Dear Mr. President,
I hope this note finds you well. On the subject of “returning to normal” once the majority of our cities and communities are vaccinated, I’d like to bring up an old, but recurringly fresh, topic on my mind as well as that of many in my community in Los Angeles.
As you may know, white people in the United States have had exclusive access to land in America by way of colonies, plantations, titles, laws, segregation, FHA loans, redlining, zoning, credit access, the suburbs, and more for over 500 years.
Can you explain to us, then, how white people now fraternizing with other white people over drinks in our ‘hood, which until recently was avoided by both private and federal banks for its non-white demographics, IS NOT reinforcing this exclusive access?
And sometimes I wonder, Mr. President, if it’s an earthquake, blood boiling, or both, as gentrification uproots a sacred land, which I can explain.
The reason it’s so outrageous that white people have suddenly opened this bar in our vicinity is because little Brown kids from our community were killed across the street from the corner, and indeed on the same block where it now does business. In turn, as our neighborhood still reels from racist disinvestment in health, housing, and educational opportunities for our families, the new bar acts like a vortex, vacuuming in white money away for white investors’ keep, all while neatly barricading itself from the Brown reality surrounding it.
The census tract for the area, 191410, shows a Median Household Income of $34,000 a year, or roughly half of L.A. County’s, placing the majority of families in the community well within the federal poverty level. On top of this, public records state that at least 20% of people living on the same tract where the bar now operates, rely on food stamps to pay for meals and groceries. This is a rate second only to that of the tract right below, 191420, where 23% of residents rely on food stamps.
That’s approximately 600 people within a six block radius, not counting undocumented and/or unhoused residents, of whom there are many along Virgil avenue, barely getting by, as white people throw money away on lavish drinks for themselves at this establishment, permitted to operate after a spot-zoning ordinance by local City Council Member Mitch O’Farrell in 2018. The bar is also less than 500 feet from our community’s local Lockwood Elementary school, and I’ve got a feeling that wouldn’t happen in neighborhoods throughout the Pacific Palisades, Bel Air, or Malibu. So why should it happen in ours?
And in case it slipped your radar, as of January 2021, the median price for a single-family home in L.A.County is now at $650,000, meaning that the tiny blocks families along this neighborhood make for much, if not all, of what we have.
Racial inequalities like these are why Brown kids in our neighborhood have never truly been given a chance by L.A. City Planning, various District Council Members, or the mayor’s or governors’ offices, who’ve planned more for our kids’ prison beds than their college dorm rooms, as Ruth Wilson Gilmore has shown.
But suddenly, in this same neighborhood, white liquor licenses, paid for by white patrons, are welcome? That is Planning Violence, meaning that is how inequality for some designated, built in and manufactured, while access and rights are only reserved for a privileged few.
Walking past this establishment recently, Mr. President, I could spot shame on some of the faces behind the bar’s screen, a shame betraying cowardice. As they looked back in our direction, they still failed to see our humanity, before returning to the white fantasy that plays more like a nightmare for those of us only in the fantasy’ peripherals.
And correct me if I’m wrong, but white people, more than anyone:
Yet in our gentrifying neighborhoods today, which indeed meet the definition of planned violence against us at the behest of investors, we still have to remind white people–and their political enablers–that if the only time they mourn en masse is when their windows are broken, their children are harmed, and their homes are shaken, but not when the rest of us gasp for air amid concrete from bullets, choke-holds, beatings and other racist crimes against our humanity, and against our privacy, and against our rights to LAND, then that’s when the hegemony of white supremacy blinds and scars all of us. A few such scars on our neighborhood include:
Yellow tape cordoning off white chalk lines, where Brown bodies fell to their deaths on our streets. Right in front of this latest bar.
Helicopters hovering and shining lights above our homes, not to airlift our unhoused towards shelter, but to hunt Brown bodies on our streets. All around this simple bar.
Police handcuffing and incapacitating Brown youth before hauling them off our streets, even during quarantine. Right next door to this…bar.
And so we hope you can appreciate that, like it or not, Mr. President, we are the LAND that forms the neighborhood; not by choice nor by pomp, but because our blood’s fallen and raised land here longer than we have time to list.
The establishment’s disruptive presence in our community is not equity. It’s not justice. It’s just another ghost of Jim Crow in Los Angeles enabled by false leadership rolling over to investors.
Mr. President, please send help. Specifically: Federally subsidized housing and low-interest loans for Black and immigrant communities so we may open our own shops in our neighborhoods; just like FDR did for today’s gentrifiers on our streets.