DCentric » The People http://dcentric.wamu.org Race, Class, The District. Wed, 16 May 2012 20:20:35 +0000 en hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.2.1 Copyright © WAMU Loneliness And Race In The Twilight Years http://dcentric.wamu.org/2012/05/loneliness-and-race-in-the-twilight-years/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2012/05/loneliness-and-race-in-the-twilight-years/#comments Tue, 01 May 2012 16:43:17 +0000 Elahe Izadi http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=15817 Continue reading ]]>

Courtesy of Pablo Benavente

The quality of life for the elderly varies by race, and a new report from the Council on Contemporary Families sheds light on how loneliness affects seniors.

The report, by the nonprofit, non-partisan group based at University of Miami, found that elderly women are more likely to live alone and face higher poverty rates than men. But poverty is even higher for black and Hispanic women. Elderly black women are more likely to be widows because black men don’t live as long as white men. The average white man lives seven years longer than the average black man.

Older white men are better off financially than any other elderly group, but suicide is most prevalent for the widowed among them, according to the report. The suicide rate for white men over 80 is six times the overall average in the U.S., and three times the rate for black men of the same age.

Blacks and Latinos have a tougher time financially during retirement than whites for a number of reasons. For instance, poverty is more prevalent among elderly people of color, who are less likely to have workplace retirement plans than whites.

The elderly population in D.C. is majority black, but whites 75 and older in the city are more likely to live alone, according to census estimates:

Total households with someone 75+ One-person, 75+ households Percentage of one-person, 75+ households
Black 17,337 7,979 46%
White 7,590 4,549 60%
Hispanic 859 373 43%
 *Source: 2010 U.S. Census Bureau estimates

Some other take-aways from the report: women over 60 who live alone are happier than married women of the same age, and older, solitary men have more trouble maintaining social networks than women living alone.

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Lost In Translation: Report Says D.C. Struggles To Serve Non-English Speakers http://dcentric.wamu.org/2012/04/lost-in-translation-report-says-d-c-struggles-to-serve-non-english-speakers/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2012/04/lost-in-translation-report-says-d-c-struggles-to-serve-non-english-speakers/#comments Fri, 27 Apr 2012 16:53:15 +0000 Elahe Izadi http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=15737 Continue reading ]]>

Seth Anderson / Flickr

D.C.’s non-English speakers have the right to interpretation or translation services when accessing services through the city, whether it’s requesting a housing inspector or getting food stamps. But a report released Thursday shows that many non-English speakers in the District experience major difficulties getting services in their native languages.

The report [PDF] was released by the DC Language Access Coalition and American University’s Washington College of Law. (Disclosure: WAMU 88.5 is licensed to American University).

DCLAC surveyed 258 people and found that Chinese and Vietnamese speakers had the most difficulty interacting with D.C. entities. Overall, 58 percent of people had some language access problem, such as not being able to get an interpreter or translated documents.

According to D.C.’s Language Access Act of 2004, D.C. agencies have to offer oral interpretation for all languages, and translate important documents into languages spoken by at least three percent of people needing services.

The DCLAC report includes stories from Amharic speakers who had trouble getting food stamps for their children and Spanish speakers who couldn’t communicate with housing inspectors. Nearly 14 percent of D.C. residents are immigrants, most of whom hail from Latin America.

As it stands, people who don’t get proper translation services can file complaints. But David Steib, a Legal Aid Society attorney who works with low-income clients, said his non-English speaking clients are often hesitant to file complaints for fear of retaliation by the agency they’re complaining against.

Steib represents people in housing, public benefits and family law cases. He added that for his non-English speaking clients, “often we find the source of the confusion is that a D.C. government agency failed to communicate with the person in their language. And that has a ripple effect. It leads to lawsuits and conflicts.”

The DCLAC report includes recommendations, including making sure D.C. employees who interact with the public are all trained in the Language Access Act and know what to do if a non-English speaker seeks services. They also recommend that agencies collaborate in training and outreach events.

The D.C. Office of Human Rights is the city’s monitoring agency tasked with ensuring compliance with the Language Access Act. Director Gustavo Velasquez says his agency stands behind the DCLAC report, but adds that OHR conducts its own, yearly review which includes self-reports from the agencies and surveys from D.C. residents. Last year, OHR gave the D.C. government an overall ranking of “average” compliance.

“[DCLAC's report] is very interesting. It tells us the story of people who have the perceptions and real experiences in dealing with the government,” Velazquez said.

But Velasquez adds that his agency is either implementing or has already implemented most of DCLAC’s recommendations. ”The others we haven’t touched on deal with the legislature, the city council has to do it, or it requires funding,” he said. “And as you know, municipalities have seen their budgets decline dramatically.”

Those other recommendations include increased training and allowing people to sue the city for not complying with the act.

Velasquez says that D.C.’s language access act is one of the best such acts in the country, but “there’s a long ways to go” in applying it. “We’re not there yet.”

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Unmarried And Same-Sex Couples More Likely To Be Interracial http://dcentric.wamu.org/2012/04/unmarried-and-same-sex-couples-more-likely-to-be-interracial/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2012/04/unmarried-and-same-sex-couples-more-likely-to-be-interracial/#comments Wed, 25 Apr 2012 17:40:51 +0000 Elahe Izadi http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=15685 Continue reading ]]>

Captured_by_Becca / Flickr

Interracial relationships are more common among unmarried couples than people who are married, according to census data released Wednesday.

The numbers show that D.C. is above national rates when it comes to interracial marriage and dating. Another stand-out point: interracial coupling is more prevalent among same-sex partners than opposite-sex partners in D.C. Check out the numbers below:

Percentage of interracial couples living together:
Husband-Wife Unmarried, Opposite-sex partners Same-sex partners
D.C. 10.6% 13.8% 19.1%
United States 6.9% 14.2% 14.5%
*Source: U.S. Census Bureau

At first glance, it may appear that people are more likely to date and live with someone of another race than marry interracially. But we should also point out that interracial marriage is on the rise, around the country and in D.C., where 20 percent of people who got married between 2008 and 2010 married someone of another race. Compare that to the percentage of all married couples in D.C., 10.2 percent. So the unmarried, interracial couples living together in D.C. may just be newer pairs. More interracial cohabitating appears to be leading to more interracial marriage.

Aside from interracial marriage, the census data also showed that D.C. and Alexandria, Va. lead the nation’s large cities in the percentage of people living alone. In both cities, 44 percent of households consist of just one person. These individuals in D.C. are typically young and rich, and are the ones largely responsible for the District’s growing population.

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In Your Words: Who Are The Native Washingtonians? http://dcentric.wamu.org/2012/04/in-your-words-who-are-the-native-washingtonians/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2012/04/in-your-words-who-are-the-native-washingtonians/#comments Tue, 03 Apr 2012 16:34:43 +0000 Elahe Izadi http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=15144 Continue reading ]]>

Mad African!: (Broken Sword) / Flickr

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:

@ @ Born and raised in Silver Spring, and always considered myself a "Washingtonian." Was this wrong?
Cheryl Thompson

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.”

To that, Clinton Yates tweeted that “there was a time when native/non-native status was not a thing,” and that things changed, to an extent, when ”newcomers chose to self-identify so loudly.”

And then, of course, there were those readers who bucked against the idea that being a “native Washingtonian” should carry any weight at all:

http://t.co/Jiu02aXN "'Native Washingtonian' carries plenty of clout in this transient city." It shouldn't. newcomers should push back
Boo, people who announce that they're native Washingtonians at political forums, booo http://t.co/ENOfOuC6
DC Porcupine

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?


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Who Can Claim ‘Native Washingtonian’ Status? http://dcentric.wamu.org/2012/03/who-can-claim-native-washingtonian-status/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2012/03/who-can-claim-native-washingtonian-status/#comments Fri, 30 Mar 2012 19:16:20 +0000 Elahe Izadi http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=15070 Continue reading ]]>

Mr. T in DC / Flickr

A D.C. flag painted on a planter on gentrified H Street NE.

Most newcomers to D.C. hail from from far-away places, not nearby suburbs, according to newly-released census estimates. More than double the number of people who moved into D.C. from Maryland and Virginia came from outside the region, such as New York and California.

While the nation has seen its population increase because of the rise of racial minorities, D.C.’s population has grown because of whites moving into the city. At the same time, the District’s black community has shrunk. And those leaving D.C. mostly move to places like Maryland’s Prince George’s and Montgomery counties, according to the census estimates.

All of these numbers makes me wonder about what it means to be a “native Washingtonian.” It’s a term that carries plenty of clout in this transient city, and especially in light of gentrification, it’s become code for “non-gentrifier.” But as the city swells with folks who hail from so far away, could local newcomers claim some of that clout, too? Take me, for example: I was born in D.C. and grew up in Maryland. I moved into the District a few years ago, but D.C. news, arts and politics have been a big part of my adult life. At the same time, I acknowledge that my childhood was marked more by rolling, rural hills than by city streets. Am I no different than someone who moved from, say, the Midwest?

Anyway, check out the full list of places from where D.C. newcomers hail and click through our map of movement throughout the D.C. region:

Movement Patterns In The D.C.-Area

*Map and list courtesy of Brendan Sweeney/The Kojo Nnamdi Show. Source: American Community Survey.
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Why Retirement is Tougher for Blacks, Latinos http://dcentric.wamu.org/2012/02/why-retirement-is-tougher-for-blacks-latinos/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2012/02/why-retirement-is-tougher-for-blacks-latinos/#comments Wed, 22 Feb 2012 19:19:11 +0000 Elahe Izadi http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=14263 Continue reading ]]>

Mario Tama / Getty Images

Senior citizens attend a meeting with their senator about Social Security at the Isabella Geriatric Center in New York City. Black seniors, on average, rely more heavily on Social Security than whites.

Unemployment rates are higher for blacks and Latinos than for whites, but there’s another disparity at the end of the career spectrum: retirement. Black and Latino retirees have a tougher time financially than their white counterparts, according to a new University of California, Berkeley study [PDF]. Below are three reasons why:

Poverty is higher among black and Latino seniors than white seniors.

The poverty rate among all seniors is about 9 percent. For white seniors, it’s 7 percent, while for black and Latino seniors, it’s 19 percent. People of color over 60 years old are more likely to live in poverty because they rely on fewer sources of retirement income than white seniors, according to the study’s authors.

Black and Latino retirees are less likely to have a workplace retirement plan.

There’s a few reasons behind this. For one, whites are more likely to work at places offering retirement plans, such as 401(k)s: nearly 69 percent of white adult workers’ employers offer plans, compared to almost 62 percent of black workers and 43 percent of Latino workers.

But just because an employer offers a plan doesn’t mean a worker will sign up for it. Most plans are voluntary and not all workers (such as part-timers) qualify. About 55 percent of adult white workers participate in an employer-sponsored plan, while 48 of black workers participate and only 32 percent of Latino workers are signed up.

Black and Latino retirees rely more heavily on Social Security than whites, even though whites get more in benefits.

White seniors are more likely to live in families receiving Social Security benefits than racial minorities, and whites get more in benefits. Blacks and Latinos who receive Social Security checks get 26 percent less in average annual benefits than white seniors because of lower lifetime earnings. But racial minorities rely more heavily on such benefits for retirement income: more than 30 percent of black seniors and 26 percent of Latino seniors count on Social Security for almost all income, compared to 22 percent of whites seniors.


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Interracial Marriage Rises to All-Time High http://dcentric.wamu.org/2012/02/interracial-marriage-rises-to-all-time-high/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2012/02/interracial-marriage-rises-to-all-time-high/#comments Thu, 16 Feb 2012 19:27:27 +0000 Elahe Izadi http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=14170 Continue reading ]]>

K's GLIMPSES / Flickr

White and Asian couples are the most common pairing of interracial marriages in D.C.

The share of marriages that were interracial reached an all-time high in 2010. A Pew Research Center study released Thursday found that 8.4 percent of married couples were interracial or inter-ethnic, a record number, and 15.1 percent of people who got married in 2010 did so across racial lines.

But the trends aren’t the same for every racial group. Whites were the least likely to marry someone of another race in 2010, while Asians were the most likely to.

The Pew study also found that more than four-in-10 Americans say the rise in interracial marriages has been a good change in society. We’ve previously explored how tolerant D.C. is of interracial couples, and a number of you shared your experiences, both positive and negative. Almost 20 percent of new marriages from 2008 to 2010 in D.C. were interracial. White-black couples are the least prevalent of interracial marriages in D.C., while the District ranks as the “state” with the second highest percentage of white-Asian marriages  (Hawaii ranks first).

Here’s the breakdown for D.C.’s newly-wed couples between 2008 and 2010:

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In Your Words: Black or African American? http://dcentric.wamu.org/2012/02/in-your-words-black-or-african-american/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2012/02/in-your-words-black-or-african-american/#comments Tue, 14 Feb 2012 17:47:29 +0000 Elahe Izadi http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=14072 Continue reading ]]>

Leo Reynolds / Flickr

Last week we wrote about the ongoing debate over whether “black” or “African American” is the preferred term among black Americans born in the United States. A 2011 The Wall Street Journal/NBC poll showed that 42 percent of respondents preferred to be called black, compared to 35 percent who went by African American and 13 percent who said it didn’t matter.

We noted some complexities within this debate — what about African immigrants, non-black Africans and second-generation Americans with roots in Africa? A number of you with similar backgrounds chimed in to offer thoughts on what you preferred to be called, and how you’ve navigated racial identity in America.

Commenter Frenchie wrote she prefers to be called “Haitian-American:”

I prefer not to be called African-American because it doesn’t  correctly encompass my history or background. Additionally, there  continue to be tensions between “member of the African diaspora, “exotic” blacks  and African-Americans  “regular” blacks. That often painful and tense history continues to prevent black immigrants from feeling as if African-American can ever be an all-inclusive term and, thus, makes “black” our default.

Some readers were unsure of what to call themselves, such as commenter Cia0912:

My parents were born in the Caribbean islands.  (Their origins stem from Jamaica and Cuba).  I was born in England.  But because I lived in US, I was called African-American.  Really!!  Seriously!!  Now I live in the Middle East.  I wonder what I am called now.
Reader kgc31 also faces challenges in how to self-identify. Her husband’s family is Jamaican, while hers is Egyptian. “My parents were actually born on African soil,” she notes, but her husband is considered African American and she isn’t. “It’s just to complicated,” she writes.

Commenter Elijah405 noted that the origin of all black people traces back to Africa, a result of the slave trade. This painful history makes debates over racial identity “a hard conversation:”

Most of us don’t feel ties enough to Africa to be referred to as African American. But then again, do a lot of  ’white’ people go around identifying themselves as Australian American or  European American? Africa is a huge continent, who knows what country in Africa I’m from? I sure don’t! You see, this can get real muddled.

Another commenter noted the debate is “purely an American phenomenon:”

How is a person of Haitian or Carribean descent (who lives in the United States) served by “African American”?  Why are they accurately described by their ethnic origin in other countries but flattened into “African American” in the U.S. by virtue of skin color only?  It seem offensive and reflexive.

While some wrote they didn’t mind going by either term, a few people said that “African American” sounds too politically correct, such as Bakari Kamau:
Just call me Black. “African American” strikes me as guilty white-people talk. We can dice up ethnicity and heritage over a long conversation, but I like to make it easy.


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Black or African American? http://dcentric.wamu.org/2012/02/black-or-african-american/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2012/02/black-or-african-american/#comments Fri, 10 Feb 2012 13:00:09 +0000 Elahe Izadi http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=14036 Continue reading ]]>

Paul J. Richards / AFP/Getty Images

The 2010 Census form had one option for "black, African American or Negro."

What do you say: “black” or “African American?” As someone who regularly writes about race and demographics, I often find myself using both terms interchangeably. But there is no clear on consensus on which term is most accurate or preferred, as Associated Press reporter Jesse Washington writes in a story this week on the debate.

Washington notes that the term “African American,” which came from the black intelligentsia, became popularized after the Rev. Jesse Jackson used it in the 1980s. Jackson told reporters at the time: “Every ethnic group in this country has a reference to some land base, some historical, cultural base. African-Americans have hit that level of cultural maturity.”

But not everyone today prefers to be called African American. According to a January 2011 The Wall Street Journal/NBC poll [PDF], 42 percent of respondents said they preferred to be called black, compared to 35 percent who preferred African American (13 percent said it didn’t matter). From Washington’s story:

“I prefer to be called black,” said Shawn Smith, an accountant from Houston. “How I really feel is, I’m American.”

“I don’t like African-American. It denotes something else to me than who I am,” said Smith, whose parents are from Mississippi and North Carolina. “I can’t recall any of them telling me anything about Africa. They told me a whole lot about where they grew up in Macomb County and Shelby, N.C.”

Gibré George, an entrepreneur from Miami, started a Facebook page called “Don’t Call Me African-American” on a whim. It now has about 300 “likes.”

“We respect our African heritage, but that term is not really us,” George said. “We’re several generations down the line. If anyone were to ship us back to Africa, we’d be like fish out of water.”

“It just doesn’t sit well with a younger generation of black people,” continued George, who is 38. “Africa was a long time ago. Are we always going to be tethered to Africa? Spiritually I’m American. When the war starts, I’m fighting for America.”

There are complexities beyond those who don’t feel a connection to Africa. As Washington notes, there are white people from Africa. I have Egyptian-American friends who find themselves torn when having to identify official forms as either “Caucasian” (which they feel is inaccurate) or “African American.” Black Latinos, who make up 10 percent of D.C.’s Latino population, face having to identify with one group over the other. D.C., which is home to 18,000 black immigrants from African and Caribbean countries, has one of the largest expatriate Ethiopian communities in the world. There have been tensions between the African immigrant community and D.C.’s “other” black community. So is lumping everyone together as African Americans the best way to describe a community? Is using “black” fraught with other kinds of pitfalls? What’s your take?

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Mapping Local Poverty Trends Over Time http://dcentric.wamu.org/2012/02/mapping-local-poverty-trends-over-time/ http://dcentric.wamu.org/2012/02/mapping-local-poverty-trends-over-time/#comments Tue, 07 Feb 2012 19:28:38 +0000 Elahe Izadi http://dcentric.wamu.org/?p=14003 Continue reading ]]> Most of the D.C.-metro area’s poor live in the suburbs, but the city is home to nearly all of the region’s “dangerously high-poverty” neighborhoods. That’s according to the Urban Institute, which developed this interactive map (seen below) showing concentrations of poverty by race throughout the region. Neighborhoods where poverty rates are 30 percent or higher are considered “high-poverty.”

Poor whites and Latinos are more likely to live in the D.C.’s suburbs than poor blacks. The researchers note:

High-poverty neighborhoods — like those east of the Anacostia River in DC — didn’t occur “naturally” nor do they reflect the “choices” of poor families about where to live. Instead, these places represent the legacy of decades of racial discrimination, legally sanctioned segregation, and public housing policies. And our map shows just how stubborn this legacy is; despite dramatic demographic and economic changes sweeping the Washington region over the past two decades, poor Black families have remained highly concentrated in DC neighborhoods east of the Anacostia River.

You can zoom in to see poverty in the region or in the city, and use the slider to see how it changes over time:


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