Yes, it's impossible to talk about gentrification without discussing racism; but it's also impossible to discuss gentrification without discussing capitalism or social class.|
The speakers at the forum referred to gentrification as something people choose to do when they move in to a neighborhood, placing the blame primarily on new residents. They ignored the idea of gentrification as a process endemic to the current economic system (it's not an aberration. Gentrification has existed at least as long as the urban United States has existed).
At least two people argued that new white residents should always defer decision-making power to people of color in the community. The idea that power should be doled out according to race is absurd; someone's racial identity does not predetermine their political position. There are non-white landlords and developers who also stand to profit from gentrification. Fighting gentrification is not about placing the right person in power, it's about erasing hierarchy entirely. All struggles against the effects of gentrification are a dead-end unless people find a way to reorganize economic relationships in opposition to capitalism.
We should be talking about revolutionizing our decision-making process to empower everyone in the community (old and new residents alike). (See Horizontalism, consensus, orparticipatory economics for example).
It does matter that people are displaced from their homes; but this displacement is a symptom of a larger disease. The severe class divisions and large economic disparities are the engine behind gentrification.