Monday, February 21, 2005

Faigelekwartal

[Please forgive the profanity.]

Several weeks ago the City of Spokane (in Washtington State) declared its intention of creating gay district in its downtown. Their decision was in part sparked by notions that urban areas can be revived by attracting "the creative class". To my surprise, the negative reactions have been docile -- little homophobia has been sparked by the proposal. Some people think that this is a stupid idea: you cannot expect the "creative class" to come if you hang out signs that say "gays welcome."

The most critical reactions have come from those who would normally support the extension of rights for homosexuals. They call it ghettoization, which it is. But they equate ghettos only with extermination camps and ethnic, urban poverty, which they should not. For Jews, ghettos were opportunities for protection, creating spaces wherein cultural and religious life could flourish. Yiddish literature is filled with loving portraits of communal life within the ghetto. Similarly, American ghettos are centers of culture and political activism in spite of their other problems. Hopefully a deeper look at what ghettos have represented and how they have functioned will allow critics to see what opportunities they can get from gay districts rather than dismissing them as confinement.

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