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The racial fix

White currency in the gentrification of black and Latino Chicago

Jesse Mumm

Keywords: Chicago; gentrification; markets; race; whiteness

Abstract

In Chicago, real estate value is fixed by race through the process of gentrification. I present findings from an ethnography of the black, Mexican, and Puerto Rican neighborhoods of the greater West Side. Gentrification here is a “racial fix”: a consensus-building process to inflate value in a speculative market reliant on the historical legacies of racism. The white flight era devalued neighborhoods now facing speculation and hyperinflation as increased global investment, debt culture, and debt financing fuel the growth machine. The discourses of residents, randomized survey results, and a built environment scan show that property value corresponds more to white residence than material improvement. White people cultivate the currency of whiteness through gentrification to build social status, capital, and the city of their dreams.

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