number of people who can afford these homes is changing the demographic, but the original inhabitants are still Asian, Black and Brown.
So first there was a sly comment about some Latino neighbors having ongoing fiestas. They man posted called them “fat, ignorant, Cholos” and I encouraged him to go to do the neighborly thing and tell them to their face. I was reported for my comments. Then came an African American neighbor who had been reported as being “suspicious” during his morning run. He came on the app and asked people to be more mindful of the diversity of the neighborhood because he should not be criminalized for jogging. The responses were something straight of our Trump’s America. “We can’t take chances on safety” and “Perhaps you looked suspicious”. “You can’t blame us for wanting to protect our community”. How exactly is it “Ours” when the concerned inhabitants seem to only be the newly relocated gentrifiers.
The last straw was a recent alarming number of campers being burnt to the ground in the neighborhood. One of which housed a mother and her daughter whom we had done a clothing drive to help the mother find clothing to interview in. Another less than a mile away. My concern was vigilantism. Not a far fetch for this NIMBY crowd. I tried to appeal to their financial investments by saying that it won’t be long until one of these Camper fires takes a house or two with it and that we should be vigilant and on the lookout for what’s happening.
I was met with nothing short or vitriol, and a bunch of “whoa we can’t be so quick to assume that crimes are being committed.” from the same crowd who called the police on a JOGGER in his own neighborhood. The conversation slowly disintegrated into “We have to do something about the homelessness that might bring down our property values” to the all-time low of “Maybe the fires are good”. I quit. I almost throw my phone across the room in the process. This app was one click shy of an online KKK meeting. These were racists who were using anonymous profiles as hoods and a cross burning came in the form of using police an enforcement in a neighborhood in which they were new to.
Although they smile and wave when I’m out watering my raised plant garden, Nextdoor Neighbor made it clear that the general sentiment was that Black and Brown people were not welcomed in the neighborhood in which we are the actual majority. Ain’t that about a bitch. Although I’ve never been one to shy from confrontation, instead of calling each and every one of these cowardly people everything but a Child of God, I deleted the app. Racism in America runs deep and gentrification is a cancer that can’t be covered with a Starbucks bandaid. People who have spent their whole lives in suburban bubbles are in no way prepared to deal with inner-city issues.
We have home invasions, homelessness, prostitution, petty theft, robbery, armed robbery, and car theft as just a few issues that plague our neighborhood. The irony, of course, being the crime as increased with the Teslas, and a Ferrari SUVs, because historically poor people don’t usually rob each other. The first house in our area to go for one million dollars was robbed within two weeks of the family moving in because any and everyone in the neighborhood knew they had money. One would think that when moving into uncharted areas, the instinct would be to make friends and get the lay of the land. Instead Nextdoor Neighbor provides a cushion in which people hide behind keyboards and racism festers. I’m a black woman in America. I need no reminders that racism exists. In particularly don’t need it on my phone. I’m not sure what purpose this app was meant to serve however as it currently stands it Nextdoor Neighbor is a cesspool of racism that I don’t need in my life.