July 02, 2016

The Cash must Flow

If you subscribe to the Amazing Atheist on YouTube, watched his video in which he responds to questions from Black viewers, and found yourself nodding along at his comments on victim culture and blame-the-Blacks, you might be a racist. This sentiment was repeated by Martin Hughes at Barrierbreaker on Patheos, and the two essays he wrote in response to the video I mentioned are well worth reading. But first, let's get something straight: aesthetics are decided by the individual. If you just don't like Black people, that's okay. You're free to dislike whomever and whatever displeases you. No problem! Your participation is not required. 

You're free to dislike Black aesthetics as much as you're free to dislike anything else. If somebody or something doesn't please your individual sense of aesthetics, that's not racist. But, if you find yourself judging entire groups of people according to a shared characteristic (versus judging their usefulness to you on an individual basis) and tacitly or overtly supporting legislation and policies that disadvantage people who aesthetically displease you, then that's racist, and there are consequences for that - not just for the people you dislike, but also for yourself. 

There're plenty of arguments to made based on cultural diversity and how diversity prevents the very real dangers of monoculture, but the author of these two essays spends a lot of time talking about gentrification. What is gentrification, you ask? Imagine you live in an older house. It's perfectly safe, you paid for it, and it's yours. But then, somebody in City Hall arbitrarily decides to update housing code, and for your house to stay in your house, it would require massively expensive renovation. Since you can't afford the renovations required to bring your house into agreement with the newly-revised city code, you lose your house - and if you're lucky, you'll even get something for your trouble in the name of "eminent domain." 

Then, after the city declared your perfectly safe house unlivable because they felt like re-writing the housing code, the city sells your property to a developer who builds a nicer home in its place, sells said home to a wealthier family, and then raises property taxes commensurate to the new home which in turn raises the cost of living in that city and pushes out people who can't afford to live there anymore. 

Another consequence of gentrification is that a lot of people who previously had homes are now homeless. And while homelessness isn't unbeatable, the odds are strong that crushing poverty will follow. You know what else comes along with poverty? High crime rates. And you know what happens when you live in a high crime area? No shit: you're very likely to be the victim of crime. Take away a person's home (whether it's a house or an apartment) and all the amenities that come with it, and you make it really damn hard for them to keep a job. Put people in a position where they have no legal choices available for success, and they will frequently choose illegal options for success. Law of the jungle, amiright?

Like TJ Kirk, the Amazing Atheist who made the video which started this discussion, I'm fabulously selfish. And speaking for myself, there are certain things I want for myself; I really enjoy living in a safe neighborhood and knowing that my car won't be stripped to axles, my home won't burglarized when I leave town, and I can walk my streets without fear of being robbed. So because I want these things for myself and my family, it makes sense for me to channel my selfishness into opposition to gentrification (among other things) to ensure my family's safety.

Historically, gentrification has largely affected people of color and minority communities who - due to the effects of personal aesthetics legislated into law - lack the financial standing that most white families enjoy. But this isn't solely a Black/PoC problem: once City Hall gets into the habit of pushing the weak out of their homes to appease rich developers who promise increased tax revenue, they start doing it to the strong who thought they were somehow protected by their majority-membership, or that they had legal rights that the city can't violate.

Well, I've got news for those folks: your rights are plastic, and if you're willing to just shrug and say, "law of the jungle," when the state robs the poor and lower class of their homes, you can be sure your friends will do the same for you when the state rewrites the law and decides that it wants your home, too. What a corrupt state will do to the least of its citizens, a corrupt state will do to all of its citizens. If the social contract is worth preserving, then individual rights and liberties are worth defending. It's not a black thing, it's not a white thing: it's a green thing, and our politicians have proven by their words and actions that they're willing to sell their constituents' rights to the highest bidder.

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Freedom of Expression =/= Freedom from Consequences