Sadly, profiting from symbols of poverty and systemic racism is nothing new for some folks.
When you add appropriation, gentrification, and obnoxious yuppie irony, you get hipster racism, as many Black residents of historically Black neighborhoods can attest.
One of the more blatant cases of this formula comes courtesy of Brooklyn business owner and attorney Becca Brennan. In a press release to promote her new self-proclaimed “Instagrammable” bar and sandwich shop, Summerhill, Brennan touts its bullet hole-ridden wall (which may not even be bullet holes at all) and a 40 Ounce Rose that is served in a brown paper bag as fun “shout outs” to the Crown Heights neighborhood, a predominately Black section of Brooklyn that has been rapidly gentrifying.
Ever oblivious to how this could offend Summerhill’s neighbors, Brennan offered the age-old “I didn’t intend to offend” defense.
In an interview with New York City-based blog, Gothamist, Brennan offers that the narrative she created about the bullet holes, which some believe is actually just cosmetic damage, was a “joke,” and the concept of the restaurant is cheeky. But she apologizes that her “intention was misinterpreted.”
The bar and restaurant — which Brennan refers to as an “oasis” in the neighborhood — opened in June with a very specific clientele in mind, but even her target hipster audience might be too turned off by the over-the-top stereotypes. And Brennan certainly isn’t winning over some established locals anytime soon.
Long-time Crown Heights resident Natherlene Bolden, who is also a founding member of a coalition that fights abusive landlords in the neighborhood, shared with Gothamist that Brennan is “making money off of... negative aspects in our community which...and it's like you're not thinking about the black people or the long-term residents in the community. Or maybe you are thinking about them but they don't matter."
When Brennan added a watermelon cocktail to the menu, she probably was thinking about them, in as narrowly defined a trope as one can think about Black people.