Communities Aren't Markets
Meanwhile, a slow motion storm of a wholly different kind is surging its way through Oakland, as well as the greater Bay Area, though the nature of this storm is not limited to the Bay Area region by any means. It is something that happens all the time.
In brief, Oakland and other cities in the bay that are in close proximity to San Francisco or San Jose - and the tech bubble those regions imply - are in a state of simmering turmoil, in which displaced wealth, which can't even compete with the extreme concentrations of wealth in urban areas, is flooding in, and lower income communities are finding themselves severely strained in their own neighborhoods, or otherwise priced out and displaced.
Needless to say, gentrification as a phenomenon has been happening for as long as capitalism has existed, and probably even further back in some form or another. But as a phenomenon it reveals the soft violence of wealth stratification and what it can do to communities. The establishment doesn't think of gentrification as a man-made disaster; it is simply a migration of individuals expressing their individual preferences. But the way in which our society is structured, gentrification becomes a destructive force that ruins lives; it is a man-made economic storm that takes on a life of its own.
Forming graduated tiers, wealth and power enjoys a freedom of movement in which it flows to the geographic and social locations of desire and overtakes them, displacing those of limited means in a lower tier. It is the process in which a stratified society settles onto itself as it changes, doing violence to itself.
The wealthy and predominantly white can move in where they want, bringing their wealth into the region and driving up real estate and commodities, while the poor are priced out and forced to leave because they can't find housing or keep up with prices.
These effects are attributable to the way capitalism works. Where there is more wealth, real estate owners and businesses can ask for more. Landlords and land owners can charge more for their properties, driving up property values. As property values go up, local governments receive more tax dollars and are able to provide more services and maintenance to an area, and they will do so in order to continue attracting wealth and increasing their tax base.
Wealthier businesses move in who can pay the rent and expect to get a return profiting off of the wealth flowing into the area.
These movements of wealth put significant strain on the various strata of society, setting them against each other and provoking them, much like minor earthquakes sending waves of motion which jostle the various materials and geological layers that are set upon each other, making them grind. Landlords demanding higher rents kick out disadvantaged tenants who can't pay. Police drive out elements that make wealthy whites uncomfortable. Wealthy businesses refuse lower end services to the poor.
Rich businesses buy up the real estate and develop higher-end retail and restaurants, and nicer condos and housing are built. It is a self-amplifying cycle. The poor are driven out, and the wealthy establish another insulated stronghold.
What we must understand about this is that this kind of thing is happening all of the time, and it is happening most to communities of color that are caught in cycles of poverty, who are vulnerable to gentrification and the prejudiced opinions of wealthy, white communities. All of this because of the way our society is structured, and the way that it operates.
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