Racial Divide


Johanna’s Response to DCentric Commenters

Flickr: Kevin H.

Eastern Market, Ward 6.

Remember how I pointed you to a blog I was excited about, “Sociology in My Neighborhood: DC Ward Six“? I didn’t think I could get more excited about a hyper-local site exploring issues like race and class, but I was wrong; I am more excited. Blogger and GMU Sociology Professor Johanna noticed my post, read the comments to it and then was gracious enough to respond to them with a whole new post!

On DCentric, one commenter wrote, “This reporting seems biased. There are a large number of whites moving into mostly black neighborhoods here in DC. I think its more class than race in most cases. People who are educated and can afford it will move to be around other educated neighborhoods. If that excludes blacks, then whose fault is that?”

Great comment. The study I cited tested for class-based reasons and racist reasons and found that, even when the neighborhood described to the survey respondents (all whites) had all the qualities desired by middle-class people (high-quality schools, increasing property values, and a low crime rate, as well as a location near work), whites still stated that they would not buy a house in the neighborhood if there were more than 15% blacks. When thinking about potential black neighbors, race still mattered significantly no matter the class characteristics of the neighborhood.

Go here to read the entire thing.

Reversing Rhee’s Direction on Hardy Middle School

Flickr: Steve Hutchinson

Now reading: “Hardy Middle School principal is reassigned” by Bill Turque at the Washington Post. It struck me as I was reading it that while this is merely a “news” article that most of us will skim through as we go about our day, for the mostly African-American kids who trudged through “more than a year of turmoil at one of the city’s few academically successful public middle schools”, this could be awful– with far-reaching consequences.

I went to Catholic school for most of my life, and once, in 7th grade, I asked a question in Math class that annoyed my teacher so much, she literally threw the book at me–as in, she hurled the textbook she had been consulting at my head. She had horrible aim, so I was fine, but I will never forget how embarrassing that moment was, and how everyone in my class reacted. I have always thought that the reason why I hate and am awful at math (after excelling at it, as a child) was because of the shame and memory of that outlandish and anomalous experience. This affects me to this day, even as I’m writing for you on DCentric– I tense up when I come across statistic-filled reports from think tanks or articles dense with numbers. Nearly 24 years after an awful middle school experience, what happened to me as a pre-teen makes me, in a very real way, less capable as an adult. Who knows how Hardy Middle School students have been impacted, and how a year of “turmoil” will affect their futures?

Interim D.C. Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson announced Wednesday that she has reassigned the new principal of Hardy Middle School, acknowledging that poor decisions by the District had contributed to more than a year of turmoil at one of the city’s few academically successful public middle schools.

In a take-home letter distributed to students at dismissal, Henderson said Dana Nerenberg will return full time to Hyde-Addison Elementary, where she also serves as principal. The move rolls back one of Michelle A. Rhee’s most bitterly disputed decisions as chancellor, to replace veteran Hardy principal Patrick Pope in December 2009

The transition to new leadership has left the Hardy community badly fractured. Some returning parents said the school environment had deteriorated, with increases in fights, tardiness and disrespectful behavior toward staff…

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Now Reading: Sociology in My Neighborhood

Flickr: M.V. Jantzen

Construction in NoMA, which is being transformed by gentrification.

Excuse me, while I nerd out to an exciting new blog– Sociology in My Neighborhood: DC Ward Six. Penned (typed?) by a Professor of Sociology at George Mason University, the site explores the same issues DCentric does, albeit on a hyperlocal level. Here’s part of a post about whether segregation is caused by racism:

Generally, sociologists study whether people are segregated because of personal choice, economic reasons, or racial discrimination. Economic factors are definitely a big reason, especially when we look at housing costs, but racial discrimination still exists. Let’s take a look at sociologists Michael O. Emerson, Karen J. Chai, and George Yancey’s “Does Race Matter in Residential Segregation? Exploring the Preferences of White Americans.”…

Controlling for all sorts of variables, Emerson and his colleagues found that whites are neutral about the likelihood of buying the house if the neighborhood is 10-15% black. Above 15% black, whites say that they would not likely buy the house. They write, “Our findings suggest a low probability of whites moving to neighborhoods with anything but a token black population, even after controlling for the reasons they typically give for avoiding residing with African Americans.” The reasons that whites typically give are crime and declining property values. So, even when the neighborhood offered has little crime and good property values, whites still choose not to live in those with 15% or more black residents.

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About George Washington’s Teeth…

Flickr: wally g

The next time I pass this statue on H street, all I will think of is, "His teeth"!

Now reading about the man my Alma mater is named for…and his disturbing dental work, via Jamelle Bouie over at TAPPED:

Indeed, we laud George Washington and Thomas Jefferson for their private opposition to slavery, but they never challenged the system and took advantage of its benefits when it suited them…As for Washington? This anecdote stands out:

In 1784, five years before he became president of the United States, George Washington, 52, was nearly toothless. So he hired a dentist to transplant nine teeth into his jaw–having extracted them from the mouths of his slaves.

This is not to condemn the Founders are horrible, terrible human beings but to situate them as men of their time, filled with the prejudices of their class, and unwilling — or unable — to transcend them. If we’re out to respect the Founding Fathers, then we should acknowledge their flaws and try to remember them as they lived, not as demigods in a morality play.

It’s a peculiar historical detail, but it’s so memorable that going forward, I will always think of it when I consider our first President.

There is no Georgetown conspiracy to keep out POCs.


M Street and Wisconsin Avenue, Georgetown.

Before moving to Columbia Heights, I lived in Georgetown, a neighborhood I have always loved without any embarrassment or hesitation. I can’t count how many times I was either teased or questioned about being a POC (Person of color) living in the one part of the city where “they don’t want minorities”; then I’d hear a familiar tale about “the only reason Georgetown isn’t on the Metro is to keep it white.” I’d sigh and explain that while that theory was popular, it was a myth; there were logistical issues behind the lack of trains in popped-collar-land. Besides, when I lived there, there were plenty of teenagers roaming M Street or Wisconsin Avenue– and they were minorities. So it’s not like the lack of a metro stop was a particularly effective strategy for keeping the chocolate away from the vanilla.

I see that the Georgetown Metropolitan is sick of that unnecessarily divisive and inaccurate explanation as well, since he tackled it admirably in his post, “All You Need to Know About the Georgetown Metro Stop“.

Why There is No Georgetown Metro

If you take anything away from this article, please let it be this: the reason there is no Metro station in Georgetown has absolutely nothing to do with neighborhood opposition. Nothing. No “rich Georgetowners wanted to keep out minorities”-conspiracy. No matter how much it fits with the popular stereotype, it’s just not true.

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Dog Poo and Racial Epithets, Oh My.


More pleasant than a broom, but that's just me

Well, THIS is an interesting feature on TBD– the “Neighbor Hall of Shame“. I’m extra interested in this story for a few reasons– I think D.C.’ers need to be more neighborly, it involves “shame” and it has to do with dog poo. As the proud caretaker of a poky little puppy, I deal with such foulness at least twice a day…but at least I dispose of it properly, unlike this Hill East resident:

Handley accuses a neighbor in the 1700 block of Massachusetts Ave. SE, directly across the rear alley from him, of regularly sweeping his dog’s feces out of his back yard and into the alley. “This is his standard practice and has been going on for years,” Handley says. “What he tends to do is sweep it out there, and then maybe later he’ll take a hose and flush it down the alley.” The situation gets even worse in the summer months, Handley says, when “you really smell it.”

It’s a mind-boggling neighborhood issue on number of levels. So many questions come to mind. Is it really more work to pick up the poop and dispose of it properly than it is to grab a broom and start sweeping? Does this guy use that broom inside his house?

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“Get used to things like racism, hot sauce.”


Local hot sauce-goodness from Uncle Brotha.

Now reading: “How to be Black“, from Thought Catalog (thanks, PostBourgie):

Really love or really hate Tyler Perry movies.

Get asked every summer if black people tan.

Get laughed at in elementary, junior, and high school by all your black friends because you “talk white.” Philosophize for years about what it means to “talk white.” Have an identity crisis. Go away to college or boarding school and have your new white friends swear up and down you’re nothing like the way black people are “supposed” to be. What happened to you?  Go home with your new white friends during holidays, play the role of Model Black.

Seamlessly slip in and out of Ebonics. Talk to your friends in one voice but as soon as a family member or another black calls, thass when you be done’ took the Ebonics out.

Get used to not seeing other black people on the covers of magazines, in any of the advertisements, or in any of the movies. Cringe when Your Local News shows racist images of black people, such as mug shots, jail shots, and videos of robberies. Get used to people assuming you like rap. Get used to things like racism, hot sauce.

What’s Needed: “a large attitude adjustment on both sides”

Flickr: Rhys

Shaw, D.C.

Yesterday, I wrote about caustic reactions to the news that more affordable housing is coming to Shaw. One of you left a comment in response to my post that deserves to be seen:

I think we are seeing here is the very real balkanization of urban society that stymies us. I commiserate with both sides, there needs to be affordable housing in the city, and yet it comes fraught with so many problems that makes it unpleasant for the neighbors.

I recently saw a project about The Frederick Douglass Dwellings in Anacostia, that was public housing built in the WWII boom. There were many two parent families and a community center in which the ladies who ran it really took an interest in their charges. They didn’t know they were “poor,” and there was a strong sense of community and family.

There are so many problems here: it’s true that many urban blacks that I have encountered blame their problems on the system, “the plan”, without seeking solutions, but I find this mimicked in modern society too, where many people blame “the media” without questioning their role in propagating a media more concerned with the upcoming royal nuptials than the minutae of the tax code. People do need to start taking responsibility for themselves, their knowledge base, their support of leadership, and their desires to meet and understand their neighbors. Start community watches. Volunteer with big brothers. Don’t accept or make excuses. There will need to be a large attitude adjustment on both sides for anything to change.

More on Brown-on-Black Racism

Flickr: Chaymation

My “DMV Masala“-post– which was about my interaction with an African-American cab driver who was interested in my ethnicity because her own niece was half-Indian– inspired four of you to comment! That’s no small feat here at DCentric, where I’m more likely to hear crickets than reader reactions– I kid, I kid. I hear silence, not bugs. Anyway, one comment from American RogueDC deserved to be highlighted:

I remember very well having my heart broken by a co-worker (an Indian woman) whom I thought was a friend. We had worked together for more than ten years. One day, while viewing some photographs she was sharing of her female relatives taken during her baby-shower (I in fact had just given her my gift for the baby), I said, “You should introduce me to some of your nieces.” Her reply was simple, “You are too dark!” Until that moment, my being an African-American man who is only slightly darker in skin tone than her had never “seemed” to be a problem.

How painful, to be so crudely and immediately rejected by a long-time friend. The first thing I wondered was whether the woman was first- or second-generation.

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The Tragedy of Tokenism

Flickr: Pixeloflight


Mike Riggs, one of my favorite reporters in D.C., wrote this amazing piece for the Daily Caller about Tokenism after reading a New York magazine profile of Marty Peretz, “editor of the New Republic and eater of his own foot”:

I have a soft spot for tokenism, which is what Peretz is invoking when he says he knows Muslims and black people. Not because I approve of it (I don’t), but because it took me a long time to figure out how tragic it is.

I was the first person in my family, which traces its southern lineage to the Civil War, to date someone who is not white. M had long, straight, jet-black hair, brown skin, curves, and she sometimes rolled her Rs. After she met my dad and stepmom, and nothing seemed amiss, I figured that my family cared more about culture than color.

In other words, It didn’t matter in the least that M was Peruvian because she acted like a South Florida WASP.

Then one day, while lying on my bed, M told me that she was Jewish.

I strongly encourage you to read the rest of the story; Mike describes what happened when M encountered his family and he met hers. Then, he signs off with this walloping paragraph:
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