Most of D.C.’s newcomers hail from far-away locales rather than Washington’s suburbs, according to recent census estimates. Given that, I asked last week whether someone like me, raised in Maryland but now living in D.C., gets to claim any native Washingtonian status — a title that carries weight in this transient city. A number of you chimed in, both in our comments section and on Twitter.
Some have always felt strong ties to D.C., even if they’re technically from Maryland:
E in Rosedale wrote:
I fall into pretty much the same category as you Elahe. I was raised in Bladensburg/Hyattsville before moving on to other parts of the country and finally settling back in DC about 8 years ago. I wouldn’t put myself in the same category as someone that was born in DC and never left, but I’m certainly more connected than someone who moved from Iowa 6 months ago.
Really though, what qualifies you as a Washingtonian for me is getting a license, buying a place and getting a job (in or around DC for the job). In other words, putting down serious roots.
Alice Thornton wrote:
Most “native” Washingtonians don’t even live here anymore (native = having been born here). I stuck around, but most of my family left for other climes. We needed to bring in new people to increase the tax base. I guess with this being the Nation’s Capital it would naturally be transient…
The term “native Washingtonian” can serve as code to distinguish gentrifiers from non-gentrifiers. Mike Madden tweeted that if “native Washington” means “non-gentrifier,” then “your socio-economic status is the only thing that matters.” But, he added, if calling yourself a native Washingtonian is “simply a marker for ‘I’m not totally new here,’ then yes, growing up in the D.C. area counts.”
And then, of course, there were those readers who bucked against the idea that being a “native Washingtonian” should carry any weight at all:
And Shani Hilton over at Washington City Paper wrote:
It’s pretty common for people all over the country to identify with the closest big city. I’ve met lots of people who tell me they’re from L.A. and when I press them, it turns out they mean a city 45 minutes away from L.A. But that doesn’t seem to happen here. But maybe as demographics change, so will the “native Washingtonian” identifier.
Do you think being a “native Washingtonian” should carry a special status? If so, who gets to claim it?