3CDC's signs are popping up everywhere in Over-the-Rhine. (Photos: John Blake)
This essay is contributed by my guest and dear friend Tom Dutton, the Director of the Centre for Community Engagement in Over-the-Rhine, a beleaguered black inner city ghetto in Cincinnati that has been the site of a concerted effort of displacement and gentrification by a coalition of banks, developers and the Cincinnati City Council (through its agency the Cincinnati City Centre Development Corporation (3CDC). Tom makes the powerful point that what is going on in places like Over-the-Rhine is very similar to the process that was employed by the colonial world powers in the 18th Century:
"We stole countries; that's how you build an empire. We stole countries with the cunning use of flags. Just sail around the world and stick a flag in 'em.
'I claim India for Britain.'
'You can't claim us, we live here. 500 million of us.'
'Do you have a flag?'"
Now, if you just shift scales a bit to see the internal colonial machinations of powerful corporations operating within a nation, it's not hard to extrapolate to see 3CDC playing the role of Great Britain in Over-the-Rhine
3CDC: "We claim Over-the-Rhine for middle- and upper-class people."
People of Over-the-Rhine: "You can't claim us, we live here. We've been building community for years, decades really. You can't just come into this community, claim it for yourself and run everybody out!"
3CDC: "Do you have a sign?"
As Tom notes, there are 3CDC signs going up all over Over-the-Rhine in a blatant attempt to colonise and dispossess the residents and inhabitants. And poor as they are, they find it difficult to counter the powerful voices of the invaders.