Gentrification: The Deterioration of Culture and a Modern Trail of Tears

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America’s core since the Colonial Period has been centered on the core doctrine of mercantilism, both abjected upon the original colonies by the British government and in its future implemented by the United States itself, as westward expansion and neighborhood rejuvenation began. This began with a tumultuous, while still oddly mutually beneficial relationship between the Native Americans and the newly settled English Puritans in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. The settlers were hostile towards the Natives, doubting their ability to engage in relationships without tumult ensuing, but began slowly to adopt the culture of the Natives, as well as forcing the Natives to adopt their English culture without question or retort. This was seen by Pilgrims appropriating the dress, farming techniques, as well as small cultural idiosyncrasies that were exclusively practiced by these Natives. For example, when a Native boy would shuck an ear of corn that turned out to be red, he would have the option to kiss any girl in the room. Enamored by this, the settlers decided to adopt this practice, and appropriated it as their own. Additionally, the incredibly intolerant Puritans began to aggressively evangelize the native population, creating “praying towns” filled with “praying Indians” that were accepted and admired by all of the Englishmen. However, the colonists behaved with shocking hostility to those refusing to comply with the new Puritan standards of worship. Eventually this once fairly fruitful alliance turned hostile as war broke out between the opposing factions. The symbiosis amongst the two was ruined forever due to the inability of the settlers to tolerate and accept the less modernly developed Natives. This same practice and ideology has bled through the consequent development of America and still has a stark footprint on the modern practice of neighborhood rejuvenation. In the city of Nashville the demarcation between poverty and commerce blurs itself more everyday, as businessmen and speculators move in upon poor sects of the city. Originally this was seen in developments such as the Gulch. Business preyed upon existing buildings and shops and turned the areas into yuppie shopping hubs patrolled by young professionals who would have never dreamed of stepping foot into that area months before. The original American settlers exploited the Natives by preying upon fear and turning them into guidebooks and a workforce in order to thrive in their stolen land. The hypocrisy of the gentrifiers lies within their logic. They are people who love the culture of the natives, but are terrified of any real interaction with them. Effectively, neighborhoods that have been corporately gentrified have resulted in the mass exodus of their former residents, and it is impossible to get ahead without giving into the newly placed system. Poor people who do not buy into the gentrification strongly resemble Metacom, the Native chief who waged war against the settlers for encroaching on his land and forcing the doctrines of Puritanism upon his people. This resistance to the takeover resulted in the brutal slaughter of his tribe, and the loss of the land they called home for centuries. Today the war is not being fought with arrows and muskets, but rather dollars and corporatism. Instead of a mom and pop owned laundromat on the corner, there lies a bougie coffee shop, filled with wanna-be intellectuals and hipsters dying to fit into the cutting edge neighborhood. Mom and pop have to drive an hour into the city now because the newly instated property values have taxed them literally out of house and home. As neighborhoods are destroyed and the previously established order is brought to pieces, one fact remains: people who lead this “rejuvenation” at any time only do this act to serve one end. Profit is the sole intent of neighborhood cleansing. This gradual gentrification has gone from King Philip’s War, to a full-scale Trail of Tears, forcing the mass evacuation of former residents to remote suburbs outside of the streets they once thought of as home. Just as the Pilgrims took elements of Indian culture and dramatically watered it down into a safer product for themselves, the same goes for previous cultural elements in once under-developed regions. The style, food, and mannerisms of the displaced residents are celebrated and used as a means for profit, but the pioneers of this culture are viewed as savage outsiders in their own homes. America has been rooted in gentrification since its start, and if this heartless, greedy refurbishment continues, America’s inner-cities may be wiped off of the face of the earth, all in the name of short-sighted earnings, mediocre minimalist farm to table restaurants, and men in their mid-twenties, crossing the street wearing pants that are far too tight, with boots that will never see mud.

In Nashville thousands of natives have been effectively taxed out of house and home to “purify” the area from “eyesores” that provided the area with the character and charm it was blessed with in the first place. Corporate structure has bastardized the culture that gave Nashville its allure to begin with. Much of gentrification’s core lies within a racist hierarchy that loves the culture of black people, but doesn’t want to have to see their lives day in and day out. Corporations and investors have monopolized culture, and the decay of Old Nashville has now led to our former residents fleeing to Donelson, Hendersonville, or Murfreesboro because their homes now sieged by hipsters and new residents who have raised the tax bracket to a degree that most cannot recover from. The “I Believe in Nashville” mural has become the de-facto allegory for Nashville’s decay, and the city’s true feelings towards gentrification come out as the mural is vandalized almost monthly.

Music is the key to the preservation of our culture. Even country music, Nashville’s primary export, has been gentrified and artists like Margo Price have seen increased success because of their stand against this culture-warping monstrosity. It is no secret that I have much disdain for Lightning 100 for their refusal to play rap music, but I do have a tremendous amount of respect for their attempt to preserve Nashville and indie music by refusing to comply with corporate radio’s unspoken mandates. The rap scene has emerged as Nashville’s most exciting ancillary music market, and has been pushed to the forefront of the Nashville scene as Mike Floss and Kiya Lacey have graced the covers of well respected Nashville publications recently. Music is forever and rap is the soundtrack to my generation. Music will be the main factor in pushing against the rape of the place we grew up in.


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