My colleagues and I spill a lot of metaphorical ink referring to business improvement districts and their Boards of Directors as white supremacists, and we certainly stand by that position. However, it’s recently come to my attention that not everyone in our audience is familiar with the literal meaning of the phrase. Evidently it strikes some people as a generic, semantically empty insult, or else they’re confused by the fact that the phrase refers to at least two fairly distinct ideologies. Thus I thought it would be useful to explain in detail why BIDs are in a very literal sense white supremacist organizations.
First let’s get the definitions straight. As always, our friends at Wikipedia give us a good starting place. Their article on white supremacy tells us that the phrase has two principal meanings. The salient one for our purposes is that white supremacy is:
…a political ideology that perpetuates and maintains the social, political, historical and/or industrial domination by white people
It’s crucial to note that there’s nothing inherently racist about this kind of white supremacy.1 Now, the history of the racial segregation of real estate in Los Angeles is well-known, and Hollywood was at the forefront of it from the early years of the last century. What’s not so well understood is how racially segregated the commercial real estate market was. In fact2 it was certainly more segregated than residential real estate, since white people owned much of the commercial real estate even in areas of the City where nonwhites were allowed to own houses.3
Continue reading Business Improvement Districts As A Force For White Supremacy in Twenty-First Century Los Angeles