What is Hotboxing

Gentrification is systematic, predictable and preventable. Based on what I've heard from everyone I have spoken to and the research I have done on this topic, I am absolutely convinced when we grow our knowledge about hotboxing we will find ways to take action and end gentrification altogether. I welcome you to leave a comment with your own thoughts and stories about hotboxing, or email me at jonathan@blexitmn.org if you are interested in writing an article for this website.

Note: If you are interested in more in-depth look at hotboxing, which I hope you are, please click here to read research paper I developed at the University of Minnesota in 2017.

Let's get started

I’ll be posting a lot of information, thoughts and opinions about hotboxing in the coming weeks and months. For now, I thought a brief, simple explanation of hotboxing is the right place to start. Don’t you agree? Hotboxing impacts just about everyone we know, so let’s get more familiar with the concept, starting with the basics.

Hotboxing Basics

Let’s start with the basics of what hotboxing is and why that matters. Think of how people like you and me choose where we want to live. Usually, we want to live near family, school, or work. And we probably want to live somewhere we can afford that is safe, has some good schools, and has a culture that makes us feel at home. All these wants seem reasonable, don’t they? Hotboxing is about people and power. It’s specifically about the power people have to choose where they want to live. I believe that people should have the power to choose where they want to live. Hotboxing explains how people’s power to choose where they want to live is systematically taken away and given to the larger society, and that should matter to anyone who believes in personal freedom and the right to self-determination.

How It Works

At the beginning, hotboxing requires a group of people who can be targeted, before they are displaced. That displacement takes the form of physical, psychological or social displacement - I’ll expand more on displacement in an upcoming post. For now, let’s talk about these groups of people, or demographics.

It’s normal for people who share space to also share demographics, and in a society based upon institutionalized racism these shared demographics create large segments of people who are marginalized people and become targets for hotboxing. As Renee Hatcher of John Marshall Law School explained, “The most marginalized are also the most targeted and society is happy displace them”. So that’s the first thing, hotboxing begins with society targeting group of people, then displacing them.

Next, as hotboxing swings into action, we see society using “Tools of the State”, such as: abandoning or cutting back municipal services, closing schools, or increasing racial profiling and police brutality.  All these conditions are directed by society to disrupt a community, decrease property values, and make residents feel like they need to leave. As neighborhoods deteriorate under those conditions, the residents forfeit their power to live where they want to, and society claims that power by taking a greater interest in “solving the problem”.

Last, gentrification takes hold. Taxpayer funds are channelled to developers. Developers then build housing that is unaffordable for the neighborhood residents, converting these residents into participants of affordable housing programs, also converting them into people whose power to choose where the want to be has been greatly diminished. Residents who fight to stay in their neighborhoods and persevere through gentrification find that their cost of rent, neighborhood shopping, and basic needs have become unaffordable.

After gentrification has run its course in one neighborhood, places where hotboxing is already in progress are easily discovered. The process repeats itself, targeting demographics, deploying Tools of the State, and gentrifying, all over again.

What do we do now?

We know that gentrification means much more than coffee shops, condos and boutiques - hotboxing explains the conditions that cause gentrification. We believe people should have the power to choose where they want to live - that is why understanding hotboxing is important. It helps us know when society is acting to take power, so we can act to hold on to power.

What we need to do now is create ways to keep people powerful. I’ve described a few of those ways in the linked paper, I’d love to hear your ideas about how people can hold on to their power to choose where they want to live. Please leave a comment below, or if you’re interested in contributing to this blog, please email me at jonathan@blexitmn.org.

Power and Peace,




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