Derek on Being the Stereotype (by Danny Harris)


Danny Harris is a DC-based photographer, DJ, and collector of stories. In September, he launched People’s District, a blog that tells a people’s history of DC by sharing the stories and images of its residents. Every day, People’s District presents a different Washingtonian sharing his or her insights on everything from Go Go music to homelessness to fashion to politics. You can read his previous columns here.

“I’m the stereotype of what all of you white folks think of black men in the ghetto. I’m 32, have five children who don’t live with me and served time for selling drugs. Don’t you judge me, though, because living here is hard as shit. I grew up in these projects in Southeast. Coming up in DC is fucking hard. There is a lot of racism and a lot of injustice. There’s a lot of fucked up shit going on, period. This is a political city and politicians need to care more about the people here and less about money. That’s how I feel.

“I ain’t justifying my actions, but unless you live this and spend every day on these streets, you can’t have no idea of what we deal with: drugs, police brutality, bad schools, no opportunities. That ain’t no way to live. People here become a product of their environment. You grow into what you see. It is hard for kids here to think that being a doctor, a lawyer or an entrepreneur is possible. The closest many people will get to success here is being a teenage mom or a drug dealer. That’s it.

“Every day is tough. If you’re not caught up in the loop, which is politics, you out of the game unless you want to sell drugs or get a lame-ass job that pays you nothing. You certainly not going to get nowhere if you play by the rules here. If you have setbacks and get into trouble, you really ain’t going to get nowhere. After jail, you are looked upon as if you can’t do nothing and there is no use for you other than being locked up again or out here selling drugs. I been in jail twice, first time when I was 20 for selling drugs. But now, I have a job and am trying to make right.

“People in DC need to care about what is happening on these streets and in these projects. For all of you in other neighborhoods, especially the white folks in Northwest, there ain’t no difference between us. It’s what’s in your heart that matters.”

118 Comment

  • I’m really loving this feature. And Derek has a really great smile.

    I’m always curious about the procreating… I never understand how having not one… not two… not three, not four… but FIVE illigitimate children makes any sense. By the age of 32 no less. Especially when, as Derek says, he suffers so much injustice, there are no opportunities and only terrible schools offered. We cannot seem to take care of each other as it is. Why knowingly add to the problem. Why have five kids that you know you will not be able to take care of properly. Like, it’s not even a question of “maybe” you could take care of them properly.

    Derek says people need to care more about what’s going on in the streets and in the projects, but why? Having five kids isn’t a responsible way to say I need help and I’m willing to work with you who want to help me.

    This isn’t a third world country (although I know we’re close in a lot of ways in a lot of places) with absolutely no education or availability to birth control.

    Everything else I can forget about. It’s the five kids I can’t.

  • Just watched a PBS show on the depression-era CCC. Thousands of poor men (poor as in never owning a toothbrush or a coat – shacks and tenement kind of poor) were offered opportunities to work and get an education. (Many went in illiterate.) It was hard physical labor, building roads and trails. They were paid $30 a week, of which $25 was automatically sent home to their families. Every old guy interviewed, white, black and Mexican, talked about how it completely changed their lives for the better.

    Could we ever get such a program going today? Would Derek sign up?

  • excuse after excuse….take some responsibility for your actions already. Can’t blame society for ever. Hopefully he can break the cycle by making sure his five kids always have a father figure in their lives

  • I call bullshit. I grew up in a terrible neighborhood, in a terrible city, with one parent. I dropped out of high school, and fucked up my life. I smoked weed, had some lousy friends, but never felt compelled to sell drugs. Instead, I got my GED, and I tread my own path. A little over 15 years later I’m a decorated police officer who has never been involved in any “brutality”. I’ve taken guns and drugs off the street but none of it has done anything to positively impact this city. I don’t have any kids. I don’t want any, not living in this city anyway. Instead of blaming your environment for everything you can’t do, use it as motivation to rise above. If you’ve ever looked around, like I have, and said to yourself “I can’t live here in 5 years or I’ll be dead” — do something about it… You don’t win by giving up or giving in.

    I certainly care about the rash of shootings that have been going around around Clay Terrace and Petworth the past few weeks. I’m sure the city leadership cares too, if only because they don’t want it to negatively reflect them. I can’t say that the people dealing in their own hoods give a shit about their neighbors, though, and acting locally would probably be a wise place to start…

  • Re: Anonymous

    Blah, blah, blah… irresponsibility is irresponsibility, kids or grown up kids. Whether its an intentional plea for help or not, a fucked up situation begs attention. I’m SO glad I wasn’t born poor and black in this city. It’s unfriendly and lacking an identity as is, without the nature of the job market here making it extremely difficult move up (highly educated white collar work, big gap.) I don’t give Derek a pass, but if you feel like you’ve got few opportunities, you’re probably more likely to try to build a life (consciously or not) out of what you can — relationships. The easiest way to buy into that, make kids. How many financially stable live by this same plan? My guess is that once you get to like three two/three kids and have a drug record, you’re such a stereotype that apathy sets in and you just become even more like this dumb character/cartoon. Again, how many financially stable people resign themselves to becoming the same suburban thing they were raised around.

  • Derek is about some bullshit. “It is hard for kids here to think that being a doctor, a lawyer or an entrepreneur is possible.” Is it hard to imagine being a teacher or police officer or social worker or secretary? Most people are not going to be lawyers and doctors. And what’s wrong with a lame-ass job if it pays the bills and keeps you out of jail?

  • There’s nothing here.

  • Aren’t like 7 city council members – including the chairman – black? Derek: you’re welcome. Your kids are enjoying after school meals and programs thanks to my tax dollars because your sorry ass isn’t around to take care of them. They should throw you in prison for that, where my tax dollars would take care of you. You are a bad father.

  • In my mispent youth as a schoolteacher in DC, I taught kids with precisely this attitude whose familues had enough money to send them to private school, who were not hungry, and who lived in nice houses (better than I could afford), so I tend to be very sceptical of these narratives. They smack too much of self-justification, blaming the unidentifiable (except that it is white) other for one’s lack of virtue. It is an old well-tried tactic of the rogue.

  • Sorry, that should be “misspent.”

  • Let’s see…Derek grew up in a majority black city, with a majority black city council, with a black mayor for his entire life, and who does he blame for his decisions to sell drugs, not go to school, and sire spawn as fast as he could? White people?

    Racism is real, and definitely makes life more difficult for some people in some places. But please, Derek, stop blaming everyone else for your own failures. Be a man. Your “I’m a victim” mentality is all too common, and will get you nowhere. Instead, accept responsibility for your life. Yeah, it sucks growing up poor. It sucks having a dysfunctional school system. But at some point, you have to decide, as many of us in the same situation have, you can be whiney loser or you can seize your own destiny.

    One more thing–it definitely sucks being the product of an absentee father. So step up and accept that responsibility. You decided to f**k numerous women without using basic protection. Five kids are the result. Do the right thing by them so they might have a chance at being something better. And stop spreading your seed, for the sake of he rest of us.

  • all that and then he says he has a job now trying to make it right.

  • “sell drugs or get a lame-ass job that pays you nothing.”

    This is the problem… that lame-ass job that pays nothing is legal, probably relatively safe, but unfortunately requires you to show up on time and be held accountable.

    That lame-ass job is opportunity, you chose not to take it.

  • I also call ‘BS’ on Derek, because of the polarized thinking he reflects. Either you run in political circles with the rich, or you work a low-paying nothing job. Well, most folks in this city live comfortably between those two extremes, and they work hard for it.

    But I will support Derek on one point that he never really brought up — the low level of health that comes from living in a city that doesn’t have decent grocery stores in most of the neighborhoods. It’s hard to get motivation to do anything when you aren’t in a healthy state.

  • I’m glad he realizes all white people think alike when it comes to all black people.

  • This kinds of post makes my blood boil. I love the fact that he states that is just the way things are here. “get a lame-ass job that pays you nothing”. I had one of those lame ass jobs until I was 24 and got my first job out of college. My job was working the counter at McDonalds’s every other hour day and night while I was not in school.

    So FU Derek!

    Also, I think you enjoy your stereotype and consider having 5 kids that are sucking the money out of other’s pockets…not your own. Grow some balls and try to show your kids why they shouldn’t grow up to be like you. Also, I bet you don’t support your offspring emotionally and certainly not financially. I also dooubt that you will never provide anything towards child support. Prove me wrong. And please, do us all a favor and get your junk shot off in stereotypical drive by.

    I would also love to hear what “lame-ass job that pays you nothing” he is doing now.

  • I’m not getting that whole “The Beautiful Life” thing this morning.

  • I am interested in learning why someone like stereotypical Derek constantly repeats the same cycle of reproduction when he can’t and chooses not to care for his many kids. Is there a sense that this is how I grew up and it feels like “home”? That condoms cost money? Is it because poor black women want to be mothers?

    I’m not blaming. There must be a rationale reason or it wouldn’t be happening this often and long. Very surprised that someone hasn’t come up with a better solution that causes a change in behavior that works better for the mom and kids. I’d like to say that this wouldn’t happen to any of “us” white people. But until I’ve walked in someone elses shoes I really can’t say for myself.

  • Ugh, I am a very liberal person and this type of mentality drives me crazy and simply feeds into the arguments conservatives make for limiting or eliminating social programs.

    Derek is right about one thing, life is hard, but it is hard for everyone. True it is harder for some, and there are certainly less opportunities for large segments of the population but take advantage of the opportunities you are given and make damn sure your children have more opportunities then you do. Work hard, live a responsible life, make an honest living, and give back. You may still live in the projects but hopefully your kids will not and you can be proud of the life you lived. Instead, Derek fathered FIVE children who will have fewer opportunties then he did, not more. Who is making their life hard, society, politicians or Derek? I guarantee that the social programs created by these politicians are providing more for his children then Derek is. What an asshole!

  • Whatever, Derek, whatever.

  • Why can’t I judge him for not learning how to use a condom at the very least. Sure living in DC is hard for those that are severely disadvantaged and without guidance people make bad choices, but 5 kids? Condoms are cheaper than kids learn how to use one.

  • # Anonymous Says:
    November 3rd, 2009 at 1:17 am

    Hopefully he can break the cycle by making sure his five kids always have a father figure in their lives

    Kathryn Says:
    But I will support Derek on one point that he never really brought up — the low level of health that comes from living in a city that doesn’t have decent grocery stores in most of the neighborhoods.
    They don’t have a lot of all different types of retail. But it’s not because the companies are racist. It is because of the crime, violence, and theft that occurs when you do open something.

  • “It’s what’s in your heart that matters.””

    its also in your actions.
    i hope you’re able to give your children a sense that life isn’t meaningless.

  • I call BS as well. We all have choices – you do the right thing or the wrong thing. That lame ass job could lead you to something else such as a manager training program, being a manager, maybe going to business school, graduating and getting a job that pays really well. It does not have to be a white collar job. My dad was a master mechanic, and a business owner – no college. And I have no words about the 5 kids who do not live with Derek. Be responsible – period. Glad he is working a real job now and “trying to make it right”.

  • He lost me after “I have 5 children”. If the cycle is so vicious, why make it worse?

    Fatherlessness has wrought utter havoc on black residential areas. I have no sympathy for this guy. Where is the profile on the women who are struggling to raise these kids?

    AIDS anyone?

  • The sociologist in me is fascinated by his reliance of what I’d call a slave mentality, i.e. that his life is entirely controlled by Others (ie whites); that he cannot provide anything for himself; that he is purely an object in a system beyond his control. African American slaves had this mentality whipped into them (literally) for hundreds of years, and even after 150 years of relative freedom its still there: someone else is responsible for me. I hope this isn’t construed as a horribly racist statement, and I am sure many whites feel the same way in trailer park country for example, but it resonates especially when a black man says it.

    I see it on my neighborhood listserv’s as well, with all the money and power of the DC government, and the fact that humans possess self control, apparently its up to me especially to go out and save/care for the many poor little lost souls out there.

    Will we ever recover from slavery, especially that mentality of a slave?

  • As to why he has 5 kids, alcohol is my guess. Condoms are way hard when your way hard and wasted.

  • What a lame POS…

    I grew up poor (third world poor, not the supposedly poor crap Americans tend to complain about), in too many crappy places to remember, with violoence, gangs, and all that. No one i knew was a lawyer, or a doctor… Today I’m a lawyer, with a family, a house, and all the trappings.

    Derek is a lazy bullshit apologists.

  • I really enjoy the People’s District. It’s a great read, good photos, and fascinating insight into the minds of the people I live with, but do not know.

  • WOW – you’d think Derek was speaking to the right audience since Petworth/Col Hi is full of “open-minded”, progressive folks. Instead it seems that maybe he was talking ABOUT all of you. How embarrasing. He knows he has made mistakes. He knows he has done wrong. He admitted that to us in the blog. So what’s the point of focusing on his mistakes in your comments? How’s that going to help him make it right? Have none of you ever made mistakes? Don’t judge this man until you’ve walked in his shoes. DEREK – don’t listen to them. You said you got a job and are trying to make it right. Go on, then. Good for you. And DC has changed some for the better in the past 20 years. Right? Don’t let this stuff get you down. I’d like to see them write a blog to the public admitting all the pathetic stuff they’ve done… Oh that’s right, what am I thinking…educated white folks don’t do dumb stuff, do we?

  • As a 32 year old black man, I CALL BULLSHIT.

    PoP–You wouldn’t post the rambling, whining conspiracy theories of a 32 year old white Cleveland Park mother, so why did you post this garbage? No more, please.

  • Vonstallin

    I hate how the word “Racist” is tossed around so lightly today. A Racist is someone who “Hates” you based strictly on color. Hate = despised, Hate = Hitler.
    In a city that voted 98% for a black president I don’t think the word is hate. I am willing to bet almost every resident that moved into DC have a minority friend.

    I know what Derick is trying to say (as far as racism) but that’s an inappropriate word for the matter. There are of course non-blacks that dislike/feel threatened/ scared or just don’t want to associate with a black/Spanish person that they don’t understand. And that goes both ways.

    Just because someone don’t like you or how you conduct yourself, or how you live, dress or act…that don’t automatically = a Racist. A true racist will only be with their own kind and for the life of me couldn’t picture them moving into a predominately black city. Wait… are we still the majority?

    Ps: put a condom on. I mean jez I like RAW va-jay –jay like the next man, but having so many kids and so early will only stifle your progress in life. Im 37 YO now and been a fan of the vag since 18 and have no kids yet. That’s on purpose.

  • Yaaawwwnnn. What, were there no shootings or alleged juvenile crimes with which to inflame the masses this morning?

  • I call BS on all you people looking to jump on a guy and tear apart some candid thoughts from a friendly interview. Have some compassion, even if you don’t agree with everything he says.

    We all know that the “you can do anything you set your mind to” individuality that underlies the American Dream is both sort of valid and sort of invalid – our freedoms give us limitless possibilities, but socioeconomic factors DO place constraints on many of us, and entrenched ideological thinking on all sides DOES constrain our society’s ability to deal with those factors. It’s a really problematic duality, and is a huge source of tension and misunderstanding in American culture.

    It’s easy to look at an individual like Derek and say THIS particular person has no excuse, but does that do any good? Here’s a person who has faced a lot of problems in his life, both external and of his own making, and who appears to be willing to share that with all of us — we should honor that willingness by making an effort to be compassionate, to understand his worldview (particularly the parts that rub us the wrong way), and through that process learn a bit about how we might nurture a more equitable society.

    Or we could kick him in the balls and call it a day. It is the Internet, after all.

  • lets see – how could your write anything more stereotypical than “I’m the stereotype of what all of you white folks think of black men in the ghetto”. Jesus. Could this old tired paradigm please be put to rest. Especially on this blog.

  • I really hope that Derek heard his own words and realizes that his children will “grow into what they see.” Maybe then he will give them a better picture to look at than an ex-con, multiple children with whom he has little or no contact having, little or no child support paying baby daddy who thinks that he is where he is and will stay where he is in life because the White Man is keeping him down.

    It would be really interesting if Mr. Harris could set up a dialogue between the subjects of some of his portraits and the readers. I would be really interested in hearing Derek’s response to what has been said here.

  • I’m sorry but I’m sick of this crap. It’s just the story of another black man who blames everyone but himself for his issues. People wonder why black women stay single or are forced to cross the color line. Well baby, here is your answer. To think my parents endured racist hell and MLK died for this…Jesus. I’m sorry if I seem to lack compassion but I have friends who grew up in the Barry Farms projects and you couldn’t get any worse than that. Yes, it was an f-ing epic struggle with lots of setbacks usually caused by their own families, but they managed to get an education, not drop a bunch of unparented babies and make it out because they worked at it, did not expect it to be handed to them and they endured.

  • Come ON now–this city has always been a walled place, a biruficated place. And if you knew anything about it’s ebb and flow of that last 200 years –well, you wouldn’t be so quick to channel Glenn Beck.

    So DCLation–stop your self righteous crap. There but for the grace of God, dude–you weren’t preordained for Mt Olympus, I a bet when and if you fall we’ll all have to bail you out. LOL Congrats on your “trappings.” LOL

    That said, maybe there’s a third more down to earth real world position: that both YOU and Derek might be right?

    I’m sure Derek’s heard your point of view a zillion times, yet is too acculturated and frozen in the morass to udnerstand you; you clearly would rather slit your wrists (move your expensive watch “trapping” out of the way first) before you even remotely hear him.

    Trust me, I have no tolerance for this some of this shit myself, and hold Chris Rock’s maxim about these issues close to my heart. Oh and DCLation–I am forever Swiftian about birth control–from condoms to Norplant–as a means of salving and solving some of the these problems. DCLation–imagine how some immigrant communities–Hispanic, “Third World” , Asian, South Asian, or even Eastern Europeans, Orthodox Jews, Muslims, etc.–would be transformed if the machismo ceased, and girls/women stopped looking at pumping out babies as the only thing that brings them value? Eh?

    So debate and question Derek, don’t attack him. He, unlike too many others, has the balls to at least open himself to us. You, on the other hand, are hiding behind some beat alias. LOL Doesn’t feel good to be attacked, now does it? You can HL Mencken without being Rush Limbaugh. Perhaps you should teach your child that now that you’re living in this city, else the walls will continue. Have the balls to do that, seeing that you had the bals to rise above your “Third World” (and what does that mean these days?) upbringing.

    So that I practice what I preach–I do not hide:

    I am Christopher Chambers, DC native (as a baby lived on 16th and D NE) of Irving St NW. Princeton grad, Hoya. HL Mencken fan. Rush Limbaugh hater. Could give a damn about “trappings” but gotta have my flatscreen and coconut cake.

    So what’s your name and address, DC Lation?

  • Believe me, I run from people like Derek but I want to hear his story. He deserves to have a voice. So thank you POP. Derek’s just telling his story. It’s a messed up one but I suspect it’s the only story he’s got.

    Derek’s story hit me as one of psychological poverty. He’s trapped in a prison of small-mindedness. Even if we’re not wealthy, many of us can see a path to a decent life, but he cannot. Certainly he must carry much of the blame for that, but can we wash our hands completely of his predicament? I don’t think so.

    I won’t beat myself up for it, but the legacy of racism runs deep. Much of my family was dirt poor. They barely made it through wars, famines and, when they did, they were lucky to work as servents or farmers for nothing. Even so, what me and my ancestors (I’m white) got handed to us, he and his didn’t. I’ve come to think that it has less to do with physical wealth and everything to do with hope. People like Derek don’t even have that. It sounds like Derek came from the bottom of a deep psychological pit and he can’t even envision crawling out of it.

  • I can’t help but jump on the bandwagon here… although seems like everything has been said already. The only thing I wanted to call BS on is “police brutality”. When was the last time that it really happened? Does anybody here really believe that?

  • yeah, i hear ya’ll that are defending derek and ragging on the people knocking him by focusing on the bad.

    whatever our opinions i bet if he walked up to 99% of us and said hi, we’d say hi back.
    just because in the back of someones mind they think, ” just take control of your own life and stop blaming others” doesn’t mean there isnt compassion and understanding there too.

    people are complicated and have depth in their thoughts. even white people.
    i’m talking to you brad.

  • thor,
    i hope you’re kidding. do you not read/watch the news?

  • ProfChris, who gives a fuck who you are, your name or where you live? I wasted 5mins of my life ready your idiotic post. Shut the fuck up!

  • Anon, I read/watch the news. When was the last time you heard about policy brutality?

  • @ProfChris: Your post was incoherent. Please re-write. You get a D.

  • @Thor, police brutality is just just getting hit by police. Until you have been pulled over for no reason in white neighborhoods and asked what are you doing here, do you have any warrants, you shouldn’t be here, i know you have drugs, where are they, etc.. you will never understand. and Yes these things happend everyday in DC.

  • You are leach of our society. Lazy, irresponsible, and – of course – too blind too take responsibility for your own actions.

    Millions of immigrants come to the US without even speaking English, and living in much worse conditions that you probably live in. Most of them don’t have a problem getting ahead. You know why? Because they get off their ass. I drive by Home Depot and all I see a parking lot full of latin americans but not even one black guy. I drive by the liquor store around NY Ave and N. Capital and all I see is black guys who think that the society owes them something as if subsidized housing and food was not enough.

    Ironically enough, both groups cross paths in the same sort of neighborhoods. (At least in NYC where I used to live.) Most immigrant groups work their ass off and move on and up.

    LOL at the people who think drug dealers and irresponsible fathers need ‘compassion and understanding’.

    The good news is that you are 32 and you seem to be taking positive steps to better your situation. My advice is to work as many hours as possible and save as much money as possible – this will give you a lot of extra flexibility when better opportunities come along, and they will.

  • Whether “being pulled over for no reason in white neighborhoods and asked what are you doing here, do you have any warrants, you shouldn’t be here, i know you have drugs, where are they, etc… ” classifies as brutality is very debatable. It’s more harassment than anything else.
    In this particular case do you think Derek got pulled over in white neighborhoods? He said himself he is a drug dealer so when the cops ask him where the drugs are, how is it policy brutality?

    Just another lame attempt to blame everybody else.

  • Derek, I hope you will help your kids come up better than you did. I’m sure it is tough coming up in many parts of DC and I have no doubt it is very difficult being raised by a single mother. I hope you will do your part to help your kids believe that they can be more and can do anything that they put their minds to and that you will set an example for them and be a positive part of their lives. Afterall, you can really only blame yourself for causing five different pregnancies and not commiting yourself to being with any of those children. Whatever you think of your past, please think about those kids future.

    I’m glad to hear you have turned your life around and are working hard at your job. Keep at it. Everyone starts at the bottom with employment, but those who work hard eventually get noticed and move up.

  • Dude specifically said he wasn’t justifying his own actions. All of you hating on him for the mistakes he made are missing the point. He’s saying that it is extraordinarily difficult to grow up in DC’s impoverished neighborhoods. This is a point that’s easily dismissed but needs to be seriously considered and remembered by all of us. For every one of those bootstrappers who get out, there are nine who don’t. It’s not simply laziness or bad choices that make those nine keep in the cycle (and Derek seems to acknowledge that he’s in it): it’s that their choices are very narrowly constrained by the sheer shittiness of living in the ghetto, making it even harder to make the right choices.

    You bootstrappers who got out: think about how damn hard it was. Your struggle prove Derek’s point. Not everyone’s as strong as you were. And, like those of us who didn’t have to work that hard, your struggle was aided by a good dose of luck. It’s possible to work just as hard as you did and to still not get out, because of any number of possible catastrophes that are vastly more likely to happen to poor people (being a foster child, getting shot, etc.). Even if five of those nine who didn’t get out were irredeemably lazy, there are four who could work just as hard as you did and still get screwed. That’s Derek’s point.

  • I find it ironic that you drag Rush into this. Rush despises the progressive liberal policies that created ghetto’s and reward bastard children. The generational repetition of child bastardization is the result of government policies that reward it. The “Great Society’s” War on Poverty has ironically promoted the very opposite… being rewarded for being “poor” rather than rewarded for being productive.

    Since your msnbc or cnn won’t tell you… Rush’s righ-hand man is a black guy… and there’s no affirmative action in private enterprise, but he probably hired him just so he can be a racist.

    Rush’s show is full of satire and parody, often taken way out of context. Most of the BS attributed to him during his pursuit to buy the Rams were made up. There were congressional hearings on it…

    Educate yourself instead of blindly following what the media wants you to believe.

  • “Don’t you judge me, though, because living here is hard as shit. ”


    yeah, living here is hard, the last time you were in the Columbia Heights Target, was the line at Starbucks too long buddy? Here’s a hint: YOU LIVE IN A WEALTHY AREA, YOU DON’T LIVE IN THE HOOD.

  • alright, that was mean of me, I’m sorry.

  • Nah, screw it, that dork deserves all the criticism he gets.

  • I still want to know what “lame-ass job that pays you nothing” Derek has now.

  • guys there is one thing you are all missing about the 5 kids thing….

    it doesn’t feel as good with a condom.

  • All right, I’m nobody’s liberal marxist, but I’ll say it: we should take this guy at face value when he says he’s trying to make right. He owns up to a checkered past, let’s withhold our judgment of his present and future. He also has a point when he observes that DC is a very hard place to be middle class.

  • Wow, I just scrolled through pages worth of…nothing. Everybody thinks they’re so smart, they got it all figured out. Pfft.

  • SteveG202- Regarding the people who have children out of wedlock. I had a friend who got herself out of that situation. She told me that back when she was in her twenties her friends didn’t care if they got pregnant or not, some of them wanted to get pregnant, but they were dating “roughnecks” who were allowed by everyone to be scamps. Mom let them live at home with no job. society let them hang out on the sidewalk (this is why it’s CRITICAL to force all adult men out of the parks and sidewalks at any time of the day). Their girlfriends thought they were cute, rebellious, etc. Most of them had relatives in the slammer and thought that for a black man to be jailed was fine because they were fighting a racist system.

    What happened with her was she realized when Jesse Jackson ran for president and she volunteered that the racist system was over- in 1984- and the criminals in jail were really rapists, murderers, etc and the “straight brothers” were the ones working desk jobs.

    and then she found Jesus. You knew that was coming.

    The only reason she didn’t have kids out of wedlock was because she couldn’t have kids at all. She said she never thought about protection, not even when AIDS came out.

  • I like how the comments are meaner and more vitriolic in the early AM hours, and then get more sympathetic as the morning wears on. All of the bread and butter blue dog democrats are up early for their jobs and hate people like Derek because they make true social safety nets (like single payer healthcare) the subject of such extreme mockery, while the worthless tree hugger liberals who would be just like Derek were it not for the trust fund are rolling out of bed and wondering how busy tryst is. An education at Middlebury does not endow you with common sense.

  • I’ll second J.Con’s sentiment. Makes sense for this profile to fit in with the many personalities on Danny Harris’ website. Not so much here though.

  • Re: Illegitimate children: When I saw D.C. Baptists protesting gay nuptials for “runining the sanctity of marriage,” all I could wonder was…HOW many of them have children out of wedlock?

  • Dear Derek,

    You have achieved a state of self awareness that you probably didn’t have when you were younger. You probably had shi**y roll models growing up. You had people telling you do take the easy way because the hard way wasn’t possible for a black man in America. You had politicians that weren’t your skin color telling you that you were lazy and incompetent and politicians of your skin color telling you that it’s not your fault, you’re victim and that you could never do it because of the people of the other skin color will stop you from doing it. Both of those people were using you.

    You had teachers hired for their skin color to give them their first job, but that had nothing to offer you in school. There was always a path, but no one took the time to get you started on it and no one to push you back on it except the court system. You fell into every stereotypical trap there is. Every single one.

    As John Wayne said, “Life is tough, it’s tougher if you’re stupid”. You are not stupid, but you did some extraordinarily stupid things that people will never forgive you for (read 5 kids and drug dealing, as well as all the other stuff in your heart you probably shouldn’t admit to strangers on a blog).

    There is a chance for redemption, but it’s self redemption. No one else will care. You have to want to do it for yourself. The insecurity about no one caring will never go away, but if you’re kids grow up to love you and respect you and never fall into ANY of the traps that you fell into, you will be a very very happy man and extraordinarily lucky. If you want that feeling of self respect, do that for your kids.

    Move out of DC. Go to a small town. Get a job working for people who take care of their family properly and learn from them. Think of the job as an internship in life. This city is tough. I had to leave it and my family for 12 years to make my bones. Very few people are organically successful in this town. Most people arrive here having been successful elsewhere.

    And don’t kid yourself on jobs. Work is work. It wasn’t ever meant to be fun. No one pays you for fun. You have to work at a crappy job to get a better job. No one hands on ‘good’ jobs to normal people white or black. Don’t worry about what rich politicians are doing. Not one of them is worth the leather they sit their fat butts on. That small town business owner that takes care of his family, learn from him. A plumber in this town makes as much money as I do with my college degree and all the books I’ve read. Go be a plumber.

  • What alot of people have missed that for Derek making it to the age of 32 is an achievement in itself. He sterotypes because he knows nothing else. He has probably never seen both sides of the fence. Hopefully he is taking care of his kids

  • Today’s post on People’s District ( seems to be a nice juxtapostion to Derek by showing a young, black guy using photography to document the changes he sees in Anacostia. Rather than complain, Derek should find the tools available to him to document his struggle and try to make his hood a better place.

  • “An education at Middlebury does not endow you with common sense”

    Can the same be said for Harvard? I would have to say so, but some how I would guess that didn’t stop you from supporting the big O, the progressive liberal’s poster child of affirmative action and community organizing. I know, southside Chicago is so much better now, than it was back then.

  • Black Men like Derek need to be taught very early on in high school that if their education is already screwed up that working for ANYONE else outside of high school will be a disaster.

    I firmly believe the most important thing these 17 year olds need to be taught is to open their own business and run their own company. Painting houses, trash hauling, putting on shows or managing bands, whatever it takes it needs to be out of the “white power structure” so Derek can’t turn around and blame me if he fails. It has to be on him. Most of the white people I know in DC are a lot more liberal than I am and I’m very liberal. There is no racism in DC the city to speak of- certainly not like in, let’s say, North Carolina. Marion Barry really did eradicate the racist power structure from the city and it really is gone. If anyone claims it exists, I am curious to see any concrete examples of whites only businesses, clubs, violence against blacks by whites based on race, etc.

    “Have none of you ever made mistakes? Don’t judge this man until you’ve walked in his shoes. ”

    I am required by my moral code to judge people. You may want to live immorally, but I don’t. I repeat, it is in my moral code for how I live my life to judge people.

    “even after 150 years of relative freedom its still there: someone else is responsible for me.”

    This is a serious issue. This is still true in Europe where “serfs” expect and get “the king” to provide them free healthcare

  • Anon @ 11:34– well said!

  • Again, the blogosphere’s cloak of invisibility draws out people’s true colors. All of you with your long, vitriloic (and largely anonymous) comments cutting on this man are fucking cowards. I would love to see any of you have the guts to say these things, even in a more polite way, to Derek or someone like him in person. Derek and others are people that most of us cross the street to avoid and yet, on the web, you can lash out against him from the comfort of your anonymous living room or office. I agree with Marcus Aurelius, I’d love to see Derek respond to these accusations.

  • Derek: You say that to say WHAT

  • Until you have been pulled over for no reason in white neighborhoods and asked what are you doing here, do you have any warrants, you shouldn’t be here, i know you have drugs, where are they, etc.. you will never understand. and Yes these things happend everyday in DC.

    really? this really happened to you in DC? Really?

    I was at a block party where one of my neighbors was telling the story of getting pulled over just because he was black in DC and I really bought it hook, line and sinker until his wife goes, “well he BUSTED you for pot! It wasn’t like you didn’t just go buy some. Be glad you didn’t have any rock on you or you’d be in jail.” (paraphrased) So, sure, yes that MAY have been a violation of the 4th amendment, but maybe it wasn’t and he just blamed it on racism?

    This is a critical critical issue.

    When I was picked up by the cops for no reason, yelled at, searched, asked to get out of my car, threatened with jail time, and otherwise dealt with angry cops (none of which is police brutality, get real), what could I blame their weird behavior on? I’m a white man. I was innocent. What was their problem? If I was black would I blame this on racism? I probably would! But it was NOT racism because I’m white. get it?

    This reminds me of these two old guys I work with- they like some kind of light jazz and Jesus and they hate rap. They complain about the teenagers, rap music, how they dress, etc. It would be easy to think the white guy saying this is racist. But what about his black friend? I mean these guys are actual office friends! They eat lunch together constantly! So, which part of disliking teenagers is racist? Is any of it really racist? when older white guys sneer at teenagers causing a fuss in Union station or penn quarter are they being racist or is the teenager out of control?

    why would a black person think the same thing that happens to white people is racist against black people? Lack of experience in the other’s shoes?

    I don’t pretend to know everything and maybe I don’t know the extent of these issues. In my mid 40s I barely have any black friends left (none had PhDs or masters degrees so none made the jump to senior management) so I’m getting farther and farther away from really understanding how things work.

    But it’s not right for anyone to suggest that “Straight society” is equal to “white society.”

  • What alot of people have missed that for Derek making it to the age of 32 is an achievement in itself.

    oh god! talk about not holding anyone accountable.

    Derek, you didn’t die from a drug overdose, congratulations!

  • I would love to see any of you have the guts to say these things, even in a more polite way, to Derek or someone like him in person.

    The man is an ex-con! I would do anything in my power to never have any dealings with him at all! He went to jail! Did you miss that part? The hell I’m ever going to spend time with anyone who did that!

    I have FRIENDS from college who got busted for drugs who I completely cut off from my life forever- no sane person with a family is going to voluntarily talk to an ex-con. We aren’t that naive. are you that naive?

  • I absolutely love this feature. I would like to read one or two every single week.

    I think it’s great that people on this blog can hear the thoughts and perspectives of people who they would not regularly converse and interact with otherwise.

  • does anyone out there have a factual answer as to why young black men don’t seem to use condoms?

  • 12:27, what are the consequences to them if they don’t?

  • Neener you missed the point about not making it to 32. I was referring to the violence that black youths die from on a weekly basis in this city.

  • Heck with Obama, too.

  • scholarly article about black men and their decision making processess regarding sexual activity. Ask and you shall receive – have not read the article completely, but might help some in the discussion here. There is plenty of reading on this topic…

  • New low, PoP: Out of all the great entries in People’s district, of all of the wonderful people – black, white, latino, asian, whatever – you could have picked, you picked this guy. Speaks volumes about you. How about profiling Everett, who works in outreach to the Homeless? Or Will, the retired police officer who spends his days playing with his granddaughter? Considering that the last two peoples’ district posts you have put up have been on scumbags, it feels as if you are interested more in inciting a huge comment thread than actually helping to profile some of the people that make this city so great. I really hope I’m wrong.

  • What I find most troubling is that, in the same breath that he says he is trying to make things right, he also says “You certainly not going to get nowhere if you play by the rules here.” This is what he tells his kids? This is what he’s learned from his hard knocks, time in jail, recognized missteps? Pathetic. In one sentence, this is the fundamental cultural chasm that cleaves DC in 2. And objectively, there is a right side and a wrong side of that chasm. Derek falls on the wrong side of the divide if he still holds that sentiment.

  • Neener,
    I sympathize with you. But a white man getting harassed by the police is something that rarely happens. When/if it does happen, it is more of an example of a rogue cop. With many black men, the issue is multi-pronged. A lot of crime is in black areas. So the cops tend to be more aggressive. That may lead a good cop to view all the people as criminals. Some of this may be for self preservation. Part of it may be due to the frustration of chasing the same guys on a daily basis.

    I have had instances like this happen to me. In some cases, all the cops were non black. In others, one of the cops was black. I was recently pulled over on Benning Rd. by a white cop and a black woman cop. They gave me a ticket for an expired tag on a rental car. Needless to say, the tags were not expired. I don’t attribute it to racism. I do attribute it to the natural reaction of painting with a wide brush when it comes to judging other people.

  • Would be interesting to get a response from Derek to this thread.. PoP, can you arrange?

  • Somebody (DCPublius) said: “Ironically enough, both groups cross paths in the same sort of neighborhoods. (At least in NYC where I used to live.) Most immigrant groups work their ass off and move on and up.”

    As a former Montgmery Co. Maryland cop and criminal justice administrator (and new Brightwood resident–my wife is a teacher at a Catholic school in the District) , I think that Publius’ statement is pretty broad and maybe even self-serving. I am not african american but I think it even paints them with a similary broad brush negatively.

    ProfChris you are a Hoya or teach there or both? Thanks for the context by the way–I love Mencken too but some of the comments are are either incorrect, inapt, based on stereotypes and self-serving, or indeed often veiled racism. The last term is something I myself have had to come to terms with in my career. I don’t often succeed but I do try to “police” myself, and jump back and look at bigger picture, then jump forward and see people as individuals. This Derek provided a forum for that and I commend him for doing so. He looks better and braver than the many commenters who surely hide behind aliases and retreat to their own peculiar hates about fellows like Derek, just as people retreat to stereotypes about people in law enforcement that we are brutes, racist and stupid. Frankly I have seen more racist and uninformed comments in this item on Derek from supposedly educated urban professionals than I had in any given year on patrol with largely white male officers like me in the eastern County (Silver Spring-Tak Park).
    Makes me feel superior, I guess!

    We should hear from Derek on this.

  • nate Says:

    November 3rd, 2009 at 1:28 pm
    I sympathize with you. But a white man getting harassed by the police is something that rarely happens. When/if it does happen, it is more of an example of a rogue cop

    I’m sorry I had to choke back the laugh when I read this…I used to drive a lot and have been pulled over for Driving While Female so many times in my life that I carry a tape recorder in the glove box now. (And I’m white.) There must be a lot of rogue cops out there, or a lot of lonely ones!

  • Thor–are you too much of a p-word to reveal yourself? Easy to hide–that was my point. I’m not chickenshyte like you. Let’s let POP bar you from commenting. Apt punishment for silly little boys.

  • lol ProfChris–you have a point regarding “Thor.”

  • Whoa!! This dude with his 5 kids is nothing new. What worries me is that I had no idea how many of my neighbors are douchebags, judging from the comments. Yo–there are many decaffinated coffees out there with just as much flavor as regular, folks. I suggest you all start drinking that instead.

  • Oooh, I love playing the “Let’s make broad generalizations about people, then look for exceptions to those generalizations” game!

  • I can hardly believe that Derek has had it so hard as a result of others (whites). The fact that he was driven by his ignorance is another story.

    You live in AMERICA and you still complain…

    I grew up in a war torn country, we never ate meat and our meals were milk and bread on a daily basis. No this was not WWII, it was in the 1990s and I was a kid. My parents jumped through all kinds of loops to get us to this country so we can have an opportunity. Even when we made it here legally, we were on welfare and even though my parents didnt speak any English they had 3 jobs and worked day and night and still found time for me and my brother, and after 3 yrs of that we were off welfare and no more free lunch for me. I can truly say we have gone through the American dream and are enjoying it now though the beginning was extremely hard.

    People like Derek have to realize how much control in fact we have over our own lives and realizing that and taking responsibility for yourself is step one. Then you have to do something productive about it.

    Sick of hearing excuses why someone has the right to terrorize others, rob, steal and sell drugs. If that is the case , given my background I should be rolling around DC with grenades in my pocket setting land mines in fields.

  • CarlosM, props on the Real Genius reference. Great line from a great movie.

  • I love how all of you “open-minded”, guilty “newcomers” defend this “honest” appraisal from Derek but then howl derision and bile when white simpletons in NASCAR t-shirts parade around the Mall with posters of Obama dressed up as Hitler.

    Irony much? Ignorance is ignorance. There is no damn excuse.

    And there is nothing to understand here other than Derek is a mouth-breathing loser, just as he would be if he had five home-schooled kids and lived in Idaho on a compound.

  • ProfChris – cool to hear that you’re “Swiftian about birth control” I’ve always wondered exactly what babies taste like.

  • Lordy, this is why I don’t read the comments anymore. In fact I hardly read this site anymore because the negativity just gets me down.
    Thanks for posting, PoP.


  • Face it people. If it werent for people like Derek we wouldnt have the bi-weekly race war on PoP. So dont be too hard on him.

    And whats with addressing comments to this guy? Isnt this linked from another blog. You all act like Derek has any free time from procreating to check out the PoP comments section.

  • Came home from work and there’s a special on WETA called Washington in the 60s. Very cool stuff, interviews on life with living people: local citizens, everyone from Marion Barry to Pat Buchanan. It might show some people just how this city was engineered. I dare say I now feel that without some of the terrible and stilted conditions pre-1965, there’d never have been a Marion Barry, or even a “Derek.”

  • Good points Pennywise, CarlosM.

  • I am really glad to have this feature and to hear different people who have the courage to speak about themselves.

    I’m quite concerned about the sociologist (Pennywise)’s comments on the slave mentality. Is this still affecting children growing up black in 2009? But does the mentality explain the nastiness of post office and hospital clerks? These people seem to have fairly solid incomes and benefits, yet my coworkers and I have been observing a lot of hatefulness in hospital workers. If your grandpa is sick with pneumonia, and you walk to the nurses’ station to ask for an extra blanket, why do they bite your head off ? Why is there such a mean streak in people with middle class jobs?

    Brilliant remark by anon 11:31 (Middlebury Trust Fund).

  • “Why is there such a mean streak in people with middle class jobs?”

    There isn’t. Your comment is a stupid generalization. You either ran into a few people having a bad day or you are the problem.

    Meridian PL Says:

    November 3rd, 2009 at 2:16 pm
    Oooh, I love playing the “Let’s make broad generalizations about people, then look for exceptions to those generalizations” game!


  • I find this thread horribly depressing. The number of places that people make huge assumptions about not only Derek’s life, but about the lives of the other people commenting on this post, is ridiculous. Stereotypes everywhere: treehuggers don’t work hard and have trust funds, all ex-cons are horrible people, all immigrants are hardworking, all the problems faced by poor urban blacks are the fault of blackness, not poverty or urban conditions. Compassion, people. Start with compassion. For everyone.

  • i concur with the first post:

    “Everything else I can forget about. It’s the five kids I can’t.”

  • In comments got as far as “Dirty” (I agree). Not worth the bandwith it’s posted on.

  • all ex-cons are horrible people

    I made this comment. Do you really care to, you know, try to justify your statement? I can justify mine- in order to commit a jailable crime you have to be pretty darn lax in your personal behavior. In order to have been sent to jail twice you have to be a horrible person.

    I have a friend who was sent to prison for a violent crime that he did not commit but the creep he was with did. I spent FIVE YEARS telling him he was on the wrong track and was going to get in trouble.

    He turned his life around and of course, in prison, wrote me many many letters explaining that I was right and he was wrong. Still, though, I won’t let him in my house because I have kids, he doesn’t know my email address, and I mostly just send him cards.

    Now. He got his life together and worked for his lawyer. Then he decided he’d rather open a restaurant. Recently he wrote me including stories about trying to find a shell buyer so he can get a restaurant with a liquor license which is difficult if not impossible for a felon to get in his adopted state. I warned him to back off any criminal activity. Should he commit more crimes as an ex-con then I can promise you, he’s the definition of a horrible person.

  • I have this neighbor who every morning between 6 to 6:15 AM walks up the street to the bus stop.

    He’s always well dressed and well groomed.

    You can set your clock when he returns down the street just after 4:30 PM with a smile underneath his dark glasses.

    He walks with a lunch box in his left hand and with a walking stick before him that he sways from side to side.

    He’s blind and he works every day but Sunday.

  • Neener – I just spent several minutes writing a lengthy and nuanced comment about the time I met with a convicted murderer and the mother of the woman he’d killed, and the subtleties of how that experience has impacted my perceptions of compassion, race, poverty, power, and a host of other concepts. Then I read these two quotes from you:

    “I am required by my moral code to judge people.”
    “Some people need to be shocked into community-positive behavior for their own good.”

    I immediately deleted what I’d written.
    I don’t know why I waste my time commenting on blogs – all people want to do is argue.

  • jesus h christ…for a neighborhood full of such “progressive” individuals, I am absolutely shocked at some of these comments. Give the dude a break. He puts himself out there and shares his life experience and all you people can do is disect it and tell him that its BS? and you WONDER why people like him feel downtrodden and overlooked by the system? You wonder why people like derek have served time, have produced many children…it’s because your reagan-esque “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” mentality rarely works…and it certainly has no effect when people have no hope in the system and no hope for a better future. If your initial outlook on the world is so grim, it’s damn near impossible to overcome, remain optimistic and keep the motivation for something better alive.
    I’m not saying this guy should get a free pass, he’s owned up to his actions and admits that mistakes were made. so to all you BS callers out there, back off. You are in no place to pass judgement on ones worth as a human based on a 5 paragraph autobiographical expose. I guarentee most of you would be writing the same thing if you came up in DC during it’s harder times.
    All Ex-Cons are horrible people? I guess that makes our legal system absolutely perfect, and any violation is deemed a moral transgression. Come the F on people. Again, 99% of you wouldnt have the balls to speak your mind in public on these issues. Come down to Columbia and Harvard St. Projects and see what kind of debate you can get yourself into with that kind of an attitude. Seriously. I’ll be watching with an ambulance waiting for you on standby.

  • Brad, I truly have no idea what you’re trying to say, but if you’re suggesting that I don’t listen to other people, you’re wrong. I listen to many people on this site.

    I find absolutely nothing out of the ordinary in my quotes you use above- could the strangeness be on your end and your interpretation of what I wrote? My mother sent her Matthew Shephard email to right wing relatives in Maine in order to influence their gay marriage vote yesterday.

    I went through something akin to Scared Straight in high school.

    I accept as fact that Nate was likely profiled and stopped illegally by the police. I don’t think I’ve ever given the impression that I don’t listen here.

    Why do I think you created a straw man in me just to knock me down and feel self-important?

  • Give the dude a break.

    Keep your right wing “black people will never be as successful as white people” racist claptrap to yourself, ok?

  • Come down to Columbia and Harvard St. Projects and see what kind of debate you can get yourself into with that kind of an attitude. Seriously. I’ll be watching with an ambulance waiting for you on standby.

    So in your world view all poor people are violent waiting to attack white people. Who are you???

    Do you think for one moment that I didn’t come to my views based on my long-time African-American neighbors who are sick to death of the dead nephews in their family history?

  • Neener: Didn’t you move to the suburbs? Why are you still polluting the city?

  • j: You raise a pretty interesting point that I’ve thought about a few times, particularly when reading PoP and other neighborhood forums. It boggles my mind that a community that votes so heavily Democratic is so hostile to the poor in their own community. I honestly feel like I’m surrounded by redstaters when I read the comments on PoP, and I have no good explanation for the disconnect. Maybe we just have an outspoken minority of rightwingers that flood this blog. Who knows. Whatever the reason, it’s pretty sad.

  • “You wonder why people like derek have served time, have produced many children…it’s because your reagan-esque “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” mentality rarely works…and it certainly has no effect when people have no hope in the system and no hope for a better future.”

    They have served time and produced many children because they chose to do something that was illegal and have sex. Pull yourself up by your bootstraps is what built this country. Your progressive ideas of letting the government cradle them only further oppresses them, as evidenced by this story. Derek chose to pull himself up by his bootstraps, finally get that lame-ass job, and try and change his life. If the ghetto wouldn’t have been created by the government (public housing) then maybe the “get something for nothing” mentality wouldn’t exist.

  • NEENER – So in your world view all poor people are violent waiting to attack white people. Who are you???

    Do you think for one moment that I didn’t come to my views based on my long-time African-American neighbors who are sick to death of the dead nephews in their family history?

    Maybe you’ve misunderstood me. In my world, people are products of their environments, sometimes the environment shapes you for the better, but sometimes an outright rejection of said environment has equally strong an impact on ones worldview.
    In my experience, I am an american who grew up abroad in asia and europe. I am a product of those environments, more specifically, a product of collective experiences within those environments. Hard life, necessitating transcendence? Not really. But that’s my environment, and that’s what shaped me, for better or worse. If you really want to go tell someone that their environment shaped them for the worse, to tell them that all of their collective life experiences have amounted to nothing of worth, then be my guest. White, black, hispanic…if you came up to me and went on one of your little tyrades, if you were attacking the very fiber of my upbringing, i’d be furious. Many know better than to let words lead to violence, but given the flurry of crime-related ppostings on this site, you should know that the result would be bad for you.

    I’m sure if you were faced with a choice of slinging drugs for huge loads of tax-free profit or flipping burgers at mcdonalds, you’d choose the first. it’s not about fitting in the gears of the system – it’s about survival, and in a world where more is better and C.R.E.A.M (cash rules everything around me), the obvious choice is to sell drugs. Why pull yourself up by your bootstraps to become a cog in a system that has ignored and even repressed you for years?
    Not because of violence tendencies or a predisposition to hating white people, but because you’d essentially be telling them that they were responsible for not doing anything when chances are nobody gave them hope, nobody gave them a chance to really excel and be their best selves. If you’re a father and an ex-con, the deck is stacked against you in most places. Yes one can face hardships and still do the bootstraps thing, but if that work-hard and earn your keep mentality is not part of your environment, then it is highly unlikely that one will simply adopt these ideals and make them a driving part of your Modus Operandi. And if you do, then awesome, great, congratulations, but why settle for the lowest spot on the totem pole when you could be head-top-dog of your own totem pole.

    I too am tired of seeing dead bodies in the street. I’m tired of watching the heads on my block dissappear for months and months and then reappear, only to learn they’d been in jail on drug or gun charges. But having a gruff, john wayne attitude about the matter only stokes the embers of the flame. There’s a time for compassion, understanding, and compromise. That’s why we have programs like affirmative action and groups like the NAACP. These are good programs but they simply are not far reaching enough to deal with the root causes of this perpetual issue of self-determination. AA is only good if you can acquire the basic skills to get a decent job that forges a legitimately better alternative from the quick easy cash of drug dealing, and unfortunately, that simply isn’t common around these parts. I have a good number of friends back home in western NC who probably won’t go to college, will live in trailor parks and mobile homes and not have access to affordable healthcare. They’re drug dealers (current and former) ex cons, bar-room brawlers – the term coined was ‘smooth talkin’, hard drinkin’ criminals. And they’re some of the best people I know. They have more life experience than you (neener) will probably ever acquire, and in my years spent going back to my adoptive “home” down there, they’ve become like family to me. Like i said, i’m sure your views are well founded, but so are mine. This isn’t a race issue. It’s an issue of poverty and lack of opportunity. And you seem to want to say that they’re responsible for not having opportunities and being poor because they were raised in environments that did not stress the cornerstone responsibilities of success by self determination. Sort of like being berated for not knowing algebra when you took history instead.

  • “People in DC need to care about what is happening on these streets and in these projects. For all of you in other neighborhoods, especially the white folks in Northwest, there ain’t no difference between us. It’s what’s in your heart that matters.”

    I could not agree with you more Derek. There’s an overriding sentiment that comes up in this blog about how people need to be pushed out of the city, bulldoze the projects, lock up the young thugs, etc etc. As someone who has not volunteered within the community, I can’t say that i’ve played any productive role in this issue beyond being a friendly, kind and social neighbor. That said, white, black, hispanic…we’re all the damn same, we’re just trying to live our lives as we see fit. i moved into the neighborhood because I wanted to live somewhere that was relatively cheap, relatively safe, yet still close to work, bars, restaurants, friends, and everyday conveniences. I’m used to being a minority, as an american growing up abroad, as a punk rocker with a mohawk living in redneck country NC, and as am american living in america without the american upbringing or experience. I believe in the good-heartedness of man, but i understand that more primal needs often trump the goodness of the human spirit. it’s sad that this is how things work, but, living is living, whether you get by on a lame ass job or you thrive selling pcp laced weed. You can’t blame someone for trying to better their position in life just because the only other options are crappy and hopeless.

  • so many of the people expressing their judgemental views on derek remind me of an overheard question by some white lady outside the entry to target inside of DCUSA: “where IS the foodcourt in this mall?”

  • animal mother, don’t get it twisted someone’s lifestyle and location outside of the redstates means nothing. You should check out the SFist’s comments.

  • Pull yourself up by your bootstraps is what built this country.

    Actually, dirty…slavery built this country.

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