Saturday, March 14, 2009

Whirlpool — The Gentrifier Of Benton Harbor

By Dorothy Pinkney

The Harbor Shores development provides an opportunity for the rest of the country to see how easy it is to steal land from the poor community of Benton Harbor when there is no true leadership.

David R. Whitwan, Chairman of the Harbor Shores Community Redevelopment, Chairman for Alliance For World-Class Communities, and former Chairman of Whirlpool, said much of our effort will also focus on assuring that wealthy citizens are prepared to participate and benefit from this huge project.

Harbor Shores will develop 530 acres along the Paw Paw and St. Joseph River, land that belongs to the residents of Benton Harbor. The development will have 860 units of elegant condominiums; commercial retail property; a 27,000 square foot beach and golf lodge with a 60,000 square foot lodge with 140 rooms. There will be a Hotel/Conference Center with 350 rooms, an indoor water park, a signature Jack Nicklaus golf course, plus a golf club structure.

All of this is taking place in a community where 90% of the residents are living below the poverty level, where over 70% are unemployed and where 94% of the residents are Black. Their will be no jobs donateavailable for the residents of Benton Harbor. The project has been made possible because of the cooperation of Jeff Fettig and Whirlpool Corporation, Governor Granholm, Congressman Fred Upton, who is heir to Whirlpool, and many Michigan state agencies.

All of these leaders continually assure the community that the focus of this huge project was just an economic development effort —a broad-based community gentrification project. Gentrification is a word that has become common place in Benton Harbor, Michigan. A common understanding of the word is where urban areas are inhabited by minority populations until rich white people move in. Then, the original residents are unable to pay or keep up the tax costs and are forced out of their home and community. Gentrifiers are oblivious and ignorant to the realities of people that inhabit the community. The original people are replaced because of an increase in property tax, removal of jobs and destruction of a social community.

The most potent weapon in the arsenal of the oppressor — in order to maintain hegemony over a people who outnumbers their adversary — is the mind of the oppressed. The oppressor and his institutions must eventually attempt to manipulate the thinking of the target group so that the oppressed accepts their oppression as their natural lot in life and views their oppressors not as their oppressor, but as their benefactor, or at least as invincible. Our society deserves better. Our children deserve better. We must say enough is enough. ............