Naomi Levine, owner of Tipsycake, which may be described in polite company as a yuppie cake shop, started in Humboldt Park and has since opened a second location in Bucktown. In a video interview with City Soles (a shoe store which also seems to do videos), she joked that Bucktown was a better location for her business than Humboldt Park because “there were just too many gunshots in the cakes.” She also referred to an allegedly “addictive” treat of hers as “Humboldt Crack.” Now she has learned what may not be said in polite company about a neighborhood widely, and accurately by police statistics, associated with gang violence (albeit surely better than it was a decade ago, before yuppie cake shops started opening in it). “Community activists” are calling for a boycott of her shop, she claims to have received threats of violence if she doesn’t stop saying Humboldt Park is violent, and Chicagoist quotes a blogger, one Xavier Luis Burgos, who explains that it’s cake shops like hers that are responsible for racism and the destruction of indigenous peoples since 1492.
“In essence, she perpetuated the very stigmas that saturate the print and visual media, reproducing racist notions. In other words, she paints Humboldt Park as a savage no-man’s land, following in a long tradition of ‘urban pioneers’ who bravely seek to tame the indomitable through imperial mechanisms of power and privilege…
“Like many ‘yuppies,’ she eventually became upset that her investment in the community’s decimation and sterile ‘revitalization’ is developing too slow. The question arises: why open a business here? Because, like the settlers who descended from the Mayflower and saw a vast wilderness as an economic potential for them - and them alone - and not millions of indigenous civilization, the native residents of Humboldt Park are faceless and meaningless. Oftentimes we forget or stay silent to the fact that gentrification is a process guided not by the invisible hand of capitalist economics but by actors and protagonists with agency and intentionality, justifying their actions with racist and classist worldviews.”
Of the many possible ways that this is the funniest thing we’ve read all week, one feels at least bound to point out that there’s a little clue in its name that Latinos are not an ancient indigenous civilization in Humboldt Park…
Friedrich Wilhelm Heinrich Alexander Freiherr von Humboldt September 14, 1769 - May 6, 1859) was a German naturalist and explorer, and the younger brother of the Prussian minister, philosopher and linguist Wilhelm von Humboldt (1767-1835). Humboldt’s quantitative work on botanical geography laid the foundation for the field of biogeography.[Wikipedia]
…but themselves one more wave of immigration in the constant change of Chicago neighborhoods.
As a longtime eater in questionable neighborhoods untainted by yuppie cake shops, we feel it’s ridiculous to be afraid of 90% of the city, but we also find it ridiculous to think you can make a neighborhood better by pretending its problems don’t exist. And as impolitic as Levine’s tongue-in-cheek comments may have been for a business owner (she has since issued the requisite, like-nothing-a-human-would-ever-say apology), if activism winds up driving a business out and costing the jobs of a few local residents, that seems far worse for Humboldt Park than anything anyone can say.
Here’s the interview segment (warning: some language may not be suitable for oversensitive busybodies). We find it all so upsetting we’re going to go to Lao Sze Chuan and have some chicken crack.