While doing research for my job, I came across the article “Planning Appropriately For Our Future” by Meagan Elliott. It is an after-thought to a gentrification panel that was hosted by Model D, and in the piece Elliott reflects on the differences between physical and cultural displacement. Physical displacement, which is usually the only type of displacement associated with gentrification, is when people are forced to leave their homes because of increasing rents or property values, or other changes caused by developments in the area. She acknowledges that this isn’t happening in Detroit to the same extent that it is in cities that are usually associated with gentrification like San Francisco and New York. But she believes that Detroit’s leaders would be remiss to not acknowledge the possibilities for many future cases of physical displacement as a result of new developments especially in downtown and midtown, and points out that metro Detroit has the opportunity to address future physical displacement much better than other metros.
She also points out that cultural displacement is often over looked in discussions about gentrification, and that it was mostly glossed over at the panel. Cultural displacement is the loss of a feeling of ownership over one’s own neighborhood. While, according to Elliott, there was a “palpable undercurrent” of cultural displacement discussion in the panel, the idea didn’t get the credence that it deserves. One contributor to the problem of cultural gentrification is the media which largely portrays white faces moving into midtown and downtown, one small concentrated area of the city.
My work this summer is centered on investigating gentrification in metro Detroit and how we can approach the issues associated with gentrification from a regional policy perspective. I found Elliott’s article extremely interesting, and the idea of cultural displacement has been very important in my work. I’ve done a series of informational interviews with leaders from various Detroit communities, and many of them have pointed out feelings similar to cultural displacement. Some say that though they have lived in Detroit their whole lives they have lost a sense of ownership of the city, or that national media doesn’t include them in portrayals of Detroit, or that they don’t feel that there is a space for them in the new midtown and downtown.
From a policy perspective these issues are difficult to address. The press is free to cover the news however they want, inclusive or otherwise. You can’t really regulate how people behave or treat other people on a day-to-day basis. But one possible path forward is community planning. Community Planning allows citizens to make decisions about their own neighborhoods and city. It ensures that everyone has a seat at the table so that changes aren’t exclusionary. Its not the only necessary policy solution to the problems associated with gentrification, but I it is an important start to combating some of the cultural displacement problems that Elliott points out.