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Culture

Is BuzzFeed Blaming the Charleston Shooting on Gentrification?

BuzzFeed’s Joel Anderson finds an odd angle on the Charleston shooting. Reporting from a local vigil that took place on Thursday, he says that attendees “wondered if Wednesday’s massacre was a tipping point in a decades-long demographic shift in the surrounding communities driven by an exodus of local black residents who can no longer afford to live there.” Anderson continues:

Church leaders hoped their moment in the national spotlight would remind everyone of the importance of black churches to the neighborhood, as economic forces — generally referred to as “gentrification” — have pushed out many of their members and neighbors in favor of younger, whiter and wealthier residents.

At Dave’s Carry-Out, only a couple blocks away from Morris Brown AME, Terry McCray has watched the changes from behind the counter of his mother’s restaurant.

“Ten years ago, this entire neighborhood as all African-American,” said McCray, 44. “Now we’ve lost it. The handwriting is on the wall.” He nodded in the direction of the door, as two young white women strolled down the street in front of the restaurant.

“Once upon a time,” he said, “you’d never see something like that over here.”

Here’s the thing: As the Post and Courier documented last year, increased demand — from college students, developers, etc. — has, indeed, driven up rents and pushed a number of black residents off the Charleston peninsula in recent years, and we can debate whether the net effects have been  beneficial or deleterious, whether the local government has handled gentrification responsibly, etc. But what on earth does this have to do with the Emanuel AME shooting? Anderson seems to insinuate that black residents’ (possibly) vacating Charleston because of Wednesday’s shooting is just a further step in the exodus caused by gentrification — which is to say that racist gunmen inevitably accompany the introduction of a Trader Joe’s.

Not to be crude, but isn’t that argument a little bit, you know, racist?

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