Columns | Digital Magical Negro

Tragic Gentrification Mulatto

I occupy an unusual space: Black enough to be terrified of the police, but white enough to not get pulled over for driving while Black.

While the older homeowners in my neighborhood are Black people who got where they are by sticking with other Black people—the “ain’t no stoppin’ us now” generation—the younger ones are white and seem to have got where they are because “there wasn’t enough room in our Venice apartment for our dear children, Phoenix and Bubble.” It’s gentrification, with some unique trappings since it’s happening in an affluent area. Instead of mixology lounges named after the hardware stores they’ve displaced, we get sideways fences blocking Spanish colonial homes. The newer cars have Patagonia stickers instead of those AKA license plates. I’m a newcomer and pale, so, as connected as I feel to the place, I am part of the problem. When I’m out running, I make the neighborhood look welcoming to white people.

I wanted to live around other Black people, but worried I wasn’t Black enough to blend in.



I feel sorry for the sap they’re yelling at



His friend lingered on the corner with a “here we go again” air. Goatee Hulk went on about how his family had lived in the neighborhood since the ’60s. I caught the subtext. I’m a newcomer and he read me as one of the white yuppies with no regard for the area’s history. The fence-builders. The cop-callers. The ones who don’t say hi on the street. I knew that any protest of mine would sound too well-prepared, that any argument would not be enough. He’d made up his mind.