The mistaken racial theory of gentrification

The mistaken racial theory of gentrification

Like all major economic and demographic shifts, gentrification has upended familiar ways of life. It has also led to dubious, racially tinged theories. In left-leaning blog posts and articles, changes wrought in places like Harlem or Inglewood are routinely described as “ethnic cleansing” or “racial cleansing,” or, more prosaically, “white people stealing stuff.” In a widely discussed 2014 rant, Spike Lee said white newcomers to the once-black neighborhood of Fort Greene in Brooklyn had “Christopher Columbus syndrome.”

Lower the rhetorical heat, and you get the point. In the mid-20th century, poor Southern blacks migrated into Northern...