Race and Class on R Street

I can’t stop thinking about my last post, where I highlighted the powerful piece Amanda Hess wrote for TBD, about an anomalous block in Logan Circle which is struggling with the exact issues this blog was created to address: race and class. One block in a desirable neighborhood, where gentrification coexists with an affordable housing development was home to at least two victims of appalling, violent assaults, because of their race and sexual orientation– and in one case, the perpetrators did not live where they committed their crime. They were just hanging out there.

It’s depressing to consider, because when I usually talk to people in this city about gentrification, the most optimistic types hope for an arrangement which sounds…exactly like the 1400 block of R Street, where the affordable R Street Apartments sit next to more expensive homes, creating a neighborhood full of ethnic and economic diversity. Unfortunately, Amanda’s investigation uncovered intimidation and what sound like hate crimes at R Street Apartments, which leads me to wonder if affordable housing can coexist with market-rate real estate? If off-duty cops are afraid to walk on a certain block of R Street, why isn’t more being done to make it safe?

Additionally, I’m uncomfortable with the binary nature this exploration takes on– poor blacks vs gay whites. I’m sure there are black residents of R Street who would prefer that no one gets attacked and left in the middle of the street. At the end of the article, Hess states that R Street is under new management, from Edgewood Management Corporation, and that some of the new staffers are gay themselves. I hope that such a change is enough to usher in a more peaceful environment for all residents of R street, no matter where they live. After reading this comment left on the TBD piece from a resident of that block, I am not optimistic:

I’m a resident on that block, and though I hadn’t heard news of this violence, it doesn’t come as a suprise. Metro PD cruisers, lights blazing, are daily guests on our block, mopping up whatever the episode-du-jour is at the R St. Apartments. As you allude to in the article, despite the maddening frequency of police visits, nothing visible has been done to reduce the thuggishness of the block that is at their root. Outside of the threat of physical harm, cars are routinely broken into in the alley across the street from the apartments, and recently signs went up over the neighborhood complaining of stolen bicycles at the intersection. Frankly, it’s an absolute disgrace that the authorities continue willingly to turn a blind eye on the folks so hellbent on creating a haven for violence and crime. Gentrification is a double-edged sword, yes, but one of the nice things about this portion of 14th is that the cookie-cutter buildings have yet to invade (though admittedly that state of affairs is not likely to continue for long). Anti-gentrifiers are often justified in their complaints that gentrification stamps out diversity to make way for the highest (often, but not always, white) bidders. The irony here, though, is that the city and other responsible authorities, in a bid to beat back gentrification, are effectively endorsing those who violently enforce a lack of diversity and civility. Pathetic.

  • http://avirilenagalingam.blogspot.com/ nandalal rasiah

    The first casualties of any process of gentrification are gay white men–not diversity–and simply stating that the binary exists is perceived as racist. It’s a reaction borne of ranking displacement of poor people and the consequent decreased diversity over the bodily injury and property damage suffered by gentrifiers and poor people alike.

    Crime has been correlated with subsidized housing all over the country and this has been true since the inception of the concept. The local PD’s ‘willingness’ to let the crime go on is largely the result of decades-old policy and of local politics. Nobody wins an election by promising to allow market forces to create affordable unsubsidized housing. It’s quite easy, on the other hand, to muster community-wide outrage at the prospect of subsidized housing blocks being turned into pricey rental units and condos.