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Spike Lee wouldn’t mind if black people were the gentrifiers: Reader • Brooklyn Paper

Spike Lee wouldn’t mind if black people were the gentrifiers: Reader

Spike-y: Brooklyn’s filmmaker laureate Spike Lee let loose an epic rant about gentrification during a lecture at Pratt Institute for Black History Month.
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

Our coverage of Spike Lee’s tirade against gentrification generated a heated debate on our website last week, but it also drew this reflective comment on our Facebook page. Read on for one reader’s reaction to Lee’s hot-button rant and don’t forget to like us on Facebook so that you do not miss one minute of the action.

When I was young, I spoke to a lady about over at the Prospect Park/Botanical Garden area and she kept going on and on about the torture she and her father endured being a part of the Irish flow into an Italian neighborhood.

I was like, “What?

She thought I was shocked because she was discriminated against. I was shocked because I couldn’t imagine that being an Italian/Irish neighborhood. Nearly everyone was black as long as I had been alive.

As I got older, I began to realize that’s the nature of Brooklyn.

As is the resentment.

My uncle used to pool money with others who couldn’t get jobs due to discrimination in order to fix up and then sell abandoned lots and buildings in East New York. There was a huge backlash and policies changed in order to keep the Negroes out, although it was improving the area from looking like a war zone. Perhaps they were the original hipsters.

It is frustrating that infrastructure and safety only seem to matter in some neighborhoods now that there are white residents. And, there is a Columbus Syndrome in some places, particularly in regards to music and the use of public places.

But the few valid points Spike made are buried in racist drivel.

I really don’t care that the new residents are overwhelmingly white (so long as that isn’t the case due to discrimination).

I’d be as frustrated with the changes and attitudes if they were due to “cool” blacks pricing out long-term residents, actively attacking the culture of the neighborhoods, etc.

But I wonder if people like Spike would bat an eye at such a thing.

To the contrary, I’d bet he would’ve dubbed such a thing the Brooklyn Renaissance and direct a movie about it.

If the hipsters didn’t change a thing about their neighborhoods, would they have been embraced then?

I have my doubts because a few years ago waves of Japanese people were moving into what are now white hipster hot-spots, and people had something to say then, although they changed nothing about their neighborhoods.

Jen Frank

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