Sunday, November 21, 2010

Because of Gentrification?

Yesterday, before the Stanford game, I went with a friend to get breakfast at Milano cafe. The man working behind the counter was a young Latino guy. Since it was the Stanford game, there were a lot of visitors in Berkeley. Ahead of us in line was an older maybe 60ish white man. When it was his turn to order, he walked up to the young Latino guy and said "I want a BLT with avocado and no mustard, you understand?" He said it in such a derogatory way as if he was better than the man behind the counter and as if there was no possible way the man working would get his order right because the man was Latino and this man was white. My friend and I were appalled at the way this man was talking to the employee, we could not believe that people still talked to others like that. The ironic thing is that then the employee asked the man what kind of bread he wanted and the man had a tough time saying what kind, not the other way around.
After I witnessed this, I started thinking about the article about gentrification in the Mission District and the discussion we had on it. I remember talking about how most restaurants that came because of Gentrification, even if they were Latino restaurants, wouldn't employ Latino workers. So I got to thinking about Gentrification and the treatment of Latinos. Is the treatment I witnessed a common thing in most restaurants? And if so is it an attitude stemming from the gentrification of areas pushing Latinos out. I know that Berkeley has not been gentrified in the same sense as the Mission District, but I believe that to some extent it kind of has because it is a town that hosts a top University and with that comes, what some people think of as "prestige". I'm assuming that the older white man was a Cal alumni and because of that he somehow got the idea that he was better than the employees working at Milano. I was upset by this because this is the same idea that came with gentrification in the Mission District. Educated young professionals moved in and forced the Latino inhabitants out and this contributed to an attitude held by the young professionals that they were somehow better than the people they pushed out because they were educated and thus could afford the higher rent. I think that what I witnessed at Milano could be attributed to Gentrification because I believe that with gentrification comes the ideas and attitudes that those producing Gentrification are somehow better than those who are forced out because of it. I know that the white man probably had nothing to do with Gentrification but, it goes back to the discussion we had in class, he was connected to Gentrification because even though he didn't do the physical act of gentrification, he still had the attitude that stems from gentrification.


  1. I work at Noah's Bagels in Lafayette and I can tell you that instances like these are extremely common. I come from a Peruvian family, and speak English perfectly. However, I've had several customers come in and demand to speak to someone who "knows" English whenever they are upset about something. I've even had one woman tell me she wanted to speak to an American when I informed her that I was the manager. It's really too bad that there are some people out there who don't realize how ignorant they're being.

  2. Your post brings me back to the discussion we had on George Lopez’s video on the ‘Latino accent’ and the assumption that due to the accent or in your instance the appearance, that one would not understand and how bi-lingual individuals are in a way labeled ‘dumb’ for having an accent. I came across an interesting article by Ilan Stavans (I refer to him in another post as well) where he discusses the politics of multilingualism.
    I find it interesting, especially after the discussion, how being multilingual is often perceived as impressive, yet in the United States multilingualism presents a sense of foreignness and of immigration. Stavans states “A sense of inferiority also lived within me. Actually, it still does. It is aggravated by the very ambivalent attitude the United States has toward multilingualism. Polyglotism, in spite of the general perception, is a rather common phenomenon in the world - not simply the sign of an immigrant, but a means of being a world citizen. . . Most countries are home to more than one language: Belgians, for instance, speak French and Dutch; Luxembourgians use three tongues - French, German, and Luxembourgian” (Stavans 169). “But multilingualism among the poor is unacceptable and, thus, immediately condemned. One has only to walk the streets of New York to be made conscious of this double standard: Spanish is spoken by tourists on Fifth Avenue, but Colombian and Dominican children in Washington Heights are told that English must come first” (Stavans 170). Through personal experience, I encountered the same problems of inferiority and was told to speak English to advance in society and not become a statistic as well as to get rid of my accent. It is interesting and counterintuitive how individuals that can speak more than one language, are labeled as inferior for having a greater scope of knowledge and culture.
    Over the summer I was part of a study abroad in Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands where multilingualism was not looked down upon and was customary and encouraged. There were still politics behind language in each respective country, yet most people were at least bilingual. It would be interesting to find out and discuss if the attitude toward multilingualism is unique to America, and if so why?
    Reference to: Stavans, Ilan. “Living in Another Language.” New England Review Vol. 22, No. 3(Summer, 2001), pp. 168-172