When Spike Lee sounded off about gentrification while speaking at the Pratt Institute in honor of African American History month, many people cringed. Many people were frustrated. You can listen and read about the entire talk he gave here(Warning on Language).
I read a lot of people who were ticked off about how Spike Lee’s rant was racist, hateful and unneeded.
I liked what he said.
I’m glad it’s finally a conversation because honestly, this is how many people feel about gentrification. If you walk into many barbershops, you’re going to hear some honest opinions you won’t likely see in the New York Post or local paper. The things Spike Lee said are the same things that people have been saying for years but haven’t had a platform to express their selves.
Was what he said racist?
No. This was a man telling you how he feels after the mistreatment and disrespect his neighborhood has endured in recent years. Your neighborhood means a lot to you. Even after you have “grownup” and moved out of it, it still has a piece of your heart. When bad things happen in your neighborhood that is like bad things happening to your family(ie Spike referencing his dad having police called on him). Spike is frustrated like many other people.
What about all these White Christians?
John Perkins is a hero to almost anyone doing Urban Ministry. He wrote one of the textbooks for every person engaging an urban area. When Perkins coined the 3 R’s (Reconciliation, Relocation and Redistribution) many ministries changed strategies and decided to begin engagement in Urban area’s.
One of the R’s is Relocation. This has brought an influx of evangelicals moving into Urban communities. Some times it’s Missional Hipsters, Other times it’s Justice advocates. Regardless, you have a large community of people who aren’t familiar with an area moving in to bring positive change. There is some good that can come from this. But there is one concerning thing. What about the people who have lived indigenously in this neighborhood for years? How do they feel about all of this change?
Spike Lee’s “rant” needs to be listened to by every Urban-dwelling Evangelical. Whether or not your doing so Missionally or for the sake of Justice, you need to understand how some people do and can potentially feel in time. Understand and be more sensitive with the decisions you, your ministry/church and others moving in make so that you are not simply exercising your white privilege and power in a well-meaning but offensive way.