Outside the Circle

Cindy Milstein

Waking Up on the Wrong Side of Capitalism


I woke up this morning feeling disgruntled, out of sorts, and down for no apparent reason.

Then I walked out of my home at 16th and Mission streets in San Francisco’s Mission. The first sight that greeted me, per usual on a Saturday, were all the poor and working-class folks shopping for cheap vegetables produced by badly paid workers, or clutching their bibles to convert others to Jesus’s promise of a better afterlife, or sunning themselves on the plaza after a night spent sleeping on a cold sidewalk, or scrambling to survive, such as not be evicted or deported, imprisoned or disappeared.

A block and a half later, in search of coffee to try to jolt me out of my doldrums, the second sight that met my eyes were lots of well-off and high-income folks pushing well-fed babies around in fancy strollers, or parading around in trendy clothing to seemingly show off to each other, or sunning themselves at cafe tables surrounded by flowers and the latest brunch delicacy, or leisurely not worrying about much of anything, at least things like precariousness.

And that’s where I spotted the third of my sights — at the intersection of down-and-out and up-and-coming, or 17th Street and Van Ness. Two too-smooth, too-friendly, and trying to look too-casual developer dudes (coincidentally, white guys?) had set up a white folding table laid out with white “blueprints” for what will be yet another luxury project.

Their crocodile smiles were directed at the poorer-looking Latino people passing by, in this sales-pitch that wasn’t about sales at all. They were seemingly uninterested in conversing with anyone who could afford these soon-to-materialize stores and apartments.

This outdoor kool-aid-like stand is part of the developers being able to say, to whoever is already going to approve their profit-making venture, that they’ve reached out to the community; that they care; that they are “happy to hear all concerns,” as one of the sharks “charmingly” said to me when he saw me taking this photo. This is part of them playing the theater of the absurd of “doing the right thing,” and trying their best to avoid being the bull’s-eye of anti-eviction organizers.

There are more reasons than one can count — such as the ever-increasing number of “monster in the Mission” developments, whether mean or (allegedly) nice — to wake up on the wrong side of the bed that capitalism is busy making in the Mission.

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(Photo by Cindy Milstein, #LaMission, #ClassWar, April 18, 2015.)



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This entry was posted on April 18, 2015 by in Dispatches from Gentrifying San Francisco.
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