Sheesh, white privilege can result in such blinders. A NYT article by Sam Roberts bears a headline proclaiming that blacks are now less than half of Harlem’s population. Oh really? I hadn’t noticed the last time I was at 125th & Manhattan Ave. The article has the usual “experts” talking about gentrification and white-black relations, and the photo shows a white guy on a brownstone stoop. Yet an accompanying set of graphs shows a clear black majority in “central Harlem” (the area most residents would call Harlem) and a shrinking — but already minority — black plurality in “greater Harlem.” The “greater” area, it turns out, includes Spanish/East Harlem and much of Morningside Heights, neither of which have ever been majority black. Even within “central Harlem,” the graph shows a steep drop in the share of black residents beginning in 1980, long before the white gentry ever got to the neighborhood. In short, the graphs say that this was a poor neighborhood undergoing steady ethnic succession (by no means a new phenomenon; indeed, it’s the story of urban America) — from native-born black to Latino (a not-obvious shift, since many Caribbean immigrants blend the two categories) — and that minor gentrification has taken place over the past few years.
Basically, it’s not news (and we don’t even pretend to notice) until white people get there. This in spite of the fact that class, not race, is the real issue here and with gentrification in general; that households and not population are really the units of gentrification.
I’ll quote Brad Smith, who left this comment:
The Times places a photo of a white family at the top to suggest the displacement is because of whites. And most of the article concerns the influx of whites, suggesting the same cause. However, the accompanying graphs show the uptick in white families to be rather small, with “Other” constituting the real source of the population shift. Presumably, those are Hispanics but there is scant mention of them in the article… The loss of “majority” status has nothing to do with the influx of whites or the development boom of the past 10 years. So why is a white family featured in the photo and why is the demographic change repeatedly portrayed as a function of the influx of whites when the statistics and timeline say something else? The article is rather misleading and suggests an agenda.