Thursday, May 12, 2005

The Souls of Black Folk

The racial situation here in DC is an odd thing. It's not exactly like Detroit, though both are quite segregated. In the D, whites are sprawled about the metro area where the jobs are. The city is mostly black and the suburbs are mostly white, by far (and the farther out you get, the truer it is). Whites don't have much need to go into Detroit, so they don't. However, in DC EVERYONE comes into the city every weekday; ALL the jobs are in DC. The city is no less segregated, though, as census information indicates. Black and white work side-by-side, but the DC twist is that blacks are largely in unskilled and low-level positions. Basically, whites are in jobs that require college or advanced degrees; blacks are in those that don't. This is a generalization, but based on my observations, a legitimate conclusion to draw. Look at this map and think about the above again.

Look again at the map and see how the NW part of DC is so white. Georgetown is at the western extreme of the city -- the older city that was here before George W. laid out his idea for the nation's capital. As I mentioned, Georgetown is very upscale and was probably always white. The last 10 years, though, a wave of gentrification has been bleaching the city, block by block, from west to east. I wonder if, in two decades, we will have a white urban core and a black set of suburbs. In the area I work, west of the new convention center, there are several condo buildings going up, starting in the 300s. While I look forward to the reintroduction of residential activity to the area, how is this supposed to address the clear equity problem? It seems to me there is a structural education problem -- primary and secondary schools need to be getting their black (and Latino and Chinese, etc.) students into 2-year and 4-year colleges, and those colleges need to be partnering with the federal government to diversify the skilled positions in DC. Or maybe DC already has a sizable black middle class and they just live out in suburbs like the white middle class.

Either way, I've got to walk 10 blocks or more from work to get a good cup of coffee from a place that isn't Starbucks or Cosi. In fact, there's a coffee shop closer to my apartment (a Starbucks) just inside the sprawlway than there is to my office in the middle of downtown DC (the Cosi). What gives?

4 Comments:

Blogger accidentalactivist said...

Of course not ALL the jobs are in DC -- the federal government has been sprawling jobs out for years. However, it does not change the point that DC is still a center, in contrast to the D.

1:18 PM  
Blogger PB said...

Hey Dale,

When I lived in DC for a couple years, one of my favorite things to do was to take a walk on U Street. It begins in the Adams-Morgan neighborhood to the north of Dupont, and extends some three miles to the east, into areas torn by poverty and institutional decay. Its worth a walk, and goes by the best resturant in town (Ben's Chill Bowl).

Peter

7:56 PM  
Blogger Daniel Lobo said...

Nice blog, not too sure I agree with some of the detailed observations but well worth the read. I'll get to that if I have the time.
In Spanish but with solid regular DC features: Daquellamanera.com

12:08 PM  
Blogger accidentalactivist said...

Yeah, Peter -- somebody just yesterday said Ben's was the bomb, so I'll have to follow up. I was up on U street tonight, but I was annoyed in that I was looking for a bookstore and all it was was block after block of restaurants. Even when I found a bookstore, half of it was a restaurant (Kramerbooks). Maybe I'm never satisfied.

10:48 PM  

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