Thoughts From Reuben

“Like me, my buddy (also black) grew up in a different DC. Not to romanticize it, but it was a time of tucked in shirt tails, “good” grammar, and what seemed like a zillion parents. Those of us who remain in neighborhoods like Petworth and Brightwood see the opposite of all this. And like some of our newer white neighbors, we are sometimes derided for being who we are. I don’t want to speak for my friend, but it angers, hurts and bewilders us. We sometimes wonder if we have been evicted from “the race”-and that maybe the paperwork got lost in the mail.The class divisions in this town are rarely discussed. But they are as real as Red Line delays. When my family arrived here in 1958-we caught the tail end of a very hue-conscious black middle class community. Some of our neighbors were less than thrilled to have “dark” people like us around.

But now I wonder if we haven’t swung-as America seems to do with everything from food to car size- 360 degrees

in the other direction. The elementary school teachers ( for example) who frequently told us we were somebody, and who, yes, preferred European classical music to James Brown, would have a heck of a time in this educational environment. So would I.

So maybe this is just some of the aforementioned “generational you know what”… I am certainly not nostalgic for the old days. I guess I am, well, angry, hurt and baffled. It does make me wonder what in the heck I am still doing here. But that is another riff.”

56 Comment

  • Reuben speaks for all my elderly neighbors on my block. They mostly came after the whites-only neighborhood was desegregated in 1948, the wives of accountants, government clerks and medical assistants, later joined by other neighbors after the razing of Southwest in the 1950s, by the wives of government mechanics, pastors and grocery store managers. They tell me stories about the desegregation of DC that led to an unfortunate white flight, not in the 1950s like some suggested, but basically in Summer 1968 9 out of 10 white families moved out and either sold or rented their houses. about 15 years ago I visited a house in our neighborhood that was “closed” since 1971 and still had a rack of 1971 magazines on the bookshelf, as the white family pulled up shop, post-riot and moved to their mountain cabin full-time.

    But the grandmothers have a lot of pain about who they are as well. They tell stories about how the drugs ruined their kids in the 1970s and their grandkids got in trouble in the 1980s and their great-grandkids are the only generation that has any promise right now. They’ve told us, euphemistically, about what seems to be a massive trough in public behavior after the riots where the civil society (what they see built on the church, but I tend to disagree a little) dissolved in the haze of heroin first, then cocaine, then guns and always, always, the petty robbery and theft. At the same time they pity the gun-toting criminal on our block with three children by three different women. They talk about his “poor mother” who I know is aware that he is selling drugs and causing street fights. They won’t call the police on him, sometimes suggesting that I be the person who makes the call. They don’t want to call the police on any kid they saw grow up on our block. They gossip about that.

    I visited one woman’s house and she had, this is not a joke, 10 entire years of Ebony on her coffee table and end tables and pictures of JFK, RFK and MLK on her walls.

    Some were even too cautious to put out Obama signs, seriously, in DC. Think about ingrained racism there.

    But back to the kids and the schools. I met teachers in DCPS who scared me to my bones. They were the kids who got mixed up in disco drugs in 1977 and became teachers under Barry’s watch. They talked about Ward 1 as if it was the depths of the city, filled with poverty and drug dealing and no opportunities for the kids. I was in a classroom with professional, upper middle class parents and the teacher told us that some of the kids in the class went home to parents who sold drugs. We all looked at each other, the restaurant owners, the IT professionals, the writers and government managers and wondered, “what school is she talking about?” She went on throughout most of the year, repeating stories that reflected the DC of 1975- businesses closing, rampant drug use, slumlords, no job opportunities, no role models. And we lived in a neighborhood where the Target and DCUSA were opening, jobs were plentiful, opportunity was everywhere, buildings were condos, professional role models of all stripes were everywhere. For instance, what would anyone here think if they were asked last winter about the state of African-American male role models in the media? Adrian Fenty and Barack Obama, right? Oh no, this teacher lamented that the only time you saw a black man on TV was a rapper or someone going to jail. How could ANYONE miss Barack Obama?

    What got me was that she was “raising” or at least enforcing horrible, hopeless, negative stereotypes about society to our kids. By the end of the year, most of our friends had new schools in mind for their kids.

    I honestly believe that one of the biggest stumbling blocks to the neighborhood kids’ attitude is coming from the hopeless worldview of the DCPS teachers who fail to recognize that when someone pays $400k for a condo that means they’re no longer teaching in a lower/middle class community but a middle/upper class community. Two teachers we had last year refused to believe me when I talked about entrepreneurial opportunity in the neighborhood at an all-time high- it was so far outside their “I hate myself” philosophy that they could not acknowledge that gentrification is real and has changed the neighborhood for the kids. The kids are not growing up poor in a poor neighborhood with nothing, they’re growing up middle class in an emerging upper class community with opportunities everywhere.

  • That is a very interesting commentary, Neener. Thanks for sharing.

  • Agreed, interesting comments by both Reuben and Neener.

    Neener, I completely agree with how damaging it is for the community to miss the shining and unmistakable examples of African American success and agree that doing so perpetuates self-defeating behavior (drugs, dealing, violence, crime, irresponsible sexual behavior) that hurts everyone. But do you think that there is a preponderance of upward (or even level middle-class) mobility within the families that make up DCPS? I have no statistics either way, but I’m not sure if the kids are reacting to a backward-looking teacher, or the sad and again, often self-defeating, struggles of those with whom they study and live.

  • I echo Geezer’s response. Neener’s comments seem to imply that gentrification means that all boats rise with the tide. I would challenge that assumption. Having wealthier people move into a previosly depressed area doesn’t mean that the previous residents will automatically see their lot improved. It takes a more concerted effort.

  • I teach at a DC charter school – yesterday, I got suckerpunched as I was crossing the bridge to the metro. I can’t for the life of me figure out why, because the kid – a teenager – didn’t try to mug me or anything, just wanted to punch me. Unless he did it as a race thing, which I don’t want to believe, especially since on the flip side of that negative behavior, I have black male students of mine who are now encouraging each other to do their homework using Obama as an example, saying “we don’t have any excuses to be stupid, now.”

  • DCSands,
    You will be surprised at how racist some black people can be. You are quite lucky all he did was sucker punch you.
    The Obama effect will fade before the school year ends. You can’t fix the problems these kids face from the classroom or the white house.

  • DC Sands,

    That’s very disheartening and I appreciate your perspective and obvious commitment to a forming a better society. What a wonderful world it would be if parents of all races could describe what happened to you and effectively instruct their kids in words and deeds to NEVER treat anyone in such a manner. It is this, that which sadly does not exist in sufficient numbers, that would change this city and this world.

  • Great thoughts as awlays Rueben.

  • I have a story to tell that somewhat intersects with Reuben’s post. I went home (AL) for the holidays. A guy I know just recently got out of federal prison after serving 10 years. He was caught with 5lbs of marijuana. Sounds like a big time doper huh? Well check the numbers.

    He and a buddy (also sentenced to 15 years) went in together on 5lbs of weed. It cost them roughly $5K ($1K per pound). They were going to turn around and sell the weed in my hometown for ~$1600/lb. That amounts to a grand total profit of $3K (600x5lbs). 3K measly dollars! These guys never got to make the money as they were caught on the highway.

    I want these guys punished as I see the pain these guys cause by selling drugs on the street. On the other hand, I am not convinced that slapping long sentences on them will stop their behavior as long as the black market exists. Nor am I convinced that arresting them makes the community appreciably safer.

  • Nate did you see the minimum Plaxico Burris is loking at? 3.5 years.

  • But do you think that there is a preponderance of upward (or even level middle-class) mobility within the families that make up DCPS? I have no statistics either way, but I’m not sure if the kids are reacting to a backward-looking teacher, or the sad and again, often self-defeating, struggles of those with whom they study and live.
    All but three of my kid’s friends were pulled from that school, “pushed” by the teachers.

    1. the yuppies who bought houses in DC by virtue of age have young kids and aren’t in DCPS High Schools yet.
    2. the yuppies pulled their kids from that school, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy of low achievement. That first year last year there was a majority of upwardly mobile families in that DCPS classroom. After that experience we got into a Ward 3 school with several other friends from the neighborhood. So now our local school only features the kids whose parents couldn’t or didn’t get them into a Ward 3 DCPS or charter or private school.

    We wondered why the school had three Pre-K and Kindergarten classrooms, but only two 2nd grade classes- because a third of the kids would be gone by that grade.

    The truth of the matter was that we were turned off by the teachers’ attitudes about hope and new beginnings and felt they reflected at the latest, the crack war years, but more likely the culture of the 1970s. If the upwardly mobile parents pull their kids from that negative environment then DCPS never changes or rather it changes west of the park. At my son’s current school the teacher is excellent, like night and day from the old school.

  • oh, and among the yuppies, I count some families who drove in from Brookland and Anacostia who worked at Washington Hospital Center, very much long-time DC (and Southeast!) residents who got nursing or medical technician degrees. I know the nurse who worked herself out of the projects is a stereotype going back to Julia, but they exist and have money and live in DC and know what they want for their kids.

  • As white trash I’ve always been curious about the internal black racism in DC, where darker blacks are apparently looked down by lighter blacks. Is it really that prevalent still? Also, it reminds me of the white-on-white bigotry, whereby my people (Nords and Swedes) disliked the Poles and the Irish especially. And, we of course disliked anything Catholic. By ‘we’ I mean my forefathers and in particular one mean spirited old aunt.

  • Neener – I don’t have kids, so take what I say with a pinch of salt, but I would not want to leave my child in a school with low achievement for what ever reason for fear of lasting educational damage. There are times I have problems with school choice. does it not doom a school when the active parents pull their kids? On the otherhand, how many of your friends with kids would leave the city if they did not have choice? Seems the alternative is private schooling, not something most in our neck of the woods can affoard and would force many to leave the city for the burbs, where the schools systems are better.

  • Steve,
    I bet it won’t stop murders. They could give Plax 100 years. People are still going to kill people. Obviously, guns are not the problem. NYC has had this law on the books for a while now. They still have had shootouts at parades, Harlem Day, etc.

  • Better question to you Steve is why do you think a multi millionaire like Plax even felt the need for a gun? The answer will illustrate to you why harping on ridding the landscape of guns is not the answer.

  • I have darker complexion male friends that will not even look twice at a darker complexion woman. So yes the internal racism is still strong….

  • Thoughtful posts from Reuben and Neener — thanks for the food for thought.

  • Better question, if the dumbass was going to carry it, couldn’t have been smart to at least learn how to carry one? The dude is damn lucky he did put the round in his abdomen or hit is femoral. That would have been actually pretty funny in a dark and tragic way.

  • Actually, once again Nate, you are wrong. The law is new. Bloomberg just had it pushed through.

  • Reuben,

    You say that you’re angered, hurt and bewildered at being derided for who you are. Can you clarify what you mean by that?

    Regarding DCPS teachers and students:

    I was educated in DC public schools, and I’ve had my share of good and bad teachers, both black and white. Neener, I don’t want to excuse the remarks and attitudes of some of the teachers that you’ve encountered, but maybe you need to visit some of the less affluent parts of the ward and see what life is like for them on a daily basis. All is not well simply because 1/2 million dollar condos are popping up everywhere.

    Internal black racism:

    That’s nothing new and far from being a black thing. I don’t know of one race where forms of internal racism don’t exist.

    Also, what do drug dealers from Alabama and Plaxico Burress have to do with Reuben’s original post?

  • Nate and Odentex…you are both correct. Odentex, you are correct that tough mandetory minimums are needed and Nate is correct that the guns are a syptom of a much larger problem. I would think both can be addressed.

  • I frequently travel to NYC. I have been seeing posters for the minimum three year for a gun for at least the past year or so. Still they just recently had a shooting in the middle of Harlem. And almost all of their killings and assaults are done by gun.

    Steve is right. There must be something we are missing if we can not figure out why Plax feels the need to carry a gun inside a club. The answer lies in the culture. There is a premium on being a ‘gangsta’ or thug. Plax no more needed a gun in a club than I do. He can afford security. So why does he have one? Gotta keep it real. And why doesn’t he hire security? Can’t look like a punk.

  • Nate: Can’t look like a punk? Well then, don’t CRY like an punk when you shoot your own dumbass self and have to do the time.

    Consequences is what is missing, Nate. Consequences and low expectations. You want to discourage people carrying a weapon then you punish people for doing it. You mention ONE event in Harlem in the last year. Wow, a crime wave.

    NYC remains the safest large city in the US while in DC people get a few hours for repeatedly carrying guns.

    Gee, I wonder what the difference could be?

  • Hi Darkside. What I was trying to say is that I feel a deep sense of rejection from “my kind”, if you will… It happens where I work, too… The guys on the cleaning crew, etc. really dislike the few ( and I mean a very few) black professionals of color.. This sad song is not new, alas.

  • You’re right on that, Reuben, and it stinks. While it may be a worse problem in the black community than in others, there is a great vocal minority of whites who really dislike professionals, educated people, people who speak properly. There’s a large segment of the population — all races — that is fiercely incurious and anti-intellectual. (I believe we consider them to be “bitter” and inclined to “cling to guns and religion”). Combine that with the fact that America is so filled with fatties and smokers and car-driving sloths that it has now fallen below 25+ other nations in life expectancy, and you get a picture of a rather unpleasant and self-destructive nation.

    Note the tremendous (and thankfully insufficient) popular vote totals of the champion of these “real Americans” in the November.

  • Odentex,
    Three years in prison should be more than enough to deter most. And it is for most of us. How much time do you think it would take to get people to put down their guns? I’m guessing a lot more than 3 years.

    NYC is the largest big city partly due to its demographics. Its demographics drastically differ from from any other big city. So if you are wondering what the differences could be, look at the makeup of the people.

  • Reuben,
    My friends and I encounter the same thing. We have a running bet that Obama will be considered an ‘Uncle Tom’ by many blacks before midterm.

  • “It happens where I work, too… The guys on the cleaning crew, etc. really dislike the few ( and I mean a very few) black professionals of color.. This sad song is not new, alas.”


    I also see that at my job at times, but I think that there may be a reason for that. Do you ever acknowledge the folks in the cleaning crew? Do you say hello when you see them one on one, and then ignore them when you’re in the presence of your boss? There are a couple of black folks at my job who fit this description perfectly, and they’ve become absolutely hated by their fellow blacks. Personally, I find that kind of behavior to be disgusting and I can’t tolerate it. Now, I don’t mean to imply that you engage in this type of thing (or maybe you do), but you could be perceived that way, whether or not it’s fair. I’ll just suggest that you make it a point to make conversation with the guys in the cleaning crew and get to know them a little bit (but don’t try too hard, you’ll look desperate). If you’ve already tried that and failed, oh well, all black people can’t be buddies.

  • Darkside,
    Why should someone feel compelled to make conversation with someone just because they have the same skin complexion?
    Quite frankly, I am surprised that there are blacks on the cleaning crew. Most are hispanic where I have worked. I once met a guy from Petworth that worked on the cleaning crew. I saw him and immediately knew he would not make it. He had on Air Jordans that were meticulously taken care of. I later saw him in the neighborhood and asked him what happen. he stated that the hispanics were prejudice. Whatever! You can’t give a job your all when you are so concerned about messing up your shoes.

  • “Darkside,
    Why should someone feel compelled to make conversation with someone just because they have the same skin complexion?”

    You shouldn’t. But then don’t be all hurt and dismayed when those black people don’t just LOVE you either.

    (By the way, Reuben, I am not meaning to speak to your situation at all. It sounds like it really hurts you, and I respect that. I’m responding to the hypothetical question nate raised. However, it is POSSIBLE, and I’m only putting it out there as a possibility, that you may be reading more into this rejection than is really there. People of lower socioeconomic status of all races have been hatin’ on well-off people of all races for quite some time.)

    I know that I live this situation differently because I am a woman. I don’t feel a general sense of rejection from black people (though I thank nate for reminding me that I may be getting unknowingly rejected because I’m just too dark! Whatever.) Guys driving garbage trucks, guys sitting on crates on a street corner…they all have no problem “introducing” themselves. Maybe as a woman I’m allowed more latitude to be me; we have such rigid roles for masculinity in this country, and what is considered appropriate black male behavior seems even more strait-laced.

    I don’t think Obama is going to make black kids start doing their homework now. But I do think that it can’t hurt for people in general to have a different example of successful black male-dom; success that is based on something other than athletic prowess and that doesn’t involve dominating “females,” bling, or lots of babies. Obama doesn’t have to wear the trappings of power, he IS power. I hope that message gets through to at least a few folks.

  • Nate: All we can do is “guess” because, so far, the city council refuses to get tough. I say, stop the “guessing” and put in stiffer penalties for repeat offenders, publicize the change like they’ve done in NYC, and then after a few years we won’t have to “guess” about whether a serious punishment, instead of a slap on the wrist, for repeatedly carrying a gun works or not, we’ll then know.

  • Odentex,

    Any info on meeting with the Council on the Omnibus Crime Bill?

  • Neener – I don’t have kids, so take what I say with a pinch of salt, but I would not want to leave my child in a school with low achievement for what ever reason for fear of lasting educational damage. There are times I have problems with school choice. does it not doom a school when the active parents pull their kids? On the otherhand, how many of your friends with kids would leave the city if they did not have choice? Seems the alternative is private schooling, not something most in our neck of the woods can affoard and would force many to leave the city for the burbs, where the schools systems are better.

    To be clear, I agree with you. I wanted to live in the city so I am. Our friends in the neighborhood did the same thing. We all started at the local school with ideas that we could change it. 1/3 of the PTA officers came from our class! What we found was that fundraising was easy- donations here, a grant there, someone’s law firm puts $5000 for science equipment. The PTA was easy to run well.

    But the teachers’ continued incompetence scared me to death. And when I’d complain to other parents early on their knee-jerk reaction was to defend the teachers and the teachers union. I am not anti-union, but I am vehemently anti-WTU because they are more evil than Barry.

    My point was that… the schools are being run into the ground despite more teachers and larger budgets than MoCo. The kids who stay in Ward 1 schools will not see success spoken by their teachers and are failing NCLB. If the teachers focused so closely on poverty and sadness, then when would the kids learn about joy and success? When would they see themselves as joyful and successful? I mean… they cover black history month last year and you know what they covered? Segregation. For 5 year olds. The big project was about segregation. Couldn’t they have, you know, talked about inventors? Crispus Attucks? Obama? People that made something concrete that kids could touch and feel proud of? No, they talked about water fountains.

    I talk to our new teacher and she wants to primarily focus on only focus on George Washington Carver and Jan Matzeliger because kids know peanut butter and shoes and touch on the underground railroad.

    I understand that Ward 1 is not paved with gold, but… what teachers are teaching the kids how to run their own businesses. Nate, have you ever considered talking to kids about buying and rehabbing buildings?

  • Neener,
    I take a young guy from my hood around with me to collect rent, to pick up trash, to clean up after tenants move. He is the young guy I mentioned that had the chance to enter Duke Ellington until the principal was cursed out by the mom during the home interview.

    This boy has potential. More to the point, he has a strong work ethic. He could easily be selling drugs as his friends are doing so in the neighborhood. That is the sign of a strong mind. It is likely that he would have succeeded despite my attention. He just might set his sights higher now.

    The other young boys in my neighborhood are more difficult for me to reach. Understand that interacting with the young kids can be DANGEROUS. The Spevak case is a reminder of what can happen. Other than their male teachers, I am likely one of the few “successful” black man near their age in the community. That puts me at risk of being robbed by one of them as well. It would be logical for the young boys to gravitate toward me. However, it seems that the drug dealers are held in higher esteem.

  • I may have mentioned this or maybe not.

    When I bought my house I moved onto the block from a few blocks away. I talked to a woman on the street who moved years ago and I casually mentioned that my plan was to rehab my house and build a basement apartment to rent out because one of my dreams was to become a landlord.

    She screwed up her face at me and said, “Why in the hell you dream about stealing money from people?”

    And I froze, because I never felt my landlords ever stole money from me. But here was someone for whom that level of monetary success was “evil.” I’m pretty sure she her adult kids didn’t have kids yet, but… what could those kids have learned about starting their own business from her?

    (in the end I learned that I a sadly incompetent carpenter and soon gave up the project in favor of spending $10k per year to pay someone to fix my house’s numerous problems.)

  • Nate: The Spevak case didn’t really have anything to do with the kids they reached out to except cooincidentally. The perps were Salvadorian gang members who were friends of a friend who was at their house one time and told the bangers that there was nice shit in the house. It’d be the same as a delivery man telling his buddies that this house he saw today had a phat LCD TV in it (and pushover old people living there). It was really random and connecting this to the Spevak’s activities with kids, which appearantly they’d been doing for 20+ years, is a real stretch. Especially since the none of the dozens (? hundreds ?) of kids they’ve helped had anything to do with the crime. Further, how do you connect the crime of a Salvadorian refugee who has only been here a couple of years with youth culture of this city? That’s nuts.

    In my experience interacting with young kids can be very dangerous if you don’t want them bugging you all time, asking you questions, or don’t want them to actually talk to you instead of being wary of you. You seem to percieve a type of youth society on these streets that, if it actually existed, would mean a lot more crime than what there actually is.

    No wonder you carry, you’re flippin’ paranoid.

  • One more comment… I have thought about my role in the work dynamic. I am a pretty friendly person, Id say… I actually took a co-worker aside and told her ( after a rather sarcastic aside) that she had no idea how isolated the “bougie” people of color were in this organization.. It’s like we get it from both sides…. Ok-Im done with ranting… Bad for my skin tone… ( smile)

  • Odentex,
    Hey agree to disagree. The Spevak’s would not have been killed by these people had they not taken any of them into their home. We can tap dance around that all day. But when you take on the risk of helping someone from unfortunate circumstances, you incur the risk of her, her friends, and family.
    Think about the Jennifer Hudson case as an example. her mom, brother, and nephew were killed not because of their own doing, but the actions of the daughter.

    So while it is true that it could have easily been a delivery guy, the facts are that it wasn’t. It was someone that they knew by extension of someone they were helping. The person they were helping invited someone into their environment that eventually led to their murder.

  • “She screwed up her face at me and said, “Why in the hell you dream about stealing money from people?”

    And I froze, because I never felt my landlords ever stole money from me. But here was someone for whom that level of monetary success was “evil.”


    Are you sure that her response wasn’t just a result of her having encountered a landlord who did steal from her? I can’t imagine that she reacted like that because she thinks that monetary success is “evil”.

  • “The other young boys in my neighborhood are more difficult for me to reach. Understand that interacting with the young kids can be DANGEROUS. The Spevak case is a reminder of what can happen. Other than their male teachers, I am likely one of the few “successful” black man near their age in the community. That puts me at risk of being robbed by one of them as well. It would be logical for the young boys to gravitate toward me. However, it seems that the drug dealers are held in higher esteem.”

    After seeing some of the comments that you’ve made on this blog, it’s no surprise to me that young black men don’t “gravitate” towards you.

  • Reuben,
    When the neighborhood store on NH Ave was robbed, I remember one of the kids in my hood comment that they deserved to be robbed because they make so much money. I am paraphrasing obviously. But it was as if you got what was coming to you if you were running a store in the community. Talk about hindering businesses, except the predatory businesses, from opening in your community.

  • Well I can’t speak for her and as I said, she moved away years ago. The impression I got was her rejection of the idea of making money off someone personally via rent. The accusation that I would be stealing this person’s money definitely surprised me because I was going to drop about $10k on a kitchen and $10k on a remodel of the basement. I looked at it as costing me $20k to increase the value of my house, not me taking anyone’s money.

    I know I was behind a woman who was caught shoplifting by a Mom and Pop store owner who yelled at her during an argument about how long he’d been part of the community when she yelled back, “If you REALLY cared about the community, you’d be giving this stuff away instead of selling it.” And I think there’s some truth to my impression that there are people in our neighborhood who view for-profit businesses as evil from the bible, “The love of money is the root of all evil.” I can guarantee you that the shoplifter did not feel that someone making a profit off her was someone to respect.

    I remember in the 1980s Spike Lee once went bananas when someone asked him why he wasn’t donating the profits from his movies back to the community. A question I still find remarkably conceited. Someone looks at someone African-American and wealthy and the first question is, “where’s my share?” Probably the same attitude from whites who stole land, businesses and inventions from African-Americans from 1865-1965. “Why should they have money?” It’s a hard idea to walk away from if it’s ingrained…

  • Nate, I did not see your post when I wrote mine virtually discussing the same commentary. Freaky.

  • Also, this reminds me of a person who walked into the office I worked in on P St about 1995 w/ a typewritten resume of retail jobs and gave a hard luck story about his problems. I just kept asking him over and over again about his skills and what he wanted to contribute to our IT Services company and every time I did that he looked at me stranger and stranger. Eventually he started arguing about us being located in the community but not being willing to help out the community. He left after a few minutes, but it always struck me as remarkable that:
    A. Being located in an area gave this niche market office some kind of reason to hire people based on locality rather than skills.
    B. Someone would have a resume, but be so confused about job hunting that they would be unprepared to answer what they wanted to do with their career or our company in particular and continually focus on the community aspect.

    Literally I expected him to walk down the hall to the scientific measurement company next door and demand that they hire someone in the community to measure air pollution at government construction sites in West Virginia instead of hiring a PhD environmental scientist.

  • Just when Odentex says that you can talk to the young ones, read the Post to see why they are due to be feared.
    First there was indiscriminate shooting by at least two YOUNG (19,21) men in Trinidad that killed a young boy.

    Next a young man was killed AS HE WALKED AWAY FROM AN ARGUMENT! The killer (21y/o) stood over him and pumped another bullet in him for good measure. For that, he gets 23 years in prison. He’ll be out in 15 years. The victim’s mom will still be grieving.

  • You know, I am sensing the same undercurrent in this conversation that has been a part of so many conversations on this board — the idea that the pathology that is common to poor people is being turned into something specific to black people.

    I feel like I’ve had this discussion so many times, and it’s like banging my head against a wall. Just because we live in an area where the lower-income people happen to be Latino or black, doesn’t mean that there is anything about being Latino or black that predisposes one to violent or anti-social behavior.

    There are places in this country where white people have been poor for generations. You want to tell me there’s no dysfunction there, that living in these places is like Mayberry? Let’s visit a town destroyed by meth and see. Let’s figure out why all those well-off white kids in Ffx have been dying of heroin overdoses (story in the Post a couple of weeks ago)

    Families are broken and kids run wild on the rich part of town, too. The changes that Reuben talks about, how there’s no more intact families and how kids talk back with their bad grammar and wear their pants low (these kids these days!) happens in MoCo, too.

    It’s just that more well-off people have access to safety nets that poorer people do not have. It’s always been that way. Rich kid steals, he gets sent way to military school. Poor kid steals, he gets sent to jail. Rich kid goes on drugs, he goes to a hospital. Poor kid gets addicted, he’s on the streets. This is nothing new. Black people have suffered disproportionately from drugs and broken families because people who are poor don’t have too far to fall before they are REALLY in a bad way.

    And the self-hate among the few vocal minority posters on this board is just so, God. I don’t even have words sometimes for how despondent it makes me feel. PoP started off, for me, just being a nice place to hang out and talk about fun things in my neighborhood. But the subjects so often turn to people and their stereotypes, as if this town isn’t just filled to the brim with successful people of all racial backgrounds. I see them.

    I’ve said before; I’m not trying to suggest that there are no problems in D.C., that would be stupid to assert. Are there unique features to the poor urban youth of color experience? You betcha. Reuben and Neener are speaking from the heart, and I do respect them. But their experiences, while very real, are not a reason for someone to say there’s nothing to be done and all you can do is fear young people and carry a gun.

    I think it’s stupid to “flounce” off a web board, like my presence is somehow required or necessary for this place to function. It most certainly is not. But it feels harder to be here than it was in the beginning, somehow. But maybe that’s just a part of natural growth.

  • Christina don’t leave! I’ll take Nate’s gun away from him and force him to be nice to kids!

  • We all have our faults

  • Christina: Thanks, I’ve been holding off on making your race/class point, and I’m sure you’ve done a better job of it. Things I’ve wanted to add:

    First, no one should think that total social breakdown among a small but significant part of our community is a “generational thing.” The kids are not alright.

    Second, I find myself wondering why Rubin, a working professional, would expect to have a strong identification with the guys on the cleaning crew. Its terrible that Rubin has to suspect that he is DIS-liked by these guys for being black and successful at the same time, but it also seems to me (white guy) that Rubin probably has a lot less in common with those guys than with other professionals, without regard to race.

    I’ve lived in places where white poverty was the rule. I was not well liked by the housecleaning lady next door, or the guy who cuts lawns on the other side, or the meth-heads upstairs. We had different languages, different habits, and generally came from a different culture (middle class vs. multi-generational poor). But mostly, just like here, I called the police when I heard people threatening to kill each other next door, and I didn’t take kindly to people doing drugs and getting drunk in front of my place. Interestingly, I never heard the accusation “gentrification” used when young white professionals were busily taking over poor white peoples’ neighborhoods.

    Third, in response to Neener’s first post: agree on the ridiculousness of the cries of “no jobs, no role models, not enough community centers.” GET REAL. DC has been on the upswing for more than a decade. Wards 1 and yes, even 4, are saturated with successful people from all backgrounds, and the metro area has the best job market in the country. If a kid can’t find a positive role model or a job, it might be because he is one of the young guys who stand around the neighborhood hooting at the successful women, gritting at the successful men, and generally making it his business that people feel uncomfortable. You can lay the fault for that where you want (poverty, parents, DCPS) but it is not for lack of role models or jobs.

    And finally, also in response to Neener – thank you for the explanation of why my older black neighbors whisper under their breath to me that I should call the police on the kids next door, but will never do it themselves. It’s added a darkly comedic twist to the classic accusation, “police never cared about this neighborhood until white people moved in.”

  • 1300 Block: Your perception that “these kids” are worse is just that, perception. The juvenile crime rate, for instance, has moved in concert with the crime rate in general for 40 years and has fallen from the early 1990’s just as consistently. Every generation since those awful out-of-control greasers in the 1950’s has been designated as the tip of a “juvenile crime wave” that has never really washed ashore. Despite the dire anecdotes of soulless children wandering around the streets killing folks, only 17% of all crime is juvenile crime, and only .7% of all crime is violent juvenile crime. That’s been a steady 15-18% total and less than 1% violent crime rate for a couple of generations. The high school graduation rate topped out at about 80% in the early 1960’s and hasn’t seen higher than 75% (or lower than 72%) since then. In cities the rates have hovered in the mid-50 % for years. The kids may not be “alright” in your anecdotal estimation, but they are statistically almost the same as many prior generations and actually less criminally inclined today then kids in 1989-1994. You are much, much more likely to die being struck by a plummeting tree limb, die in a fire started by a votive candle, or break your neck in your shower at home then die at the hand of a juvenile offender.

    Where’s the outrage about votive candles?

  • Good god, who said anything about dying at the hands of a juvenile offender? Hyperbole much?

    I’m glad that 50% graduation and 15-18% juvenile crime (based on arrest records – HA!) means today’s kids are going to be fine because, statistically, they’re slightly ahead of the kids who grew up in DC during the 1980s. Last I checked the 50% of DCPS student drop-outs from the class of 1989 are all doing just peachy. I mean, if only today’s kids do so well!

    To say its just my perception that young people in DC are in a bad spot because its the same as it was 5, 10, 20 years ago – when the kids in DC were in a bad spot – give me a break. So no, its not a generational thing to think that there is a problem here. If the same conditions have been around for 30 years, well, then there is really a pretty serious problem here.

  • 1300: When your comment prominently mentions “having to call the police” just about every place you’ve ever lived then you’ll have to pardon me for suggesting your comment was associated with crime.

    BTW, “crime rate” as judged by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, is tallied by reported crimes, not arrests nor sentences imposed. But I can quote you national arrest numbers (from the FBI, NIJ, and BJS) and sentencing stats from various state sentencing commissions and the USSC if you’d like that, however the obvious trends would be the same: crime rate simply doesn’t match your expressed belief about juveniles. Perhaps they dress worse and don’t say “dadd-o” as much as they did forty years ago, so maybe you should reformulate on that concept. Typically that’s what social activists do: rock-n-roll is the devil’s music, horror comix are going to ruin the yoofs, D&D causes suicide, violent videogames are destroying the nation!

    When you lack facts, you do what you can to scare everyone.

    Further, these crime numbers have been consistent with other trends for over 43 years, so I’m not sure where you get the “20” year number. The only 20 year number that is of interest here is that crime spiked about 20 years ago across the board and has been trending down, consistently, for over 15 years.

    Finally, I point out some basic facts that belie your primary suggestion that this generation is much different than those 40 years before it and Mr. “Total Social Breakdown” screeches out “hyperbole”! You ruminate about “social breakdown” primarily because you have 911 on speed dial and you saw some fellas hanging out and then have the temerity to hop around like a scalded cat when I supply some simple facts? Talk about the pot calling the kettle black.

    Ultimately I suspect no amount of factual information is gonna dissuade you from your very incisive social commentary. So go on believing blinkered things that are consistent with your established world view about “poor whites,” neighborhood boys who make you “feel uncomfortable,” “total social breakdown,” and those “50% of DCPS dropouts” you are oh-so-familiar with.

    But you might want to put some thought into the idea that the reason that all your former “poor white” neighbors didn’t like you may not have had to do with your perceived social status but rather something else they noticed.

  • Wow, just wow. That’s a ton of venom. I guess you got me down pat, so congratulations. I’m heartened to hear that I’m all wrong and everything is daisies and rainbows outside my simple, narrow-minded perceptions. Truly the beautiful life, I’m sure.

  • Any “venom” you perceive is just the acrid taste of your own words and ideas, brother. Perhaps you are used to people agreeing with you all the time, even when you talk bollocks and storm out of the room going “I guess I’m just all wrong, Hurumph!,” but I’m under no such obligation.

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