Due to the deficit which many black professionals often find themselves in when they are in white spaces, this can lead to a myriad of dynamics. This deficit may be minimised when a black person within such spaces navigates the realm by demonstrating that they are not to be held in the same regard as the black underclass from the “ghetto”.
In this way, there is, as Elijah Anderson explains (2022), a kind of “performance” for credibility and for acceptance. This performance can be in regard to dress code or in how one speaks, being sure to not come across as representing the black underclass, or to represent the ‘iconic ghetto’ as described by Anderson. This is significant as although white middle classes can easily avoid black spaces, black people cannot merely choose to avoid white spaces – these spaces must be navigated and inhabited by black people.
Although gentrification can often be construed as the phenomenon of white middle classes moving into areas associated with deprivation to frequent artisanal coffee-shops next to Jamaican jerk chicken spots, there is also black gentrification – a hidden subculture of gentrification. This is a form of gentrification which is often overlooked yet this is also a factor which is capitalised on within white spaces to, in some cases, justify EDI goals and can be presented as inclusivity. More pernicious however, is that this can masquerade as an organisation demonstrating its kudos as upholding ‘community’, ‘coproduction’, ‘engagement’ and ‘equity’ on account of several tokenistic appointments.
The new black gentrifiers find it difficult to relate or connect with those who face barriers in healthcare, or with those involved in street corner entrepreneurship and discuss local issues, or with those who wash their clothes at the local laundrette, or with local community activists, or with those who are under significant financial strain because of the rising costs of living, or with those who struggle with daily police stop and search etc.
When exploring how systems can change to become more equitable, there can be a tendency to rely on versions of ‘black’ which are more palatable to white middle class sentiments and can be easily neutralised when appropriate. To simply hear voices which will regurgitate platitudes back to the system which provide a comfort zone will not be able to deliver the impactful change which is so desperately required. Yet when rebuilding trust there must be inclusion of voices which have been seldom heard.
There is an identity/category nexus which brings to the fore particular nuances which lie beneath the radar and elucidate that there is not a one-size-fits-all around these issues which can be merely applied just to tick a diversity box. From the point of service-design, this nexus must be understood if the NHS is to be rethought and rebuilt. It therefore cannot be about what it costs to do it, but rather about what it costs to not do it.
It is also worth noting that the new black gentrification is somewhat different from the ‘black ghetto migration’ wherein, as can be seen in Brixton for instance, where individuals from other black underclass areas also found a home in Brixton. Hence, in Brixton one can find individuals from Blackbird Leys (Oxford), Chapletown (Leeds), Toxteth (Liverpool), Moss Side (Manchester), St Paul’s (Bristol) and Highfields (Leicester). The third dynamic however is that some black gentrifiers occupy a positionality wherein they are not necessarily merely exploiting a neighborhood for investment opportunities but regard themselves as part of the fabric as inheritors of a historic identity that recalls a period wherein the area was a black cultural center (Goetz, 2013: 165) and therefore be involved in the “rituals which define daily life” in such communities (Taylor, 1992: 102). In some parts of the world, it has been this cohort of black gentrifiers which paved the way for white middle class gentrifiers in places like Harlem, Brooklyn, and Brixton (Lees et al., 111). In Bronzeville, Chicago, this type of black gentrification is also welcomed.
Hence, it is not the case that gentrification arrives in the form of middle-class hipsters who attend bars, Whole Foods, trendy cafes, or artisanal craft beer outlets, it can also apply to the influx of a rising Black and minority ethnic middle class into areas which for the last 7 decades have been associated with black and minority ethnic working and underclasses.
These individuals have the requisite cultural capital, network and education, as well as heralding from a context where they had a safe upbringing, well-off parents, generational wealth, financial literacy and middle-class sensibilities. They may have never experienced unemployment, educational under attainment or had experience with the criminal justice system.
The gentrifiers when they settle in a new area utilize their cultural capital to make new partnerships, new groups, and new place-based initiatives. However, often these schemes seem more focused on the notion of place which the new arrivals have carved out is recent and sometimes even strange, being quite different from the concept of place associated with longstanding residents of the area. Or, it can be the case that the new gentrifiers contribute solely to a small cohort and their own goals within a much larger community rather than contributing to a community itself as they are not interacting with them; or to a specific issue which they consider as pressing and relevant, yet has no actually tangible significance for working-class local residents and their local issues. This is the epitome of gentrification – where new and innovative concepts are developed at the cost, and without consideration, of what previously occupied that land.
In some ways, this is similar to when the Windrush Generation and subsequent commonwealth migration in the 1960s and 70s arrived in the UK and their settlement was quite different to the established white communities of inner-city England.
Hence, there are three types of black urban gentrification: working and underclass individuals who have migrated into another area with similar dynamics as their original homes; the black gentrifiers who still wish to be a part of the existing cultural fabric of the new location; thirdly, middle-class black gentrifiers who are still quite culturally distant and possess cultural mores which are more in tandem with the hipster ‘tech-bro’ form of contemporary gentrification and are easily co-opted into the corridors of the system.
This is important if one is seriously about rethinking and reclaiming health systems especially among those who do not trust the system. There must be a comprehension of the nuances of sub-cultures and sub-groupings which call below the radar.
The black identity/category nexus is the topic of a forthcoming detailed essay by Addae and Danquah, which explores the nuances in black identity, categorization, and disaggregation in greater depth.
Consequently, this is about constructive approaches to rethink and re-develop healthcare services, systems, and practice. There are key nuances, unbeknown to the system and quite below the radar, which need to be understood if it really wants to save costs, fund initiatives sustainably, invest strategically, and build trust equitably among black and minority ethnic communities.