Sunday, April 29, 2018

Can't You Hear a Poor Man's Cry?

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.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

My take on a quarter century

If you were born in the 1990s, when America stood alone as a world power, you came to believe anything was possible. 25 years going, the world has had a remarkable run.
Consumer technology advanced by leaps and bounds. The internet used to be tied to large, beige desktop computers. Now it is almost everywhere on laptops and cellphones. Patience was a virtue without Uber. We’re finally getting our self-driving cars. Fashion has changed, too. Large glasses and big sweaters are out. The religious right used to be an influence on national politics. Cigarettes went out of style, so did smoking areas inside restaurants and offices. Trump’s grim view of the inner city used to be the norm; many cities have rebounded. Borders care down between countries, especially in Europe and Asia, allowing more visa-free travel. While the post-Soviet 1990s were seen as an era of peace, there seems to be less genocide and low-level war is underdeveloped countries. One example is Djibouti, where I am writing from today.