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Vampires Vs. the Bronx (2020)

Ghouls are talking about the vampire film that aims to teach young people about the horrors of gentrification! Kat explains the many ways in which gentrification and redlining are harmful to black and brown communities. Gabe compares this cute kid's film to the UK film, Attack the Block and more.

Sources in episode:

The Death of the Black Utopia - NY Times

Redlining Was Banned 50 Years Ago. It’s Still Hurting Minorities Today - Washington Post

Vampires vs. the Bronx Is a Kids' Movie About Class Warfare - WIRED

How you can help make a difference: 

3 Ways Communities Can Take Control of Gentrification - Next City

How to Stop Gentrification - The New Republic

Learning From Our Mistakes: Anti-Displacement Strategies In Philadelphia - NCRC

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Gentrification: The Systemic Erasure of Black Communities & History

Kat Kushin

RED: Quotes, someone else's words.

Today we’ll be talking about Vampires vs. the Bronx, and the very NOT subtle callouts of gentrification, redlining, and whyte people’s long history of erasing black history. What we see in the Vampires vs. the Bronx is another example of whyte people sucking the life and culture out of BIPOC communities and this time as literal vampires. Many have heard of gentrification as it’s a common newspaper headline or term used when “well-to-do” whyte people invade already well established BIPOC communities and “save” them by bringing in hipster stores dedicated to selling a random non-essential item like butter or typewriters at exorbitant prices. The big thing that people know is that gentrification results in the outpricing of communities, raises in rent, and cost of living for that area, and buy-outs of community houses and businesses to make way for “change”.

There’s a lot of things that influence this, and it’s often seen in neighborhoods that were previous ‘redlined’, a now illegal practice that is defined as “the systematic denial of various services or goods by federal government agencies, local governments, or the private sector either directly or through the selective raising of prices. This is often manifested by placing strict criteria on specific services and goods that often disadvantage poor and minority communities.” (pulled from Wikipedia). Essentially areas where black families and other POC groups lived were deemed dangerous or unlivable and unsafe for whyte people to do business. Now those places are being targeted by big real estate companies as cheap real estate opportunities, and the people who established communities in these areas are forced out by this blatant systemic racism.

In an article in the NY Times titled The Death of the Black Utopia, written by Brent Staples, he claims a historical embrace of “willful amnesia” when it comes to the erasure of black communities in New York City. He’s specifically referring to the Seneca Village, an epicenter of black political power in Manhattan during the mid-19th century. A community that was destroyed through intentional eviction of 1,600 people who lived on the land designated to become central park’s western edge. Despite the established community, filled with schools, homes, businesses and more, real estate interests, and the press set the state for what James Baldwin would later describe as “Negro removal” and defamed the flourishing enclave as a “shantytown” and “nigger village.” This act, despite the fact that it was published in the press and was documented, was basically forgotten less than 15 years later. The story had been eclipsed by the common cultural ‘willful amnesia” that has cut Black achievements out of history for years.

If you think of Tulsa, Juneteenth, and other intentional erasures of Black history, news of this isn’t shocking but is angering. This is something not unique to only Seneca Village, and is something that real estate developers have tried to do to countless Black communities across New York City. Along with just defamation in the press to justify these acts, there is a long history of racially motivated domestic terrorism acts against Black communties by whyte citizens. I recommend reading the article, and watching the youtube video that shines some light on this history, as I cannot cover it all in the time allotted and it’s a necessary read. This is something that took place in the 1800s so is really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to NYC’s long history of erasing Black communities. This country has a trend of intentionally segregating and disenfranchising Black and POC communities for whyte benefit, and that history extends into current times.

What does this have to do with Vampires vs. the Bronx? There are countless call-outs of gentrification throughout the film that are so on the nose it made researching for this episode pretty easy. Gentrification stems from segregation, redlining, and erasure of POC communities. Now, redlining didn’t end as a practice until 1968 when the Fair Housing bill was passed. The redlining laws are still actively hurting these communities. In an article in the Washington Post titled Redlining Was Banned 50 Years Ago. It’s Still Hurting Minorities Today written by Tracey Jan, there’s a study by the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, that shows “that a vast majority of neighborhoods marked ‘hazardous’ in red ink on maps drawn by federal home owners’ loan Corp from 1935-1939 are today much more likely than other areas to be comprised of lower-income minority residents”. The article goes on to quote Jason Richardson, director of research at the NCRC, a consumer advocacy group “It’s as if some of these places have been trapped in the past, locking neighborhoods into concentrated poverty”.

These neighborhoods were mostly comprised of African Americans, Catholics, Jewish people, and immigrants from Asia and Southern Europe. They were deemed ‘undesirable’, and a researcher from the NCRC named Bruce Mitchell described it as “anyone who was not northern-European white was considered to be a detraction from the value of the area”. We see this impact of redlining in areas like Flint, Michigan, an area famously known for unclean water. There are many areas that became populated with minority groups and low-income residents after middle-class white flight took place, moving white people to suburbs and out of cities.

In Baltimore a 2015 study of home and small-business lending found that race, more than income impacted mortgage lending in the city. Lending was greater in neighborhoods with larger white populations, and banks making more than twice as many mortgage loans to whites than Black Americans. A study researching 30 cities for patterns of gentrification, where once redlined neighborhoods showed an increase in median home value and educational attainment between 2000 and 2010. While gentrification increased the income level of previously redlined communities, and decreased the segregation between white and Black Americans, there was an increase in economic inequality between newcomers and those who historically lived there. In fact, longtime residents of these redlined areas are commonly pushed out of these communities when the areas’ economic fortunes reverse. Rent increases make it impossible for the long time residents of these communities to remain in the area. Mitchell, who was quoted previously said “Is gentrification promoting sustainable desegregation? Or is it just a movement towards increased segregation in the next census period?”.