Is cleaning up skid row racist?

Some people seem to think so. And by some people, I think I mean only the folks at the LA Community Action Network. In their latest newsletter (PDF) they have an article called ‘The Fear of a Black Planet’ and while I love a good Public Enemy reference, the article is kind of crap. Have a look:

“What LA CAN reads in these mass media articles, as we look deeper, are the messages that support gentrification: 1) Racism is alive and kicking in downtown Los Angeles, through the vilification of an entire community based on often unfounded stereotypes; 2) Fear of Black men threatens the success of business ventures, such as trying to sell and rent luxury housing; and 3) Wealthy people simply will not pay for million dollar properties with poor Black folks living too close to them, so there must be a justification for moving them out.”

skid3.jpgReally? Have these folks ever driven down 5th street at night? I mean, as much as you can without hitting tents with people sleeping in them of course. Have they walked down there on a summer day and tried to take a deep breath without gagging from the urine soaked concrete ‘a brewin? Ever driven by in daylight and seen a guy dropping a cocopuff right there on the sidewalk? These are not ‘unfounded stereotypes’ these are things I’ve seen first hand. It has nothing to do with race either. The guy I saw with his pants around his ankles growing a tail was and old dirty white guy. LA’s homeless blog where I found this checks in and seems to agree, but much more eloquently of course:

“However, in this case, I don’t think the color of the residents is the issue. If anything, it is a socioeconomic struggle between the “haves” and the “have-nots”. The big question is this… what is the real agenda for cleaning up Skid Row? Is it so developers can make millions off of building million-dollar lofts? Is it because public officials are embarrassed over this blighted neighborhood? Or is it because we really want to help those who are languishing on the streets of Skid Row?

Given my experience interacting with public officials and interested parties in the last year, I do sense that our community really wants to help people who are homeless on our streets.

I don’t think this is a “color” issue. And given that the L.A. City Council is seeking to stop the redevelopment of downtown SRO hotels (typical homes for the poor and homeless) from becoming market-rate housing, I don’t think the “haves” are trying to take over the “have-nots” housing.”

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4 Replies to “Is cleaning up skid row racist?”

  1. As an old dirty white guy with a tail (ODWGWT), I find your association of tails and fecal matter offensive.

    Seriously, it seems to me that we can’t “clean up” Skid Row without creating some other Skid Row. The problem needs to be addressed at the head, and not the tail, so to speak.

  2. I don’t know what they will do with all the “residents” of Skid Row if they try to clean up the area. I hope it doesn’t becomes a case like the Sherriff’s department dropping former inmates off in downtown to make it another city’s problem. This isn’t gonna be pretty no matter what. Plus skid row isn’t the only area for the homeless to group together. It’s just the most visable near property being rebuilt. Those other area’s would just be a change of address if you will.

    (Can’t wait to see how long it takes for this comment to be deleted).

  3. You know, I don’t know why I wrote that on here. I was writing something else and I must have tacked it on by accident. Oops.

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