I feel like I never have to look very far to be reminded that a “post-racial” society is still very much a pipe dream. In this case, I only have to look as far as my own neighborhood. It’s been hard hit by the recession, with businesses on the main thoroughfare closing left and right. When a new business does pop up, it’s something like a pawn shop or a nail salon. And you would not believe some of the ensuing rhetoric. There’s a distinct sense of reverse-gentrification, that such establishments aren’t as optimal as a Whole Foods or a Trader Joe’s…and, of course, that such establishments are for Those People — the ones that don’t speak English. And I kind of want to go, “Really? Really that’s what you’re going with?”
Because, let’s face it, with our proximity to Manhattan, the people who can afford to shop there will shop there. Period. They’re not staying in the neighborhood to do much of anything, whether that’s patronizing a nail salon where one manicurist whispers to the next in Korean or just picking up essentials at the corner store. If they were patronizing the businesses in the neighborhood, so many of the kitschy shops and pubs wouldn’t be shuttering, would they? Rents are astronomical! A business doesn’t sustain itself on hopes and dreams. It’s all well and good to wring your hands after the fact and bemoan “what’s happening to the neighborhood?” but how about actually contributing to the local economy instead of waiting to do it when a Barnes and Noble opens up next to a Pinkberry?