Before I say anything else: I believe the city should shower money on the business owners being impacted by the clumsily-executed overhaul of 23rd. I also believe gentrification displaces poor and working people and small businesses and we have to find ways to mitigate the harms of gentrification—and, hey, here's an idea: let's build a rapid transit system that reaches into every corner of the city (the region!) because that's one one way to do mitigate those harms.
I'm a little confused by the statements made by Seattle King County NAACP President Gerald Hankerson:
Seattle King County NAACP President Gerald Hankerson describes the project on 23rd another "weed and seed" effort to push black people out of the Central District. ("Weed and seed" was a federal program launched in the '90s to "weed" out criminals and "seed" new development.) According to a Seattle Times analysis of demographic data, the historically black neighborhood will be less than 10 percent black within a decade. "They redlined us in, now they've redlined us out," one Central District resident told the Times' Gene Balk last May.
So the overhaul of 23rd is another "weed and seed," says Hankerson, which was racist and bad, and it amounts to redlining, says a resident of the CD, which was racist and bad. Mayor Murray, responding to the "this is racist" critique of the project, had this to say yesterday:
Murray was also on the defensive today about recent statements from Seattle-King County NAACP President Gerald Hankerson, who has publiclycriticized the city's handling of the project as part of an ongoing effort to gentrify the Central District. Murray said the city would do a race and social justice analysis of the 23rd Avenue project and if they discover it will have longterm negative impacts on the community, Murray said, "I will shut it down."
If the overhaul of 23rd is racist—if it's an attempt to accelerate the pace of gentrification in the Central District and move poor African Americans out of the city (wealthier African Americans can, of course, be gentrifiers themselves)—shouldn't the mayor go ahead and shut it down? Does Hankerson want the mayor it shut it down?
If the city was doing road work and beautification projects in other areas of the city but not black-or-historically-black areas, there would be howls of protest about that—there were howls about that, routinely, in major american cities, for decades. Cities spent more money on predominantly white/richer areas; money was spent on/in wealthier and whiter neighborhoods on maintenance and upgrades and beautification while black/brown/poorer neighborhoods were allowed to decay. And that was racist then. But spending money in the historically black/brown/poor parts of town is racist now—maybe not in intent, perhaps, but in practice.
In the 1950s and 1960s and 1970s... you could spend all the money you wanted beautifying a predominantly black/brown/poor neighborhood and wealthier white people still wouldn't move in. Now they will—now they are.
But what’s the correct/non-racist thing for the city to do here? Now that white people want to move back into the cities—with "white flight" dead or running in reverse—should the city allow streets in the CD to decay? Spend money all over town, but not in the CD? Tear up streets in the CD, make them impassible, to slow the pace of gentrification? Send crews out with jackhammers to put potholes in the streets and cracks in the sidewalks to dissuade gentrifiers from moving into the neighborhood?