First of all, I hate the word gentrification. We are way beyond the Bay Area being gentrified and into the realm of an unmanageable population explosion. The fact of the matter is, gentrification is cemented in the Bay Area now. There’s not really any fighting left to be done. Instead, we have to ask ourselves: how are we adapting to change? Because that’s what we have to do. It’s a game of survival now.
For a long time, I really resented all the new comers. They were taking up space in the places I called home, but after seeing the throngs of people in Vegas, I realized: well, these people are now my neighbors, but, also – there has to be a smart way to deal with this. There has to be a way to make it work in my favor. This has to be an opportunity.
The reason why I resented the newcomers was because for a long time, they represented a dilution of the local culture. Newcomers moved into houses where my friends used to live, they brought different values (that I certainly don’t agree with) to Oakland, and their presence felt threatening. What I have to admit I regret the most about that mentality is: why didn’t I realize that it was a two way street? Why didn’t I realize that when the newcomers came here, they were being exposed to new values? Why didn’t I realize that I was the threatening presence?
Or, to put it another way, why didn’t I realize that I have the cultural control? As a local, I often felt like I was an overlooked minority. But what I should have realized was: I am a force to be reckoned with. Me and all my friends. I often times felt bulldozed by these newcomers who didn’t know how to adapt to the culture and speak the language. It made me feel alienated in my own home, and I allowed myself to feel alienated. But why didn’t I let them know that they were doing it wrong? That they had alienated themselves by failing to adapt to the local culture? I was so afraid of cultural erasure, but what I didn’t realize was: maybe I should work on erasing their culture and replacing it with mine.
I have felt so threatened by the newcomers for so long, but, you know what? I’m still fucking here. And I’m still fucking doing it. Who the fuck let me think that I was in danger because the newcomers had arrived? Nah. I was never in danger, was I? I was always right at home here. This is more my home than anyone else’s, and you know what that means? I hold the cards. I have the power. I know how this place runs. I know the people who run it. I know where to go to be seen, who to ask when I need a favor. I know how to navigate this wretched city, and I know how to influence the culture that makes this place ours. This place will be whatever I want it to be. I run this shit.
And so do you. You’re still here, aren’t you? You haven’t left, either. You matter, too. The rent is sky high, but you’re still making it. Damn – that means something. Our collective sense of comfort in this place is what makes us instrumental in building a better culture. It’s time for us to stop feeling threatened by the newcomers and realize: they are at our mercy. The Bay Area is changing, and we control the way it changes. Us. Only us. If anything, the newcomers represent the opportunity of a wider audience, a bigger marketplace. Our hustles should be better because we have more people to sell to. Our voices should be louder because there are more people listening. We don’t even have to worry about rising above, because here we are, on top. We have the power. Fuck anyone who says you don’t.
Get your ass out there and run this city. It belongs to you.