In March 2011, it was announced that Jamaica Plain, Boston resident Chris Knighton would publicly oppose the building of a Whole Foods Market in his neighborhood. Relying heavily on literature from "Whose Foods/ Whose Community? : The Coalition Against Gentrification," Knighton set forth several reasons why "white middle and upper class people publicly oppose Whole Foods, and join the fight against it." Specifically, Knighton stated:
- " I oppose Whole Foods coming to JP because I care about the well being of those who are less socioeconomically privileged than I am, and I wish to stand in solidarity with their struggle against gentrification."
- "Whole Foods claims that its market base is wealthier and more educated than average, and in our society, this implies their market base is predominately white. Therefore, it is us wealthier, educated white residents of Jamaica Plain who are responsible for attracting Whole Foods here."
- "Whole Foods is perhaps the biggest corporate symbol of gentrification. It will rapidly accelerate the ongoing displacement of lower income community members, hurt locally owned competitors, and give a green light to other upscale corporations who want to exploit JP for maximum profit."
- "If Whole Foods enters Centre Street, it will not come alone. Many other corporations will be on its tail and will jump at any chance to break into Jamaica Plain."
- "The introduction of Whole Foods will result in the decreased affordability of JP, and the increased displacement of the working-class, low-income, and majority of people of color living in it. It will attract a wealthier and primarily white influx of replacements to Jamaica Plain."
Chris Knighton is a blight upon Jamaica Plain and must leave for the betterment of the community.
How do I reach this conclusion? It's simple. Knighton's thesis is based upon the following cycle: middle-to-upper-class white people move into Jamaica Plain. They attract big corporations like Whole Foods. Big corporations like Whole Foods raise property values. Property values drive lower-class minorities out of the neighborhood, and they are replaced by middle-to-upper-class white people. And who is Chris Knighton? By his own admission:
"A few months ago, I became a Jamaica Plain resident myself. I come from a white, middle class family."
So if we take Knighton at his word--and who am I to doubt a white, middle class guy who's about to graduate from a private university in Boston?--he is the very problem he seeks to remedy by keeping Whole Foods out of Jamaica Plain. Chris Knighton moving out of Jamaica Plain could encourage other white residents to do the same (it sure worked in Detroit), thereby keeping property values down and discouraging corporations from investing in the neighborhood.
As such, I oppose Chris Knighton living in Jamaica Plain because I care about the well being of those who are less socioeconomically privileged than he is, and I wish to stand in solidarity with their struggle against Chris Knighton and gentrification in general. Chris Knighton decided to come to Jamaica Plain because he saw the ongoing cultural and economic shifts in Jamaica Plain. However, despite his desire to keep other middle-class whites from doing exactly what he did, his presence will also accelerate these shifts, as has been seen many times in the past in other neighborhoods that middle-class, white recent college graduates have entered (see, e.g., Wicker Park on Chicago's North Side).
Chris Knighton can be forced out of Jamaica Plain, and the time to take action is now. Knighton does not want to tarnish his public image as a white person who knows what's best for Jamaica Plain's lower-class Latino population, and will move out if he thinks continuing to live in Jamaica Plain will be too controversial for his image. Popular resistance can stop Knighton, but as a part of this, Knighton must hear from us white middle and upper class people. Our voice maintains extra influence over Knighton because we are his intellectual peers. If we really care about encouraging and maintaining an affordable and culturally diverse Jamaica Plain, white middle and upper class residents of Jamaica Plain, neighboring communities, and beyond must publicly take a stand against Chris Knighton coming into Jamaica Plain and support the struggles of the working-class and low-income residents of the area.