DRIVER 1- Part 2: Historical Perspectives of Houselessness and Banishment

May 2021

This bonus episode on Driver 1: Gentrification, Homelessness and Displacement features a candid conversation with Pete White, the founder and Executive Director of the Los Angeles Community Action Network (LA CAN) discussing the houselessness epidemic in Los Angeles. Pete recounts the rich and tumultuous history of housing in Los Angeles within a lens of race, policy and systems change, and economic disinvestment. The conversation elevates the intersections between Driver 1 and the other drivers of disparity such as poverty, disinvestment, and policing which further emphasizes the collective cumulative negative impact of these drivers on the health of Los Angeles residents. The episode concludes with Pete’s analysis of how to tackle systems change within these different drivers.

Guest Bios

Executive Director/ Founder, Los Angeles Community Action Network (LA CAN)

Pete White is the founder and Executive Director of the Los Angeles Community Action Network (LA CAN), a grassroots organization working to ensure the human right to housing, health and security are upheld in Los Angeles. Pete White has been a community organizer in Los Angeles communities since 1992 and has educated and organized thousands of low-income people on a multitude of issues and campaigns. A lifetime resident of South Central Los Angeles, he is committed to fight for a Los Angeles that does not tolerate racial injustice, promotes an equitable distribution of resources, and includes everyone. White believes that organizing and leadership development are essential tools needed to achieve social change and racial justice. He serves on a variety of Boards and Advisory Committees related to homelessness, organizing, and grassroots funding.

Additional Notes

Sundown Towns

What is it? “Sundown towns” refer to all white municipalities in the U.S. that practiced racial segregation through the threat of violence to people of color existing in a town after dusk. From the 1890s to 1960s, thousands of towns across the country had designated themselves “white only,” and often had signs announcing that these areas were sundown towns, meaning people of color were not allowed in town after the sun went down.
To learn more about racial segregation through extrajudicial violence check out: https://belonging.berkeley.edu/rootsraceplace/extrajudicialviolence 

Historian James Loewen described at least 112 possible sundown towns in California, including Culver City, in his book entitled: Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism. Culver City’s racist origins have more recently come to light with other historians such as John Kent urging Culver City to come into terms of its racist history including residential segregation of racist policing. In response, police Chief Manny Cid announced that their department will refocus policing. Read more about this here: https://spectrumnews1.com/ca/la-west/public-safety/2021/05/02/culver-city-sundown-town-history-shades-police-reform-debate 

White Flight 

What is it? White flight is defined as the phenomenon of white people moving out of urban areas, particularly those with significant minority populations, and into suburban areas.

Asset Stripping

What is it? Clyde Woods analysis of post-Katrina New Orleans in the essay Les Misérables of New Orleans: Trap Economics and the Asset Stripping Blues, Part 1, describes “Asset Stripping,” as the loss of wealth, loss of health and well-being, loss of legal and gainful employment, loss of affordable and safe housing, the loss of civil and political rights.

Woods goes on to discuss four interpretive frameworks around the reconstruction of New Orleans including neoliberalism, social spatial enclosure, the institutional organization of racial impoverishment, and the theory and practice of neo-Bourbonism in Louisiana. Emphasizing the role of urban poverty and social disasters in New Orleans prior to Katrina. 

To learn more about Clyde Wood’s work, check out his essay here: https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/Les-Mis%C3%A9rables-of-New-Orleans%3A-Trap-Economics-and-1-Woods/46b4b434a923d5adb8e924d3ee6d4be45ef610c3

Racial Banishment

What is it? The phrase “racial banishment” is coined by Ananya Roy, a Professor of Urban Planning, Social Welfare, and Geography and The Meyer and Renee Luskin Chair in Inequality and Democracy at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). In Ananya’s research on “racial banishment”, she defines this as the pushing out of working-class communities of color from urban cores to the far peripheries of metropolitan regions. Her framing of racial banishment is used in the context of the role of state-instituted violence against people of color with a focus on urban environments. She identifies race as a driver for forced evictions which provide a gateway to massive waves of gentrification. The implications of racial banishment not only result in the loss of homes for vulnerable residents but also the loss of personhood. Read her published work about the battles of displacement in America: https://unequalcities.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/17/2019/01/Roy-Ananya-Dispossessive-Collectivism-Geoforum.pdf

Find more of Professor Ananya Roy’s published works here: http://ananyaroy.org/selected-articles/#urban-informality

Nonprofit Organizations: 501(c)(3) vs 501(c)(4) 

There is a distinction between being classified a 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization. While both classifications are “tax-exempt non-profit organizations and do not have to pay taxes on the money donated to the organization”, there are limitations on how the organizations may engage in the political arena. 

Organizations classified as 501(c)(3) are nonprofit charitable, religious and educational organizations. 501(c)(3) organizations can only engage in nonpartisan activities meaning the organization shows no preference for or against any candidate or political party.

Organizations granted 501(c)(4) status are political education organizations, and can engage in political lobbying. This includes donations to political committees that support or oppose ballot measures, bond issues, recalls or referenda.

 

For more details on the differences in classifications:

Impact of 1984 Olympics on Homelessness

In 1984, Los Angeles was experiencing a severe homeless crisis. However, in preparation for the Olympics, the Los Angeles Police Department targeted and arrested houseless residents in Skid Row to “sanitize the area.” Police and narcotics officers launched sweeps in Skid Row, in which numerous homeless residents were arrested or forced to relocate while their belongings were discarded. To learn more about this history and the possible impact of the 2028 olympics in Los Angeles, check out this article: https://la.curbed.com/2018/7/12/17454676/los-angeles-olympics-homeless-police-militarization-securit

 

Safer Cities Initiative

Safer Cities Initiative was launched in 2005 to reduce crime in the area of Skid Row, which has a large concentration of houseless individuals. In the following two months, police made 1500 arrests, two-thirds of them for felonies. However, social service providers and activists declared that mentally ill individuals were overpoliced and subjected to arrests and citations, which only temporarily reduced crime and transferred skid row residents off the street and into jails. To learn more about the history of homelessness in Los Angeles, check out: https://luskincenter.history.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/66/2021/01/LCHP-The-Making-of-A-Crisis-Report.pdf

 

Plantation Capitalism

Define it: A mindset towards pushing down salaries, searching the world for the cheapest source of labor, and having no loyalty towards labor. 

At the Root Cause Research Center, “plantation capitalism” is specifically defined as a social and economic management system in Southern cities where the descendants of planter families maintain political and economic dynasties largely by keeping Black workers in extreme poverty, landless, and without political power through extractive policies and police terrorism

To learn more about the ways “Plantation Capitalism” exists in today and ties to racial capitalism read these resources:

 

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