Ever since Newt Gingrich bailed out Washington, DC in the mid 1990's, it is par for course for city councilmembers to place blame on congressional Republicans for the city’s woes. The optics of southern white congressmen deciding city matters harkened back to the pre-1973 era in the minds of older Washingtonians, when an unelected Board of Commissioners ruled the city with Dixiecrat fists. This sentiment covers all parts of the city, black, white and wonderfully integrated.
But the true red meat comes from Ward 8, commonly known as “Anacostia”. This district was once a proud, southern-tinged white working class community. Since the 1980’s, though, it’s been the dangerous neighborhood President Trump warned you about. In councilman Trayon White's words, he described the drugs and violence that surrounded his childhood. You haven’t heard this story in the national news. These are Forgotten Americans; predominately African-Americans. The average income in Ward 8 is half the city’s average. Unemployment and absentee fathers, early death and the other symptoms of poverty lurk in Anacostia.
"Improvement is around the corner": Home prices are buoyed by hopes of a turnaround. Houses sell for $250,000; technically unaffordable for the average neighborhood resident. In essence, prospect of gentrification adds insult to the decades-long injury in Anacostia for those residents who don't own their home.
Desperation breeds anger. Recently, Councilman White insisted that the Rothschilds control the weather, and are coming to gentrify. Taken by many as an anti-Semitic remark, Mr. White atoned for this statement at the city’s Holocaust Museum. As shocking as these comments are to the average person, Mr. White is well-regarded in his community for being upfront.
I am a fan of Greater Greater Washington, a civic blog that appeals to the "SWPL" demographic, named for the yuppie website. Commentators, many progressives among them, make important talk of food deserts and educational equality. Yet they are grasping at straws on other topics, such as gentrification. Some unintentionally suggested denying community improvements, in an attempt to “keep neighborhoods affordable”. So as a fact, Mr. White is more of an authority on urban poverty than yuppie bloggers, even if his speech is not polished, eloquent, and politically correct.
Mr. White’s predecessor, former mayor Marion Barry, happened to quipped about Asian-American shopkeepers peddling unhealthy food while draining the community of its money. The sitting Mayor naturally condemned the statement, but the rhetoric coming from Ward 8 lends a cue to residents' frustration. Small-town and rural whites may be concerned about jobs and gun rights, but low-income African-Americans fear for their homes and their communities too. Anxiety sounds the same in any community.