once known as chocolate city, dc is losing its black majority. the 2010 census reveals the number of blacks plummeted by more than 11 percent in the past ten years, entrenching black marginalization in a city with burgeoning income and wealth inequalities.
according to data reported in today’s washington post , “the black population dropped by more than 39,000 over the [past] decade…at the same time, the non-Hispanic white population skyrocketed by more than 50,000.”
these declining numbers are not accidental, as urban decay purposely transforms into urban renewal–a cycle witnessed before by our elders, orchestrated by city planners, and funded by corporate and government dollars. today, black natives are trapped in the racial ebb and flow of an urban environment in a post-industrial society. working class jobs that pay a living wage are relatively non-existent and a one bedroom roach motel runs about $800 per month.
as a people, our lack of economic, political, and educational power leaves us vulnerable to bureaucratic policies aimed at benefiting the status quo. the fact that we too can patronize the new coffee shops, yoga classes, and bike trails is incidental–a manifestation of derrick bell’s interest convergence principle. collectively, our conditions only get “better” when it also benefits whites. to make matters worse, only certain blacks are privy to gentrification’s spoils. by and large, only those who are college-educated (read most prone to assimilation) have enough resources to remain in the city.
this morning, i stopped in a coffee shop in bloomingdale, a gentrified neighborhood in nw dc, to pick up a copy of the post and grab breakfast. the cashier pointed to the picture on the front page that accompanied the gentrification story. “that’s us. they took that picture at big bear cafe.” when i told him i’d heard the story on npr, he replied “yeah its a really big deal.” i looked at him. white, slim, rugged beard, wearing toms, probably vegan, and before i could pass judgment it hit me that i too was standing (literally) in the middle of gentrification.
check out purple rain in a drought for more thoughts on gentrification in dc.