Race and Class


Gentrification? Try Gentefication.

Leo Reynolds / Flickr

Gentrification, the "G" word, can be a very loaded term.

We write plenty about gentrification here on DCentric, which can be a very loaded word. But what about “gentefication?” According to our sister blog Multi-American, gentefication is “the process of upwardly mobile Latinos, typically second-generation and beyond, investing in and returning to the old neighborhood.” The “gente” comes from the Spanish word for “people.”

Gentefication is being used to describe what’s happening in L.A.’s Boyle Heights neighborhood, where Latino investors are developing low-income areas, with businesses attracting second-generation and English-speaking crowds. Some low-income locals of Mexican descent are worried they’ll be displaced by all of this development, even if the business owners are Latino, too.

In D.C., gentrification has taken hold in working class black and Latino neighborhoods, and most of D.C.’s well-to-do newcomers are white; in a city that’s mostly black, 60 percent of households making more than $75,000 are white, according to census data. Therefore the word “gentrification” in D.C. tends to imply neighborhood changes have to do with class and race.

But gentrification, even in the District, isn’t always about race. Take Anacostia, where the gentrification that’s starting to occur is class-based; professional African Americans are settling in the predominately black, low-income area. And just as in L.A.’s Boyle Heights, some of these newcomers have roots in the city and are returning to the places they grew up. So is gentrification the best way to describe what’s happening in Anacostia, or do we need a new word, too?

How D.C. Changed in 2011

Elvert Barnes / Flickr

A diverse group of people ride up and down escalators at DC USA in Columbia Heights. D.C. experienced dramatic demographic changes in 2011.

The year is nearly coming to a close, so we thought we’d take a look back to see just how much D.C. changed in 2011.  Here’s our list, and feel free to contribute more in the comments section:

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Three Reasons to Use Phones to Reduce the Digital Divide

By A.C. Valdez

alachia / Flickr

There have been a number of ideas on how to reduce the digital divide, or the disparity in access to technology and the Internet among people of different races and income levels. One strategy: make high-speed Internet cheaper for low-income families, which major cables companies will start doing next summer. But will that tactic actually get more people connected? Maybe not. Here are three reasons why improving mobile broadband access, not cable Internet, might be more effective:

People of color don’t use computers as much as whites do.

But that doesn’t mean, particularly for those who are low-income, they aren’t getting online. African Americans and Hispanics are far outpacing whites in accessing the Internet through mobile devices; nationally, 58 percent of African Americans and 53 percent of Hispanics use mobile broadband, compared to 33 percent of whites, according to the Hispanic Institute.

Those trends hold true locally, too: in a 2010 Public Media Corps survey (which I helped conduct), we found that about 71 percent of blacks and 76 percent of Hispanics in some of D.C.’s poorest wards connect to the Internet using their phones. Meanwhile, about 58 percent of whites in those communities used their phones, while 79 percent used computers.

It’s the money, stupid.

“If you have a low income, you just don’t subscribe,” said John Dunbar, who authored a study examining D.C.’s high-speed adoption rates.

Phones are cheaper than computers, and they’re already in people’s hands. Without government or nonprofit help, pay-as-you-go phone plans may offer convenient payment schemes for people worried about making timely monthly payments on stretched budgets.

Language barriers and dealing with cable companies.

Dealing with a cable company over the phone can be a headache —especially when your first language isn’t English. There are more mobile companies with sales and service locations scattered throughout the city than there are major cable providers.  Dunbar found that, even when adjusted for income, Hispanics in the D.C. region are less likely to use high-speed Internet. That may be due to poor marketing to non-English speakers.


Achievement Gap Wider By Income Than By Race

Tom Woodward / Flickr

The academic achievement gap between low income and wealthy students is nearly double the gap in achievement between white and black students, a new study finds.

Standford University professor Sean Reardon compared average standardized test performances of students at the bottom of the income ladder to those at the top, and found the gap in achievement was nearly double the difference between black and white students.

About 50 years ago, the gap between white and black students’ performances was nearly double the income achievement gap, reports EdSource Extra:

Occupy Movement and Race

Nicholas Kamm / AFP/Getty Images

Occupy DC protestors march to the Key Bridge in Washington, D.C. on Nov. 17 during a day of protests in a show of force by the Occupy Wall Street movement.

By Bridget Todd

Originally posted on Racialicious, republished with permission.

People often tell me that I don’t look like your average Occupy protestor. I was initially drawn to the Occupy movement for several reasons. As an educator, anything that gets young people paying attention to the world around them is something that I feel the need to support. As an activist and organizer, I generally believe in the need for all citizens to engage in this kind of political discourse. As a black woman, I feel any conversation about economic inequality is incomplete if it doesn’t also address racial inequality as well. The various occupations across the country present spaces for such conversations to take place. I’ve found plenty of reasons to support the Occupy movement, but does the movement support me?

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Digital Divide: Cable Providers Discounting Broadband for Poor Families

Adikos / Flickr

Starting next summer, the nation’s major cable companies will offer broadband Internet at a discount price to certain low-income families. The service, part of a Federal Communications Commission initiative, will cost $9.95 a month for two years, The Chicago Tribune reports. The rate is available to families with children who qualify for free lunches, meaning households with yearly incomes of $29,055 or less.

Lowering the cost of broadband as a way of reducing the digital divide could be particularly effective in a city like D.C. where most communities have access to the cables required for high-speed Internet. D.C.’s digital divide “absolutely has to do with wealth,” says John Dunbar, who authored a study examining D.C.’s high-speed adoption rates. “If you have a low income, you just don’t subscribe.”

The D.C. region’s digital divide also breaks down along racial lines. Even when adjusted for income, Latinos in the area are less likely to subscribe to high-speed Internet than whites or African Americans. The reason isn’t entirely clear — it may be due to disparities in education or poor marketing to Latinos, Dunbar says.

An even more obvious reason lower-income families aren’t signing up for high-speed internet? Not having a computer. The FCC is trying to tackle the issue by getting companies such as Microsoft to sell computers for $250 or less. But whether such efforts will be enough to reduce the digital divide is yet to be seen.

Pat Buchanan on How to Lower Black Unemployment

Brendan Smialowski / Getty Images

Political commentator and former presidential adviser Pat Buchanan.

Conservative political commentator Pat Buchanan discussed his views on how diversity harms America this morning on WAMU 88.5′s “The Diane Rehm Show.” After the show we caught up with Buchanan, who is a native Washingtonian, and asked how he proposes addressing D.C.’s wealth disparities that break down along racial lines.

Buchanan said that D.C. is one of the wealthiest places in America, in part because of federal government jobs. “D.C. has problems, but I don’t think D.C., with its unemployment rate and things like that, is hurting as bad as some of the other cities and states around the country,” he said.

D.C.’s unemployment rate is 11.1 percent, which is higher than the national rate of 9.1 percent, but still lower than some of the hardest-hit states, such as Nevada. The District is also home to extreme poverty. Some nearly all-black wards of the city face Depression-era unemployment levels. Buchanan suggested a solution to the disproportionately high national unemployment rate among African Americans, now at 16 percent:

“One thing I would do is stop immigration into the country until all unemployment is down to 6 percent,” he said. “We’ve got to start putting our own people first.”

The notion that immigrants take jobs from out-of-work African Americans is the subject of recent debates in D.C. where 13 percent of the population is foreign born. Critics have raised the issue in response to Mayor Vincent Gray’s signing last week of an executive order that prevents police officers from inquiring about the immigration status of those arrested. Leo Alexander, 2010 mayoral candidate, told the Washington Examiner that Gray was “blowing the opportunity to make sure undereducated populations have jobs.”

Overall, Buchanan said “a lot of these things demand national solutions rather than local ones.”

‘Occupy the Hood’ and How to Boost Protest Diversity

Dan Patterson / Flickr

A protestor holds an "Occupy the Hood' sign in New York City.

The Occupy protests against corporate greed have brought together a broad coalition of people, but there have been questions about whether the crowds assembled are racially representative.

Enter Occupy the Hood, a sub-movement that started in New York and Detroit and is now spreading to other cities, including D.C. The goal is to get more people of color involved in Occupy protests and ensure their voices are heard. Friends Julian Liser, 21, and Drew Franklin, 24, started the D.C. branch last week. They say the protests in D.C., where 61 percent of the population is non-white, should be attracting more people of color, particularly from economically depressed communities since they are hardest-hit by the economic woes at the center of the movement.

“It’s important that minorities are also aware of what’s going on, and they should also feel this movement is important for them, too,” Liser, who is black, says. “It’s kind of hard to explain that to them because they just see people around K Street protesting something. They don’t see how it affects them.”

Liser’s story is similar to many of the white protestors on K Street. He’s unemployed and was motivated to join Occupy DC after learning about the new Bank of America debit card fees. Such fees are “killing my account,” Liser says.

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Occupy Protests: Are They Representative?

Andrew Bossi / Flick

A protest sign during the first day of Occupy DC.

The Occupy Wall Street protests have spread to other cities, including the District. Protesters are are calling for an end to corporate greed and proclaiming the vast majority of Americans suffer while the rich haven’t.

More than a hundred people gathered at Freedom Plaza on Thursday, some wielding signs with statement like “We are the 99%.”

It would make sense that such a movement would have particular relevance for communities of color, who are facing higher unemployment rates and are largely on the losing side of the wealth gap. So some have wondered why the crowds in some cities have been mostly white.

Racialicious compiled a number of dispatches from activist reporting many people of color are absent from leadership positions or feel marginalized at the New York protests. Such rumblings helped spur the formation of “The People of Color Working Group,” which issued a statement:

… The economic crisis did not begin with the collapse of the Lehman Brothers in 2008. Indeed, people of color and poor people have been in a state of crisis since the founding of this country, and for indigenous communities, since before the founding of the nation. We have long known that capitalism serves only the interests of a tiny, mostly white, minority.

The vast majority of the crowd at Occupy DC’s Thursday protest was white, but a number of people of color said they felt speakers’ messages and the crowd assembled was representative of those who are suffering.

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Battling Unemployment Among D.C.’s Low-Income, Black Youth

Many of D.C.’s young people who live way below the poverty line, aren’t in school or looking for work are black, a new report finds.

Researchers at The Brookings Institution examined these disparities in an effort to propose some solutions. About 28,000 D.C. residents aged 16 to 24 lack a bachelor’s degree and live 200 percent below the poverty line. And 22,000 of those young people are black.

Low-income D.C. black youth lacking bachelor’s degrees

The Brookings folks propose a few solutions, and among them is abandoning the “college for all approach.” But, as they note, there is a history of discrimination when it comes to who has been deemed worthy of higher education (emphasis mine):

Integrating employment and occupational skills into the high school and post-secondary curricula is often disparaged, with career and technical education (previously known as vocational education) seen as a dumping ground for students not deemed “college-ready.” The legacy of tracking, segregation, and discrimination in the educational system certainly provides support for that view— education can be a vehicle for upward mobility but it can also perpetuate inequality based on race and class.

Here are a few more recommendations in the report:

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