Are Liberals Defending the Character of a Neighborhood Comparable to Conservatives Defending the Demographics of a Nation?

I wanted to process and discuss this tweet:

I’m not clear on what Wilkinson means by “character of a neighborhood,” particularly since he has it in
(scare?) quotes. In any event, my knee-jerk reaction is to say that one can have legitimate reasons for preserving the character of a neighborhood. For example, if by “character” we mean the architecture and urban design–I think that can be legitimate, especially if we believe both are worth preserving. If Wilkinson means that the value of architecture and design is basically relative or neutral–i.e., they’re all basically the same or equally valuable–I don’t agree.

Character of a neighborhood could also refer to the cultural and ethnic make up of a neighborhood. Here, things are trickier. If you have a neighborhood that is dominated by one ethnic group–e.g,. Indian, Greek, Hawaiian, etc.–not just the people, but the type of restaurants, maybe the type of public cultural activities–should this aspect of a community be protected and preserved? Think about sections of a city like Chinatown or Little Italy. A part of me would want to protect and preserve those communities.

On the other hand, what if we’re primarily talking about demographics–i.e., domination by one ethnic group? In that case, I don’t this type of “character” should be protected or preserved, and this situation seems comparable to nativist or white nationalistic impulse to exclude immigrants or maintain white demographic dominance.

But preserving demographic status quo is not necessarily the same as preserving a cultural and architectural status quo, although there can be overlap. Having said that, I don’t get the impression that NIMBY’s are motivated by preserving the culture and architecture of a place.

8 thoughts on “Are Liberals Defending the Character of a Neighborhood Comparable to Conservatives Defending the Demographics of a Nation?

  1. How would you classify the desire to keep out Walmart, in relation to the other categories I mentioned above (e.g., cultural, demographic, etc.)?

    Reflecting on the tweet a little more, Wilkinson seems to be equating the selfishness of NIMBYs with nativists and white nationalists. I can see the comparison, but it doesn’t really work for me.

  2. I don’t think I’d put it anywhere in those categories. The Kailuans didn’t want the traffic Target was going to bring, saying it would alter the character of the neighborhood. It was code for all the people from Kaneohe and Waimanalo. Notice they didn’t picket when Whole Foods announced it was moving in. Did you miss this story a couple of years ago? It was a big deal. The Target went in on the site of the old Daiei. People were actually picketing in opposition.

  3. The Kailuans didn’t want the traffic Target was going to bring, saying it would alter the character of the neighborhood. It was code for all the people from Kaneohe and Waimanalo. Notice they didn’t picket when Whole Foods announced it was moving in. Did you miss this story a couple of years ago?

    Yes, I missed it. Wait–so if I’m understanding you correctly, traffic really wasn’t the reason they didn’t want Target–they just opposed the Target (and Walmart) as a business? If so, and they opposed both for principled reasons–like the harming local businesses or bad pay for employees–I think that’s different from more selfish reasons. It’s also different from preserving the cultural aspects of a place. (Note: I’m just thinking out loud here, not necessarily disagreeing with you.)

  4. You’re hearing my interpretation of the situation. A less biased report is here, and there are better stories but I wasn’t in the mood to dig. Here’s a photo, though, of the picketers.

    They say they oppose the traffic and want to preserve the character (small businesses), but they didn’t oppose Whole Foods and they gave excuses on behalf of Don Qi as well (that might not be in print; I spoke to some of the protesters and got that).

    My read is that they bought property in Kailua when it was small, slow, and quaint. But as others have moved in, wanting the same thing, this changed the character of the neighborhood. One message I got out of it was “We got ours. Go get yours somewhere else.”

    And it’s my interpretation that the traffic issue wasn’t as much about traffic as about who the traffic was bringing. That may sound harsh, but I feel pretty strongly that I’m right. Not necessarily race-related, but almost certainly class-related.

    If you look at Kailuans’ other protest in recent years, about commercial use of public parks and beaches, it’s effectively the same thing. Thank goodness the City Council came to its senses and shot that down.

    1. To clarify: there was never a proposed Walmart in Kailua. I used Walmart as an example of what the tweeter is talking about; I used Kailua as an example of the Walmart opposition, using Target in place of Walmart.

  5. And it’s my interpretation that the traffic issue wasn’t as much about traffic as about who the traffic was bringing. That may sound harsh, but I feel pretty strongly that I’m right. Not necessarily race-related, but almost certainly class-related.

    That makes sense. In fact, I’m struggling to think of another explanation–assuming that lower-classes shop at Target. Essentially, it sounds like classic NIMBY-ism.

    By the way, I used to have a completely negative view of NIMBY-ism, but I’ve recently seen the issue in a slightly different light; or at least not entirely negative. I’m going to try and write about this in separate thread, or maybe the thread on affordable housing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *