B.J. on the White People Moving in (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.

Ed. Note: The following may be B.J.’s personal experiences but I’d like to remind all that this is not necessarily the case for everyone. Just the other day I was hanging out on the stoop with some neighbors. On the stoop were – my neighbors, 25 year residents of the neighborhood (black), me (white) and two other neighbors (Latino). And we were one happy family drinking and laughing and having a good time. But I recognize that we all have our own experiences and it is important that we each listen to what the other is saying.

“Man, I can talk about Washington all day. I have lived in this city my whole life. I have seen this place change in a way that I don’t like. Let me talk at you for a minute about it. My neighborhood used to be all black. A white person would never, and I mean never, come passing through.

“For 30 years or better, we lived how we lived. We hung out on the stoop because we couldn’t afford air conditioning. We had cookouts in the backyard with music. We dealt with problems our own way and didn’t need no police. We lived in neighborhoods where you knew everyone on the block, and could rely on them. Then, the white people started moving in.

“I am not trying to sound racist, but everything changed after that. When the neighborhood started to become more white, things became less neighborly. White people mostly stayed in their houses and didn’t do much to meet the neighbors. That doesn’t create a neighborhood, it creates nothing but a series of houses next to each other. Maybe they stay in because they are scared. Thing is, if they are so scared, why’d they buy the damn house to begin with?

“Now, when we hang out on the stoop, the cops roll up on us and give us a hard time. Come on man, the police didn’t even show up when I got shot four times around the block from my house when I was 17. I learned not to need them then, and I sure as hell don’t need them now. Now, they roll up in two cars over a noise complaint. Are you kidding me? That ain’t right.

Continues after the jump.

“You can think what you want about what I am saying, but I see everyday how my neighborhood has changed, and how blacks and whites are treated differently. My neighbors, these white kids, threw a party with music until four in the morning with a hundred bikes locked up on the street that blocked people’s driveways and made a big mess. Didn’t no cops show up. I had a cook out with my friends in our backyard and the cops stormed through the alleyway and broke it up because we were being loud. How am I supposed to understand that? Tell me that I shouldn’t be angry about what I see. I’ve been living in this place my whole live and now some new comers tell me how to do what I do.

“When you step into a neighborhood, you need to step correct. If not, you can’t expect no one to respect you. A lot of these white people need to learn a thing or two about respect and how our neighborhoods work before they come in and try to change things. I ain’t being racist, I am just being real. You know what I am saying.”

344 Comment

  • “Hi, my name is BJ and I’m a racist. ”

    “Hi BJ, thanks for sharing”

    • I think you meant to say that the police he describes are racist, which is extremely accurate.

      • Are they? Well, yeah, probably. But if black people don’t call the police (“I learned not to need them then, and I sure as hell don’t need them now”) and white people do, why is it a surprise that they show up at the the times that they do?

        Count me as another vote for this sounds pretty racist. “There goes the neighborhood.”

      • Yes the police are so biased against whites in DC it is sickening.

    • me

      Agreed. The post is about how white people ruin neighborhoods. And he keeps saying that he isn’t racist? If this post was written in the opposite, saying that black people were moving in and doing the same things to ruin the neighborhood, then it would undoubtedly be a racist thing. He’s making a broad generalization of white people, and frankly, the whole post is racist against them. But no one really cares, because it’s trashing the white people. But god forbid if you would write the same thing about a black person.

      • Bravo… Jen… 100%.. is am so sick of the one side view.

      • +1 I totally agree with you Jen

      • When someone starts a sentence with “I am not trying to sound racist…” you pretty much know what’s going to follow.

      • I was just thinking this sounded familiar… Oh, yeah… it was my grandmother, talking about the good old days when her neighborhood was all white, and everyone took care of their lawns and carpooled their kids. Then the black folks started moving in, leaving broken-down appliances on their porches, getting drunk and causing all kinds of drama.

        It ain’t racist, B.J. You know what I am saying.

        • +1 This sounds just like my grandma talking about downtown Denver and how it was so lovely until all the Mexicans started moving in and they had to move to the suburbs. So happy two cousins married Latino guys. Racist.

      • +1 to JEN:
        I am not white or black (Indian) and i found this offensive on a human level.
        I wonder if he has had a gun altercations since the “white” people moved in.
        I wonder if his neighborhood would have had a target, metro stop, best buy, and tons other restaurnats built had the “white” people NOT moved in.
        I wonder (If he owns his house) if his home’s networth/value has risen by 2x, 3x. 4x in value since the “white” people moved in…

        it is called progress and not skin color(s)taking over your neighborhood, you fncking retard!

        • Translation: If there have been any positive trends since more white and affluent people have moved in, then long-time black residents have no right to point out any negative trends that have resulted. This is called white privilege. (And yes, non white people exercise white privilege against people who are lower on the hierarchy than they are, as this post shows.)

          • What are these negative trends exactly…

            What are the NEGATIVE TRENDS that we are not acknowledging? How is my presence as a white person affecting the neighborhood negatively? I’m sorry, but I AM neighborly to the people who live around me…to the good ones (black and white) but I am not gonna stroll over to Decatur and say “howdy neighbor” when I am pretty certain it will result in my being shot or robbed…

            As a white who just moved into a predominantly black neighborhood, let me tell YOU about the priviledged life that I am living:
            I have been robbed 3 times (2 scooters stolen at 3k a pop My car has been broken into costing about 1k to fix the windows)
            I have filed FIVE police reports for multiple crimes being perpetrated in the area.

            This is all in the span of about 6 months.

            I’m sorry, but the crimes are being committed by the black people…and what is the negativity that I bring to Petworth???

            Did I steal 10K worth of items in 4 months?
            Do WE threaten your BASIC SAFETY by smoking PCP and rampaging the neighborhood screaming at 7PM on a Tuesday? DO WE stumble around drunk at the corner of Kennedy and Georgia at 10 in the fncking morning?
            Are my children wandering DC at night exchanging gunfire with each other?

            WHITE RESIDENTS ARE NOT THE PROBLEM… and don’t pretend that we are oppressing blacks simply by expecting compliance with societal norms.

        • Indians are Caucasian and therefore white.

          • or, you know, asian, since they come from the continent of asia and are considered asian by every international organization that deals with race and such matters.

    • I’m a white guy who has lived in Columbia heights for 17 years, and I think the substance of BJ’s comments are basically correct. I’d like to think he doesn’t mean *all* white people (e.g., me!) are like this, but in terms of being a “real neighborhood,” the area has definitely taken a turn for the worse with all the new arrivals, who are overwhelmingly white. (I’m not minimizing or denyining all the improvements that have come with the changes, I’m just focusing on the point BJ raises.) This was always a very welcoming area where everyone really did know each other, looked out for each other, hung out together, etc. That went for blacks, latinos, and hispanics, who all integrated with each other, though white people were a distince minority and came knowing they weren’t going to be able to exercise the white privilege they could elsewhere. When more affluent, white people moved in, they suddenly expected everything to change and revolve around their personal tastes. They purposely avoid eye contact with people they pass on the sidewalk, let alone chit chat with random people on the street or invite them over for a cookout. They beckon the police to enforce their personal preferences about music, appropriate gathering spots (“loitering”), etc. I think that’s just the essence of white privilege at work. If you want to pick on BJ’s word choice, maybe the better way to say it is that more recent arrivals who see the neighborhood merely as a convenient place to live and invest, rather than a neighborhood, and those people have been overwhelmingly white. (Rather than simply saying white people are a problem.)

      • saf

        I’ll just second this. I’m a white woman, been in Petworth 20+ years, and indeed, that’s exactly how it feels. As more affluent folks, mostly but not exclusively white, move in, we see people who don’t WANT to say hi to neighbors, who want to act like they live on a acre lot with no visible neighbors.

        That’s not true of all the newcomers, and it isn’t always a race thing. But it is happening more and more, and as anon above says, it does seem that the difference is that these people see the neighborhood as the place where their house is, rather than as the community where they live.

        • +1

          “If you want to pick on BJ’s word choice, maybe the better way to say it is that more recent arrivals who see the neighborhood merely as a convenient place to live and invest, rather than a neighborhood, and those people have been overwhelmingly white. (Rather than simply saying white people are a problem.)”

          that says it.

          come correct=learn how folks live and operate, reach out, be humble, and join the community. and please don’t say that means condoning crime–because it doesn’t. it means respecting the folks around you.

        • me

          But if you read the whole post, he mentions that essentially, white people have no sense of community. He isn’t mad because the price of the housing market is rising and therefore he has to move out of his neighborhood, which has been discussed on this site ad nauseum. He’s mad because he can no longer sit on his porch and have barbecues, as police apparently “storm through the alleyway” to break it up. OP claims that he never had a use for police before, and so he despises the police presence in his neighborhood now. I would love to live in a world where we didn’t need public protection that police offer, but unfortunately, no one lives in a utopic world.

          The original post is just ludicrious to me on so many levels. Perhaps the OP would like all white people to be on reservations in Iowa or Nebraska? If one of the biggest issues you have with the white people moving into your neighborhood is that they don’t wave and say hi to you when you see them, then you must have a near-perfect life, because that seems like a very small annoyance.

          (Also, loving WDC, gup, and the others above!)

          • It’s intimidating to reach out to your neighbors when there’s a very good chance that they already hate you. Just saying.

          • Anon 12:35, the concern that “there’s a very good chance that they already hate you” likely has a lot more to do with issues that are going on inside your head than it does with reality. True, they may be wondering about or even suspicious of what your attitude might be if you are white and also exuding the classic tell-tale signs of privilege and annoyance with anyone who is different from you. (Believe me, people can tell, even if you think they can’t.) But even if they are wondering or suspicious, I think you’d be amazed at how far people will come to meet you more than half way, if you just make the slightest effort. If you’re intimidated, it’s on you to get over it. You’re the one who moved in to an existing community.

          • The main issue here is not white people moving in, its that yuppies are moving in, and this is the same in DC as elsewhere in the country.

            Unfortunately the problem with DC is that everything is viewed through a racial lens due to the nature of this city. The poorer people in DC with roots in the city tend to be black and the more wealthy tend to be white (although to a large degree, of varying ethnicity as well). This is primarily because the only new people who come to DC are well educated and come here for such a job. The majority of people in the United States are White (roughly 65% not including hispanics) and only 10% are black. Although there are many poor, uneducated White people in the US, generally only the more well off ones are moving to DC because they have the education necessary to obtain a desirable job here.

            Therefor, when new people move to DC it appears on the surface that everyone who is white is rich and well educated and kind of shmucky, with no personality etc….But its not white people moving in, its yuppies. This group is majority white but also includes asians, indians, hispanics…and blacks. However, the whites most noticeably represent this group primarily due to the demographics listed above.

            The point is that it’s not neccessarily white people moving in (because the whites who move to DC do not in any way represent the majority of white people in the US). It’s yuppies. The same thing is happening in Greenpoint, Brooklyn where many of my relatives are from. It used to have a great neighborhood feel, everyone knew eachother and hung outside etc. Now the yuppies are moving in, prices have gone up, long time residents are moving out and the neighborhood is losing that feel.

            I drove through recently and there was a block party in which the contrast between hipsters (throwing bean bags and listening to shitty art non-music) and the long time residents (grilling and hanging) out was blatant.

            However… surprise, surprise, the long time residents of this neighborhood are primarily Italian and Polish, or in other words WHITE PEOPLE.

            While I sympathize with part of your article (the loss of a neighborhood community), the creation of this as a “white people” ruining the black neighborhood is the same old race lie I am sick of dealing with in DC. That’s the way things appear on the surface, largely due to the factors listed above.

            Its called yuppies/hipsters and for better or worse, that is what is changing many of the long time inner-city communities in the US.

            P.S. My mother is from Canarsie, Brooklyn, and that neighborhood had a great community with people who knew each other and hung outside all day etc. This changed when the primarily black people from the poor projects in east New York started moving in, and crime went up dramatically. “There goes the neighborhood” happened not necessarily because black people moved in, but because people who came from a very poor, high crime area, who happened to be black, moved in.

          • Just another example of a white person arguing that their perspective has nothing to do with their whiteness, but instead is explained by some other objective factor. Because white people do not have a culturally specific perspective. Instead, all of their personal preferences can be explained by objective observation that the things they like are objectively better.

      • +1 on “more recent arrivals who see the neighborhood merely as a convenient place to live and invest, rather than a neighborhood, and those people have been overwhelmingly white.”

      • I’m a white resident of Ledroit Park, lived here for about 10 years, and would echo the comment that the most recent set of arrivals are dramatically less friendly and neighborly than the people who lived here when I moved in. The older residents got me used to greeting people on the street, chatting with people sitting on their stoops, etc. When I greet newer residents in my neighborhood as they walk by they usually either avoid eye contact or look at me like I’m crazy. So yeah I think that is a fairly legitimate complaint. The friendliness of Ledroit Park was a very surprising contrast to me coming from uniformly unfriendly suburban apartment blocks where everyone pretends not to see each other in the lobby etc.

        • I think it’s partially a regional issue. Being from the south I have always greeted people on the street and I can see where long-time residents might confuse the rudeness of people from New York and other places as a “white thing” rather than a regional thing.

        • I’m white, I’ve only been in DC 18 months, but I’d concur. It’s usually only white people who refuse to make eye contact or say hello to their neighbors in Bloomingdale.

      • Thank you for your comment. I have been in the neighborhood for 10 years and I haven’t want to leave until these over privileged suburban hipsters started to move and demanded their disney world dreams.

      • +1

        Last year I moved into a working class mostly-black DC neighborhood. I’m white and was immediately welcomed by my neighbors. The first big snow storm of last winter hit a couple weeks after I moved in. I woke up to find that one of my neighbors had already shoveled my sidewalk. (That same neighbor now has keys to my house and is in my house doing brick work right now, as I sit in my office.) Within a few months, I knew everyone on my half-block by their first names. I drink beers on my front stoop with my neighbors on warm evenings. I love my new neighborhood and couldn’t feel more at home. I look forward to spending decades in my new house.

        But I see a much different dynamic between the other white new-ish resident on the block and other long-time residents. She talks shit about our neighbors who rent through the Section 8 program. She complains openly about how bad they are for her property value. She gives off bad vibes . . . elitist vibes . . . scared vibes. I’m sure she’s a cop-caller. She’s who B.J. is writing about. And I can’t blame him.


  • He ain’t speak nothing but the truth. I agree 100% with what he said and I think its safe to say that most black natives feel the same way. When white people move into neighborhoods that are majority black, there comes more police, bike lanes, and a lost sense of community. Exactly what I hope this doesn’t happen to Wards 7 and 8, where people can chill on their stoop or in front if their apartments without getting noise complaints or police pressing us out. Its not racist because in other cities this doesn’t happen. A neighborhood can be integrated and still be about the same as it used to be. This city is sucks now and Prince George’s county is looking real good right about now, however I’m still standing my ground here, in the District of Columbia where, I was born and raised.

    • Bike lanes and more police? HORRORS!! Don’t even get me started about the blight of attractive landscaping and a stronger tax base. And what about the shame of decent restaurants and growing retail options? Next thing you know we’ll be suffering the shame of more jobs, better schools, and safer streets. TOTAL RUINATION! Gentrification = racism. Damn, I hate white people.

      I’m kind of sick of the “Our chocolate city has soured with your new gentrified (white) flava” nonsense. I’m the whitest white man there ever was, and I was born here too. I lived in Shaw through all the crazy 80s violence and decay. I stayed because I love DC and now I deserve to reap some benefit now that it’s evolved and no longer a complete shit hole. Anyone who says DC was better 20-30 years ago is seriously deluded. And can you say “double standard?” Can you imagine the righteous indignation if someone smeared the same fetid drivel on this blog about black people wrecking a neighborhood by moving in. Sure, things change. I’m not sure that a lawless ‘hood with people suffering heat stroke on their front porches while dodging the bullets while folks “took care of things their own way.” Just being real. Know what I’m sayin?

      • +1

        Things were better back then… when I got shot 4 times. Most people just hate change, doesn’t matter what it is.

        I know this post is just baiting for pointless racism finger-pointing, but I couldn’t help myself.

        • WOW…. talk about out of context!!!!

          • It’s the whiskey…I hope.

            BJ has raised some interesting issues about how the police force relates to people and how people relate to the force. In general, Officer Friendly has never existed for black communities.

            It’s a vicious cycle grounded in different experiences.

            I’m a black non-native and can definitely feel discomfort and even disdain from the newbie whites (usually from the Midwest or Northeast…I can tell yall a mile away). I get confusion and some distrust from native blacks.

            Race will always be an underlying component of these discussions; however, it can’t be divorced from class and regional differences.

      • Translation: Things that white people think are important and rank the highest are objectively the most important things. This is because being white does not imply holding culturally specific views. No, whiteness means seeing things as they objectively are. If other people think the things white people value are less important, it is because they are irrational, and their views should be disregarded accordingly. Whiteness = transparency.

        • That’d be nice if it wasn’t for the fact that white rudeness and a failure to appreciate cultural traits like talking back to the movie screen and screaming down the street at 2AM ISN’T equivalent to living in a rathole neighborhood where you get shot four times.

          It is empirically better to live somewhere where people fail to say “hi” than where you get shot. Anyone drawing an equivalency is a retard.

          You bougie white suburban knownuffs would sing a entirely different tune if this was about a man lamenting the gentrifiers failing to understand his cranking up Hank Jr. and flying the battle flag.

    • What’s the problem with bike lanes? I really don’t understand that.

  • Tony Williams and Adrian Fenty are the biggest sell outs in D.C. history!!!!

  • Gonna go ahead and have to agree with the man. Sure me and pop may have different experiences but i look around and have to agree. White people move into these hoods for the investment. The payoff down the road. And you all know its true 90 perecent of the time

    • You are wrong, many people white, black and other minorities move to DC because is where their jobs are, because the convenience and because thanks to the hard work of the last two majors is now safer and cleaner, that atracts people to buy.

      I think prejudice like BJ’s were the cause of electing a perfectly unknown like Gray.

      • Unknown? The guy has decades of service in DC and was chair of the city council. Maybe you didn’t know him because you don’t pay much attention.

    • I moved into a predominantly black neighborhood because I loved the house, the location and its what I could afford. I have NO interest in a payoff down the line. I have had many of my neighbors over for cookouts and parties, as well as gone to many of theirs. The invites work both ways, did BJ invite any of his neighbors over to his cookouts? If you automatically assume that every white person that moves to your neighborhood is the white devil trying to keep you down, maybe thats why they are avoiding eye contact and staying inside.

    • I also think you’re wrong. I moved to Petworth because I wanted a nice place to live near work and I wanted to be part of a friendly city neighborhood. I think if BJ reached out to people like me instead of dismissing us due to prejudice, we could be part of the kind of neighborhood he describes.

    • Agree with you, Anan.
      I can’t believe the “let’s beat down the ignorant black man’s point of view” is supposed to be the enlightened response?

  • Wow, it’s so peaceful in the comments section now. I wonder how many comments will be posted by morning. PoP, you do know how to drive the traffic!

    • Prince Of Petworth

      This is a guest post Christina but I always appreciate your thoughts.

      • I’m not saying you have ulterior motives here, but please, POP, don’t act like you have no editorial control of your blog.

      • Nah, actually I don’t think you give a damn about anything except page views.

        • Prince Of Petworth

          Nah, that’s not true. Every morning I wake up and ask myself what would ‘Bloomingdale’ like to read today? Before I hit publish, I take a deep breath and say, wait a second, is ‘Bloomingdale’ gonna like this? So actually all I really give a damn about is ‘Bloomingdale’. And tropical fish.

          • …AND page views? Right? “Bloomingdale”, tropical fish, AND page views.

          • Prince Of Petworth

            Yes you got me. All I care about is page views. Well done.

          • Just giving you a hard time. If it werent for the well over 100 comments on this, I would have to actually do work at 930 in the morning. Now I have plenty of reading material. Well done.

          • Shame on you PoP, for forcing Bloomingdale to read your blog. How dare you provide free interesting posts that make people want to check in a few times a day. This must be a conspiracy!

        • So what if he does? He’s running a blog here and he needs to make money off of it somehow. He’s providing a great service for people who use it and if he needs to put up posts like this in order to generate comments and page views in order to keep the service going, then so be it. Quit being so myopic.

          I always support controversy followed by interesting dialogue, you can learn a lot.

          OR, we can only talk about our favorite places to get tapas. That’s interesting, too…

          PoP 4EVA

          • Exactly. If he posts something, should he go for something thats boring that only a few people will want to read, or should he try to post stuff that more people will want to read? If you want to read a blog about things that only interest you, go write in your diary and stuff it under your mattress.

    • Is there really anything wrong with having an ongoing dialogue about this topic? Are you people so affraid to face your demons? If BJs comment was really so far fetched you all wouldn’t have gotten so defensive. Face it. There is big time truth to what he is saying.

      • I don’t know… do you find it useful to scratch a scab until it bleeds? That’s about all that comes from these sorts of “dialogs” on blogs.

  • So BJ thinks it is just fine to live in a community where a 17 year old gets shot four times?

    Sorry – I’d try for more irony, but I’m feeling pretty bleak tonight after a young friend – Ashley McCrae – age 21 – from Columbia Heights – was shot in the head Sat. night outside a nightclub in SE.

  • “We dealt with problems our own way and didn’t need no police.”

    Yes, and each year about 200 more people (nearly all black) were killed in DC than are these days. So your “own way” didn’t work. In fact, it left thousands of black folks dead and more–like you–wounded. I’ll take policing.

  • My great grandfather was born in dc, my grandfather grew up and lived a block from the white house, my mom grew up here in DC and lived almost her entire life in DC, my dad grew up in Takoma Park DC, went to dc public schools, my sister and I were both born at Georgetown Hospital, we lived in Capital Hill. My great grandmother on my dad’s side lived on 14th Street in Columbia Heights from the 1930’s units she moved to Florida in the 1980’s, she owned a store on the 1400 block of Park road in Columbia Heights for 30 years. My great aunt owned a successful real estate business in Georgetown from the 1950’s unit the 1970s. My youngest sister lives in Brightwood and I live in 16th Street Heights…My great grandfather and great grandmother on my mom’s side, and all of my grandparents stayed in dc and died in the city they loved – I am not black, I am white and I resent anyone who is racist – which black Asian Latino whoever and whatever you are if you are racist. I am a Washingtonian and proud to be one. It hurts that this is such a racist city…black against whites, whites against black and on and on. Enough is enough already live your life as good as you can stop thinking it’s all about race, because it’s not. Life is too short for this to go on forever in DC – I love this city because it is home to me. I am not leaving as nobody should leave their home if they don’t want to. Embrace your neighbors; welcome them into your lives don’t resent them.

  • I think its pretty clear bj doesnt miss the crime you idiots. I think he laments the loss of community he felt growing up. None of you can pretend he doesn’t have a point. Gentrification was sped up by a housing bubble that led to a land grab far into NE. And its still going strong. White people buy these houses to make money. Not to partake in community building. Obviously the comments here will be biased though as you are the people he is talking about and deep down you know he is right. This will bring out your defensive sides and i look forward to thinly veiled racist responses

    • Listen moron. You don’t think any black (Asian, Indian, African, Latino) people are buying in improved neighborhoods? And um, yes, in part to make money. This is capitalist American after all numbskull. Yes, neighborhoods change. Communities evolve. It doesn’t excuse the hateful racist rhetoric, and actions, of some of the people who can’t accept that the only constant on this earth is change. And let me guess Anan. You aren’t from here, are you?

      • Funny you should ask. Born and raised. Woodrow wilson graduate. Class of 98. And yes i’m a white home owner.

        • I stand corrected about you where you’re from. So what’s your point? I bought my place in Shaw to live here and I’m very active in my community. I hope when one day I move on that I’ll make a profit, yes. And so what? To paint white people with such a broad, hateful, and factually incorrect brush is just bizarre.

        • Congratulations, your also an idiot.

          • While calling someone an idiot, you probably shouldn’t write “your”. Awesome.

          • I’m gonna go ahead and back slowly away from this thread now. You people are in hysterics and really just proving BJs point. Stuff white people like. Gentrification. Stuff white people don’t like. Being told that there are some unintended negative effects of said gentrification.

        • You know what, lots of communities change. It happens. I’m sure all the white people who lived in Anacostia and PG County back in the 40s and 50s lamented the loss of their tight-knit community too, with all those outsiders moving in with their different ways. Boo fucking hoo.

          I live in Bloomingdale, and no one is stopping anyone from sitting on front porches, having cookouts, or anything that is legal (and much that isn’t). But yeah drug-dealing, loud disturbances way after hours when people have to work, public intoxication, uptight newcomers may not be down with that. Such a tragedy for the neighborhood.

    • I agree with the part of life that BJ misses – the urban community and can sympathize with the seemingly racist behavior . However I compeletly disagree with his racist reasonings.

      The pains felt by gentrification are not unique to DC. What new and old residents need to do is introduce themselves to one another. It takes two seconds and will reap countless, invaluable rewards. Say hi to your neighbors folks – try and see how easy it is.

      • Stuff white people don’t like. Being told that there are some unintended negative effects of said gentrification.

        There are, believe it or not, longtime white residents of the city that are ambivalent about the effects of gentrification, too.

        Do I like the fact that our trash gets picked up reliably now? That I can walk home at 2 AM with a much smaller chance of being mugged? Definitely. But I also had a very recent white transplant to my neighborhood call the cops on three friends (one carrying her baby daughter) who were sitting on the stoop of her apartment building talking quietly after running into one another on the street. This woman confronted them about whether they were residents, demanded that they leave when they said they were not, and then called the police when they refused. They weren’t causing anyone any trouble.

        I am as lily white as they come, and I agree in part with B.J. It’s pointless and divisive to paint with a broad brush, but there ARE a lot of recent, white transplants that have moved in with a hostile, authoritarian attitude towards current residents (regardless of race, apparently) and who have zero interest in learning about or blending into the communities they’ve joined. They’re looking to remake them, by force and harassment if necessary.

        But there are also, obviously, a lot that are genuinely interested in DC, and don’t demand that it be terraformed into a gated community – just that it be more efficient and safer than it was in the past. And there area lot of people who have lived here for decades that want that, too. I’d love to hear more from people in the center of this debate, of all races, here, PoP.

  • Absolutely NOTHING positive will result from this posting — except to generate hits on this blog and increase the possibility of more advertisers. Sad….

    • i like posts like this. i’ve got nothing hateful to say either way. it is simply one mans perspective on his city. some people get defensive about it and want to argue. some people want to stick up for him and agree. i’m just interested in hearing what he has to say.

      personally i’d rather read this than those animal fix posts.

      • Right on. I’m with you 100% I cringe sometimes reading these posts but I want to hear people’s stories. These aren’t fact-checked news or opinion articles. They’re raw autobiographical stories. I may not like what people sometimes say, what they believe or who they hate or love but I want to know what my neighbors are thinking and feeling.

        Does what BJ says surprise you? Come on. I fully understand people being offended. Hell, I’m somewhat offended. But I’m not shocked or surprised and, as much as he’s full of sh*t, his points are not entirely without merit either.

    • I will now bake a pie and take it to my neighbor….and you said nothing positive would come out of this. Lets all bake a pie and give it to a neighbor.

  • In the words of Marion Barry: “Get over it…”

  • This is becoming more of the standard for PoP, it seems. Take the post from the other day asking what to do about noisy neighbors. Haven’t we gone over this ad nausem here? (“What should I do?” – “Search the archives.”) But 71 comments!

  • I can already see that most of the ppl that read this wont understand where BJ is coming from…but this sums up how a lot of ppl feel. Whether you agree with it or understand it, hes speaking the prevailing feeling amongst a lot of long term residents. I dont see anywhere that he made a racist comment, his comments were based on his experiences.

    Two things I would like to say tho b/c I think there are a lot of misconceptions that are perpetuated, many times unintentionally, on this site and others. 1) Every blk in DC isnt part of the “old guard”. There are a lot of YOUNG blk couples moving into the city who are looking for the same things as the young white couples moving into the city. They have just as little, equal, or less understanding of true neighborhood dynamics as “gentrifiers”. 2) DC has not just become a liveable place with the recent development of Columbia Heights, H St corridor, Petworth, etc. As BJ points out, the community meant something to a group of ppl. It may not have been your taste but that doesnt mean youre neighborhood was full of hoodlums before you moved in.

    I think everyone should just keep in mind that their community meant something to someone before you got there and will mean something to someone after you’re gone. Let’s try to find a medium so that our changing landscapes work for everyone.

    • I’m sorry, but nothing stays the same. I grew up in backwoods WV and it was a hell of a lot nicer before they built that Walmart down the street. But you know what, I got over it… I moved on. BJ can be pissed, but it sounds like he needs to roll with it or he’ll continue to be unhappy and bigoted. Suck it up, bud.

      • does the fact that “nothing stays the same” mean that a man cannot lament those changes? does it negate his experiences and feelings?

    • So let me get this straight, your logic is its not racist if based on experience?

      So then the following argument is just fine…Yeah, my experience with black people, my neighbors, is that they are loud, litter, are disrespectful to women, and deal drugs. So I hate that that any black people are staying in my neighborhood. Its not racist, its just based on my experiences.

      Either you’re an idiot, an apologist, or, most likely, both.

    • of course his comments are racist! he blames everything of white people. imagine the opposite, black moving into white neighborhoods and whites responding like this. the whites would definitely be called racist by society.

      • B, re-read the article, he doesnt blame white ppl for anything.

        The thing I would like to know is whether he has made an attempt to speak to his new neighbors or not. Its easy to say “ppl are this or ppl are that from a distance” w/o making an attempt to find out for yourself. If he has tried and they were unresponsive then maybe he has a legit qualm, if not then he has no basis. Do I think he’s racist? No. Do i think he has a false sense of entitlement? Yes.

    • +1 – well said.

    • Um. Black people can be “gentrifiers” too

    • ALL of Mt Pleasant, Petworth and Columbia Heights was full of hoodlums in the 1980s and early 1990s. The big lie is that somehow these neighborhoods were “ok” back then. They were HORRIBLE and there were many many rapes, muggings, and drug deaths.

      Stop propagating the big lie. I was all through these neighborhoods once friends moved to Mt Pleasant in 1988 and every single block was violent and dangerous on Saturday night. The big issue is that some people thought some shootings were “ok.” My neighbors sat and told me that they were mad that the police get called on drug dealing because there were three unsolved shooting deaths on our block in the 1980s like somehow that is normal and calling the police on a kid selling crack cocaine is abnormal.

      Stop propagating the big lie.

  • is this what ‘reverse racism’ looks like? if a white person said what this guy said and specifically called out ‘black people’ we’d all be disgusted. but how is what he said any better? throughout the 20th century, racist whites would say their ‘way of life’ and ‘family values’ were being threatened by the faceless blacks. now, i see that bj and euclid are no better than george wallace… what happened in america’s past was wrong and what is said by bj and euclid is wrong. period.

    what i find most disturbing though is the tone of their statements. there is a sense that violence to ‘new’ members of ‘his’ neighborhood is condoned if not encouraged. why would i need to ‘step correct’ in ‘his’ neighborhood? is this not a free country? would i expect him to ‘step correct’ in cleveland park or georgetown?

    • There’s no such thing as reverse racism, only racism. Get it? Just to clarify any terms people may wish to throw around here, possibly accompanied by exclamatory statements.

      I suppose that technically, the reverse of racism is racial harmony, true brotherhood, etc. An inextricably linked destiny:


      • That’s actually technically correct.

        I think most people use ‘racist’ when they really mean ‘bigot’. Which is an equal opportunity description.

        Don’t let semantics confuse the discussion.

  • All you have to do is replace the word “white” with “black” and everyone on here would be yelling he was a racist.

    • A parody

      I can talk about Potomac all day. I have lived in this suburb for my whole life. I have seen this place change in a way that I don’t like. Let me talk to you for a minute about it. My neighborhood used to be all white. A black person would never, and I mean never, come passing through.
      For 30 years or better, we lived how we lived. We drank tea in our sun rooms because there was no Popeye’s Chicken for us to get iced tea. We drove into Rockville because there was no nail and hair salon. We had to go to major mainstream banks because there was no payday loan location across the street where we could be charged 20% interest on a three day loan. Then the black Redskins football stars started to move in.
      I am not trying to sound racist, but everything changed after that. When the neighborhood started to become more mixed race, things became less civilized. Black people started to invite us to BBQs at their places which would last well into the night. Black people began to knock at my door, and my staff didn’t know if they were our neighbors or were the new lawn staff. Many times, they would dress casually at our grocery stores and I would ask if they work there, not knowing they were my neighbors. It led to many embarrassing situations.

      Additional Irony CAPTCHA: MMPD

      • if you REALLY think that there is equivalency there, you have been misled, or miseducated.

        i hope you’re just joking.

      • you’re diluting your impact here. I understand your intent, but you should really write a point-for-point parody, keeping it as parallel as possible. Otherwise, you’re just fanning the flames.

  • If no police are shutting down the “white” parties, I have to wonder — is anyone calling? Because DC cops have better things to do than go on listening patrol through the city — there has to be a noise complaint.

    I’ved lived on two predominantly blocks with a thriving stoop culture that I expect dates back to when BJ grew up. I’m white and female and having the out on the street drinking and talking til all hours of the night always made me feel safer — and I’m not aware of any parties getting busted by the cops. And there’s a reason for it — in both cases my neighbors reached out to me and made me feel welcome on the block.

    White might not build a feeling of community the way you’re used to, but this is often just because we’re not used to it. Show us the ropes and I think a lot of people will be more than happy to join you on the stoop with a 6-pack.

    • ..and I’m clearly too tired to be commenting on blogs tonight. Sorry bout the poor grammar, missing words, and typos 😛

  • I was born at Freedmens Hospital @Howard U. (and for you white folks that’s Freedmens as in Freed Men after the Civil War, not a Jewish doctor named Friedman). My wife and I are homeowners in Parkview/Colun. hgts. She is a Howard grad. Yep, we’re coloredfolk. No, we don’t agree with BJ.

    BJ, the way you were living may have seemed normal. But it wasn’t. It was normal for a little slice of blackfolks in this BIG country and BIGGER world. Your complaint is based on this notion that somehow it was cool, it was right. Well, it wasn’t. What white people…hell, what anyone with more income, education and worldliness is doing, is bring you kicking and screaming into the normal world. Not the other way around. That is reality. No one needs to adjust to you and the mess that was DC. It’s up to you to adjust to the broader world. Or move to Capitol Heights…


  • Those were good times. We were pitchin pennies, honies had the high top jellies, shootin skelly, motherfuckers was all friendly. Loungin at the barbeques, drinkin brews with the neighborhood crews, hangin on the avenues.

    Things done changed.

  • Somewhere, Courtland Milloy is vigorously nodding his head in approval of this bullshit.

  • I don’t know why Danny Harris feels the need to share these kinds of stories with PoP. I find them useless and unhelpful. This man is clearly a racist and while he is entitled to his opinion, I don’t think it merits the effort required to put on paper.

    • Danny Harris is an ASSHOLE. He’s a fucking asshole. He’s a dickwad.

      • And POP is acting like an asshole for printing these idiotic stories.

        Go back to Long Island POP, you SUCK for printing this garbage. Go back to Long Island and leave this city you so clearly despise by your actions.

        Want to prove to us that you don’t despise Petworth? Stop being such an asshole.

        • What are you rambling about? You sound like you might need some counseling…

        • If he didn’t print this garbage, then wouldn’t he be accused of printing a bunch of stories of gentrifying, johnny-come-lately whiners? Oh yeah. That happens all the time.

          What the hell, it’s the opinion of one person. It’s a story. Do you deny that this is how someone feels? It’s no more or less relevant than any other perspective here.

          It’s not pleasant to read, but it’s how someone feels, and everyone would do well to consider the perspectives of the people they live near.

    • Danny and POP, Don’t listen to this ignorant, asshole. Thank you for posting these stories. It is important that we hear them. Most of these idiots commenting sound so angry in these anonymous comments, but wouldn’t dare say a word to someone like BJ on the street. Let them rant all they want. I take these stories for what they are, just the opinions of our neighbors, and nothing more. Please keep the posts coming.

      • Frankly, if he said this crazy shit to my face on the street I wouldn’t hesitate to call him a bigot. However, I doubt this BIGOT would have the balls to come out and say this to me directly.

  • He’s welcome to express his point of view but how ridiculous. I know from his complaint about that party that he must live within a block or two of me – believe me, everyone was pissed about it and I have trouble believing no one called the police. I was out of town but months later still hear neighbors talking about it – mainly about how people’s sidewalks were blocked by all the bikes, how the owner charged admission for a big keg party, people puking outside, a bonfire in the alley, etc. Just general disregard for everyone else – and he was a new homeowner. I’m sure he got a warm welcome from his neighbors.

    Aside from these 2 jerks, the rest of our neighbors are great – I have never lived in a more neighborly area in DC where everyone says hi when you pass on the street and where I know so many people living around me. So BJ may see the neighbhorhood as becoming less friendly but that’s not the way it seems to other people. He really seems to be lamenting that his past life no longer carries on in Petworth, but good riddance, I’m sorry. We had a drug nuisance property on my block and when it was active those guys were all hanging out but everyone else was afraid to walk down the street – now that it’s gone it’s so quiet and peaceful and people aren’t afraid to walk around at night [recent events on other blocks in south Petworth notwithstanding…]

    Anyway, I’ll keep an eye out for BJ now. Will be sure to say HI and tell him I read his post, curious what he will say.


    That’s it. I have nothing else to say other than BJ talks exactly like my white racist neighbor when I was a kid who was a retired colonel and was, I’m pretty sure, a member of a real active racist organization when he was at Ole Miss in the 1960s but then kind of “calmed down” to just talk EXACTLY like the above.

  • i think we all, regardless of background, can harken back to a time in our lives where everything just seemed copacetic. but then someone moves on, another passes on, the environment shifts.

    shit changes.. its the spice of life.

  • You know, as annoying and fucking stupid as this shit is, it’s very interesting to read. I’m sure a lot of our very own neighbors feel this way, and we aren’t even aware. It goes to show that sometimes we need to be mindful of our surroundings.

    This guy obviously feels really uncomfortable, and has been having a hard time with change on his block. And, unfortunately, it seems like no one around him is helping him to come to a better understanding: that living without crime is actually a good thing, and that white people are respectful and very friendly people. This has nothing to do with police-less neighborhoods and parties, but everything to do with race issues and plain naivety.

    Granted, the party thing is a little ridiculous, and sounds a bit disrespectful any way you look at it. (By the way, there could have been black people, asians, whites, and latinos at that party.) If he didn’t like the party, and since he doesn’t believe in cops, why didn’t he go over there and fucking talk to the white kids himself? “Turn the music down, some people need their beauty rest.” Or bring it up with them the next day?

    And then he gets upset when suddenly the cops are coming to bust his cook-out, when it’s never happened before. How astute of him to assume that it was the “white kids” who called the cops on his party? It could have been black people who placed the call, too, you know.

    Although, maybe some people have tried to reason with him, and he just can’t understand because he is so used to a difference way of life– pure avoidance.

    Get to know your neighbors. Don’t be afraid of whitey, and stop shitting on white people.

    Things change, embrace them. Reach out to your neighbors and meet them. You’ll get more respect and seniority that way.

    • It is not just the black people. White people in Georgetown have similar complaints against the hipsters there. And if these hipsters could afford to rent nicer places on mass ave or upper wisconsin, the white people living there would have just as many problems from the hipster white people because of their way of living.

      It is on this website that I was reading from a couple of days ago how this one neighbor didnt know how to deal with the hipsters playing loud music.

      So white people are allowed to have issues with other white people, but a black man cannot voice his views? And you call him racist. It is not that he is coming after the white people with a gun. He is just voicing his feelings. Just how that other guy was about the loud music.

      • Hipsters aren’t people.

      • Being a racist doesn’t have as a prereq that you’re coming after someone with a gun. You can be a big, ugly, dead-souled racist sitting quietly in your living room.

        In my opinion, this guy is a racist, although he doesn’t want to admit it. He’s see all white people as the same, and he doesn’t like them or want them in “his” neighborhood. That fits my definition: racist.

        • Dont we all know the type of people moving into the newly renovated row houses or converted condos in these areas?

          For the most part they are young people also known as hipsters, yuppies etc. Wouldnt you agree they are not the same as the white people who say live in the suburbs?

          I live in Mt. P, and I can say that on y street about 50% of the homes are rented out and out of those 50% of the homes that have been rented, almost 90% of the tenants are hipster yuppies, me being one of them.

          Obviously a college educated, Rock music loving band member, Colbert Report watching, Organic food eating etc etc.. is different from the normal regular people living there, whether they are black or white.

          Where this person comes from probably never had white people, the mature kind or the yuppie kind so this is coming to him as a shock. But trust me, some of the older white people on my block, who have been living there for almost all their lives have just as similar feelings as this guy here in terms of their lifestyle. Late night parties, piles and piles of trash, and then ofcourse mattresses and bed frames lying in the alley for weeks before they get picked up because of their constant moving in and out. I am a renter myself and I frickin hate that when I am unable to drive through the alley to park my car because of all that trash.

          The only difference there being is that the moving in of this yuppies hasnt really changed their lifestly – ie, hanging on the stoop or calling the police etc..

          Just for this very problem, there are laws in certain areas where it is illegal to convert homes into condos – because the city or a neighborhood doesnt have the resources to meet those demands – Just look at Georgetown or COlumia Heights – How much time does it take you to find parking? Each row house is converted into 3 condos, each condo has 2 roommates, and say if even 3 of the 6 ppl living thre have cars, and there are 2 garage spots, thats one extra car on the street.

          • No, we don’t all know the “type of people” moving in to these places, because people are incredibly varied. I live in a new condo building that is part of a renovated, formerly abandoned school. There are white, black, Asian and Latino people among the new owners. There are school teachers, government workers, people who run their own businesses, military people. There are gay couples, straight couples, singles. Some people are very sociable and like to hang out with neighbors; some people keep to themselves. Some are partiers, some are quiet. Generalizations are crutches and they are no substitute for getting to know individuals. The problem I think most people have with BJ is he is generalizing all white people in a way that would be considered offensive and bigoted if any other race were substituted.

  • I know I should ignore this post, but it’s eating at me.

    “Why’d they buy the damn house to begin with?”

    Well, we bought OUR damn house because we needed more space and we bought where we could afford. We also liked the neighborhood and the neighbors. Yes, the BLACK ones.

    We have made every effort to meet our neighbors, understand the history of the neighborhood, and things are going well. No, we don’t enjoy the violence, the drug activity, or the stoop music that goes until 1 am on the weeknights. If those are things you want to defend in your neighborhood, have at it.

    Yes, there are a-hole whites who will move into historically black or latino neighborhoods and act like they own the place– but don’t act like there aren’t a-hole black or latino long time residents as well. Some of the rudeness and outright aggression I have encountered on the streets and neighborhood stores is completely outrageous, so I will paraphrase your point: learn something about ME before you start shit.

    And I shouldn’t but here we go: you don’t own the neighborhood. You don’t own the houses that are for sale in your neighborhood, and you don’t get to act like you should. You can lament the changes to your neighborhood, that can be understood if not condoned. But we are a middle class white couple who both live and work in DC. Are you trying to tell me that if we can’t afford a house in Georgetown, Cathedral Heights, or Dupont Circle we should move to the suburbs or continue to rent? Where do you get the nerve? If you are saying that it’s okay for white people to move into your neighborhood if they take the time to understand the history and meet the neighbors, just say that explicitly. That you didn’t gives your position the simplified feel of being against all whites who move into your neighborhood, and that IS racist.

    And screw you PoP for posting this crap. It’s pure race baiting.

    • +1

      Took the words right out of my mouth. Well said.

      • +1, including the “screw you, PoP” part.

        This post plus Courtland Milloy is just too goddamn much this week. I love this freaking city, I love my house, I love my neighborhood and my neighbors. But I am so sick and goddamn tired of being made out to be an evil person simply because of the color of my skin. I’ve had it. But I am not leaving, because then they win.

        Ironic Captcha: 3 N DC

    • +100

      And POP…you need to lay off this crap. Whats next…a rebuttal tomorrow by the grand dragon of the KKK?

  • I’m reading a lot of comments here where white people tell black people to stop being so ignorant and intolerant and racist. It’s pretty disgusting. What, do you all want a badge for moving in to a black neighborhood and lowering the crime rate? Obviously police presence means something entirely different to a white person new to a city or new to a neighborhood than it does to a black person from that neighborhood with a history of being accosted and bothered or else neglected by police. Have any of you really considered why you are calling out someone who obviously feels powerless in this situation? Some of you really seem to relish in saying things like “Imagine if a white guy had said that!!” which is basically false equivalence, on par with a white person defending himself with “Well if the black guy can say the ‘N’ word, why can’t I derrr”. Try and have a sense of history and context when you make comments “turning the tables” on black people you deem “racist”. Seriously, what a bunch of closet Republicans. You all sound like Rush Limbaugh.

  • “How disrespectful of this black man to treat me this way, when I have moved in to the neighborhood. He ought to be ashamed of himself. I am a middle class white person and I have never done anything to him, why should my presence bother him? I am simply baffled by this utterly racist and angry black person and I would not at all like to understand why my presence is upsetting to him, because neither I nor other white people are at all the cause of the drugs and crime in the neighborhood that he experienced for most of his life. After all, I grew up in the suburbs.”

  • I actually agree with “you all sound like a bunch of closet Republicans,” but as a white newcomer (two and a half years is still a newcomer, right?), I can see where they’re coming from.

    I don’t doubt BJ’s sincerity, or think he’s some kind of black klansman, but here’s how it feels from the other side: many of my neighbors treat me like shit. Two and a half years of sitting on my stoop, and I’ve once had someone say hello to me, and once had someone respond with more than a monosyllable when I’ve greeted them. People steal things that are left outside; useless stuff, like gardening supplies and recycling bins, that don’t have much intrinsic value. I can only guess that people are doing it to be pricks. Everywhere I go, people assume that I’m a cop, or a social worker, or from the IRS (obviously better than being mistaken for a criminal, or a gardener, but still not a ton of fun). Crackheads and drunks hit me up for money, and don’t believe me when I tell them I’m broke. They follow me for a block or two, shouting barely intelligible, always racially-tinged bullshit.

    Someone wrote “Gentrification Kills” on a wall near my house. “Gentry” implies that I’m some kind of aristocrat. Far fucking from it. This isn’t a fun hobby for me, I didn’t move here on a lark. It’s not like I could be living it up in Dupont or Georgetown, but I choose not to. Forgive me for not brimming over with fraternal love for people who’d as soon spit on me as look at me. You want your “sense of community” back? stop treating members of your community like pariahs and see what happens.

    • You on 11th Street? Or has the gentrification kills tag sprouted in other places in the city?

    • I completely agree. I make it a point to speak to every single person on my block that I encounter, and have since I moved in, because I am well aware of the stereotype that whites don’t reach out in the neighborhood. I’ve definitely broken down a few barriers, but monosyllabic grunts and often blank stares were the initial and sometimes still normal response to my heartfelt “Hello!”. This has to be a two way street, it can’t be only the responsibility of the new owners to make the existing residents feel comfortable in what is now my neighborhood too.

    • saf

      You know, that stinks.

      When we moved in, all the little old ladies on the block came over, introduced themselves, and made us welcome.

      It would suck to not have had them.

      Oh, and I think the “gentrification kills” taggers are outsiders.

  • I’m not sure anyone here is acting racist so much as acting entitled — this goes equal for BJ and those that gentrify in an unneighborly fashion. Both groups believe that the space is theirs, by whatever right they assert. Regardless of the feelings on both sides, both groups have to learn to live together. It almost sounds like the premise of a bad sitcom, but that’s what it is.

    BJ is probably an okay guy. He just needs to learn how to call the cops on his loud hipster neighbors if he wants parity in police treatment.

  • Meet your neighbors and say hello when you are walking down the street. Works wonders.

  • I am white, and I can say that in one year of living in Petworth (and not as a homeowner, as a renter) I have learned that most black people I pass on the streets will say hello, greet me, look me in the eye, etc. And so I do the same. When I try to do the same with most white people I pass, guess what, they avoid eye contact.

    This would be super normal in the midwest suburbs where I’m from – you just don’t talk to people on the street – but in the course of a few weeks here I learned that yes you can say hello to people on the street and it is actually nice. Other white people: you can do the same! “Avoiding eye contact” is not burned into anyone’s genetic code; realize that your neighbors do it and as you have moved here and not the other way around, you could give it a try too. It may not be intentional but in a neighborhood where a lot of people do know their neighbors and acknowledge them on the street – it is rude not to do so. Just saying hello to people and getting a hello back actually makes a difference in my daily experience of living here.

    I can see how BJs words generalizing about all white people may be considered racist. I don’t think I act like the people he describes, and I can’t tell from this post if that would matter to him – but I don’t really care, because I feel completely welcomed by my black neighbors. Despite all the bad experiences my neighbors have probably had being treated in a particular way due to their skin color, I don’t feel that they judge me by mine.

    • I totally agree K. This is my experience exactly. Black folks will smile and say hello most of the time, and white folks not so much. I’m from a city in the Midwest, and saying hello to people on the street is totally normal. Weird! I just figured the rudeness was an East Coast thing. Just saying…

      • Kind of depends. We know all the old folks on our block –most living with dignity, friendly, will come out and comment on fixing up your house or whatever.

        You step down a generation to the folks who grew up in the 80’s party era, and they live decrepit now. These are the folks that are complaining about change and won’t look me in the eye when I say hi. Do they know that I grew up in DC? No, and they don’t really care. They like to complain and blame other people for their troubles. They didn’t build anything in the 30+ years they’ve been around, they just rode their parents hard work. Now they feel entitled.

        I haven’t met anyone in the older generation that cares much for the follow on generation to be honest. They seem to be happy we’re there fixing up a house.

        • I agree with you, k and mbk.
          ***Caveat time*** Based on my experiences (as a long-time White transplant to DC), and not saying it’s this way everywhere in DC … but it often seems like the older generations of Black people that I’ve come to recognize on the street will respond when I say ‘hi’ or initiate a greeting, when passing on the sidewalk. That doesn’t happen as much with younger Black people nor with White people of any age group. I attribute the friendliness of some (whom I assume to be longtime residents) to it being ‘a Southern town’ and them growing up in a different racial context (less public racial disharmony during segregation).

          While it might not work in every neighborhood, I think BJ and others who are proud of their block, need to go out of their way to introduce themselves when new neighbors arrive and even bring them some small gift, by way of saying “Welcome to the neighborhood.” If the newcomers aren’t polite, seem like they want to ‘have their privacy respected,’ or if they act scared because a stranger is at their door, then I would understand lamenting the loss of community on the block. It’s possible BJ did these things (but he didn’t mention it on this post, so I assume he didn’t).
          While I don’t agree with BJ trying to expect his view of proper behavior on his block to prevail (his sense of entitlement as Tres said), I can sympathize with his view and with what he’s been through, because it’s probably not as enjoyable living on a block that is “nothing but a series of houses next to each other.”

      • what you call rudeness, east coasters often think of as leaving someone alone and respecting their privacy.

        just saying.

  • Observation: If you substitute black people for gay people, and white people for straight people, this same thing can be said about Dupont and Logan. Let’s have a thread about the heterofication of Dupont! The only baby carriage I want to see on 17th street is one being pushed by two men wearing matching sweaters.

    • lol hilarious! made my morning.

    • great stuff; ‘ truer words were never “written” ‘ (misquoting ian of course)

    • I think of the non-hetero as about the 3rd wave of gentrification. 5 is the stroller set. Wave 1 is hipsters or hippies (circa late 60’s Dupont).

      Just take your girlfriends out to Secrets and bring em back to me bothrered. I vow not to reproduce in either Logan or Dupont. Shaw and Petworth are mine, however, regardless of where the gay ghetto is in the next 10 years.

  • Oh man, an actual legitimate opportunity for white people to claim that someone made racist comments about them? A few days after Fenty loses? This post is like Christmas, New Years, and opening day at the Newark Ave Dog Park rolled into one!

  • I’d like to address a point made by B.J. I do not feel that most new residents moving into the city are doing so purely for the investment. I think B.J. just percieves that because the newcomers often don’t make a fullcourt press towards creating new friendships in the community that the investment is all they care about.

    I think new residents are moving to the city more to minimize their commute, live in a neighborhood where amenities are in walking distance so they don’t have to be slaves to their car, and escape some of the cookie cutter blandness of the townhouse subdivisions of the suburbs.

    But yes, when we move into the neighborhood we aren’t likely to sit on the stoops and chill out with neighbors. We’ve got friends from before we moved here all over the metro area. We’re a little more affluent so we have air conditioning, a big screen tv, and 300 channels. We probably rely less on cookouts than the old time residents as we have the disposable income to go to bars and restaurants then hit up the theater for a show.

    Sense of community isn’t as strong in affluent populations because they have more mobility and more means to entertain themselves. This is true whether your white, black, asian or anything else…

    • and we tend to have jobs so we can pay for all these things, so we don’t have all day to sit there shooting the breeze. as nice as that would be sometimes.

    • Also, there have been way too many mosquitoes out lately to make stoop sitting very fun. Which is sad, because that’s one of the things that really appealed to me about buying a place in Petworth.

  • Sweet, if I understand BJ’s rant, it sounds as if we white folk are encouraged by the native black folk who run this city to give handguns to our kids and let them hang out on the streets as early as 2 years old unsupervised, and to move into the public housing, sell drugs, and terrorize the neighborhood, as long as we have frequent bbqs. I love it!

  • BJ…if your so concerned about community why don’t you just knock on your new neighbors door and introduce yourself or say hello to them while they are outside gardening? This is the way it is usually done when someone new moves in. For some reason racist blacks in DC want to say they are victims because the new white neighbors aren’t friendly. Well, usually when someone new moves in its the people that have been there a while that welcome them – not the other way around.

    Oh yeay, I’m not buying the “30 years ago it was all black”. Not sure where you live, but here in Petworth I have a few white neighors who are very old and can tell you about the early 60’s when the neighborhood started to change (in fact blacks weren’t allowed to live in some areas) so the “this is a black city” is bull….

  • At the core of BJ’s complaint is that folks just want to be left alone.

    White people, or if you prefer, new more affluent residents (who are mostly white) are uptight and complain about everything and call the cops all the time.

    Just look at this blog, it’s full of “Dear POP’s” about every stupid little thing that happens in the city whether it’s people playing acoustic guitar on their porch, a building permit, a thing here, a thing there, and the tone of the request is always consternation and the majority of the advice from the comments is always call the cops or confront the neighbors in an escalating way.

    Yeah, crime is bad, and gentrification obviously has its positive outcomes. But I don’t blame neighborhood folks from hating on the new folks for being completely uptight a-holes and challenging every little stupid thing they see.

    • Every stupid thing we see? Like children with guns and ammo shooting up the place day after day, WTF! If it’s ok for you, is it really ok for us?

  • Yeah BJ, just keepin’ it real. Things were so much better when a guy could get shot 4 times without any hassles.

  • I like this series of guest posts; it is a real opinion from a real person.

    That said, I look forward to a future interview with one of the original Jewish residents of Petworth who opines that things started downhill once black people began moving in. I want to see the same defenses of overt racism and the same sense of righteous exasperation from the same people for that post.

    No one “owns” DC — its demographics have shifted throughout time, and they continue to do so.

    • I thought POP did a post from an old time Jewish resident about how things changed? It was very positive. Search the archives.

      • I think you are right, Anon, thanks. My point above is that — if the hypothetical interview with a one-time Petworth resident were ever posted — I doubt that all parties to this discussion would stand firm in their opinions.

  • I love all the hate for POP for printing this. It just makes BJ’s point for him. Gentrifiers don’t care to understand what their neighbors are feeling. What they are feeling may be completely misguided, unfair, whatever, but the feelings are REAL. And it’s clear that most people here could give a rat’s ass about talking to their neighbors to get to know them and smooth out the misconceptions and instead just want to yell “Reverse Racism!” and justify their own isolation from realities. It can really be in echo chamber in here sometimes.

    • Yeah, you go “smooth out the misconceptions” at the type of person who’ll call you cracker and spit on the ground in front of you. See how that works for you.

  • Ugh, speak proper english please!

  • I think he’s just saying white people are boring and only want things done their way and things done any other way should be stopped immediately. Huh, sounds like what’s going on in our National politics too.

  • I am white and I say: B.J. and A.S. are spot on. So glad Fenty will be gone.

  • i’m not the only non dc native white guy that is not offended by this at all, right? those courtland milloy articles don’t offend me either. nor am i scared by gray being mayor.

    you people need to lighten up and not act so guilty.
    if someone has something to say, listen to them. don’t immediately yell racist and argue with them.

    and no, you cannot just substitute “black” for “white”. you ever actually ask a black person what racism is? a black persons sense of racism is very different that how white people think about it.

    • I’ve mentioned it before. There are many different perspectives in this city. You have one too. But the perspective that only black people lived east of the park and that things were magically better ‘back then’ needs to be combated. It wasn’t better. Take a look at any newspaper clippings from the time or talk to anyone who lived through that time, and things weren’t rosy.

  • And so once again we have a commentary on class parading around as a commentary on race.

  • Posts like this really do promote division. I say bj is an ass for being unfriendly to his new neighbors and his new neighbors are being an ass for being unfriendly to their new neighbors, if any of this is real.

  • Funny, I was just talking to an old time neighbor this weekend who said “we really like the changes that are going on and just want to be a part of it”.

    • why is it funny that two separate people have two different opinions?

      • Because two different people with seemingly the same experience feel differently about it, thats why. Often, that is exactly what people find humor in!

        Given the number of postings regarding race these comments would lead you to believe there is a real problem. I don’t think thats the case, when I moved in a white lesbian couple made me feel very unwelcome but a group of african americans that ran the orange hats group made me feel very welcome. Thats also funny to me.

        • You’re right Cliff. Reading through these comments, you’d think there is an impending clash of civilizations in Petworth and Columbia Heights. Not that there aren’t some issues, but damn! People commenting here are full of rage (or at least that’s what it seems like). More of an incentive to stop reading blog comments and go out and talk to actual people.

      • Because a lot of the views expressed in this thread are being applied to entire groups of people.

  • I can sympathize with BJ’s lamenting of the loss of community in our neighborhoods, but i think the blame lies equally, if not more so, with modern technologies than with the race of the citizens.

    I’m a young white homeowner who spends a lot of time on my porch and knows most of my neighbors, black and white, young and old… I watch them come and go from their air conditioned cars and air conditioned houses. Both all shut up all the time. It’s not only wasteful and unsustainable for the environment, it’s hurtful and unsustainable for our neighborhood culture. Not saying that A/C is completely to blame for deterioration of community, but I am saying that it is at least as much to blame as any gentrification argument.

    .02 deposited.

  • this post reminds me that i’ve been a bad neighbor recently. i haven’t talked with my neighbors for a while. i’ve come home and barely said hi. no time for conversations recently. never time to do anything for or with them.

    i take BJ for his criticisms at face value and agree with him. i don’t care about the flaws in his argument. i just look to his suggestion as to how we can live better and interact with out neighbors in a better way.

    you folks have to learn to read between the lines. this post is all about neighborliness. its not really about class or race or whatever. if you get all defensive, maybe you should think about why.

    • i like this post. and it reminded me that i’ve also been a bit of a bad friend recently!

      most of the rest of the comments just give me a lot of anxiety.

    • I like this comment a lot. People should come away from this post wanting to be a better, more friendly neighbor. It’s that simple.

      I moved to DC a few years ago from Pittsburgh and one of the first things I noticed and took issue with was the lack of community in the neighborhoods I’ve lived in here. I’m sure there are several reasons for this. I understand Pittsburgh is a smaller city, and I’m sure that is a large part of the problem, but I loved how tightly knit all communities felt there. I lifeguarded at local pools all through high school and college and worked in 8 different Pittsburgh neighborhoods, both white and black, and it all still felt communal. I very much miss that. I like hanging out with people, in my back yard or at the park, and having that BE an activity. Most of my friends here only want to get together if it involves going out. Maybe it’s because I’m broke, but I like spending time with people and I don’t NEED for that to involve spending money as well.

      All of the classist and racist responses completely defeat the purpose of this commentary. Or, rather, they completely explain why this dialogue needs to happen in the first place.

  • ““For 30 years or better, we lived how we lived. We hung out on the stoop because we couldn’t afford air conditioning. ”

    You mean to tell me all you black men couldn’t pitch in and buy an AC? You let your mothers, grandmothers, aunts, children suffer in the heat? What kind of “men” are you? Well that says a lot about why the neighborhood was so screwed. No men willing to work and provide for their family.

  • I honestly don’t care what B.J. feels or how many times that he’s been shot, or how many relatives and friends he’s had that have been shot. It gives him no additional credibilty in my book – his whole existence in this city from day one is all by chance and that grants him ZERO entitlements to comment on the future of this city or where it’s headed. Contribute something and then *maybe* I’ll give you some credibility, right now, though? Nothing.

    He was born here and idealizes a false notion of ‘community’ that he feels existed when he was younger- which, according to his own recollection, includes sitting on the stoop and playing music in the backyard – activities I’m sure he can largely engage in to this day. It’s totally pathetic.

    Whites and blacks happily interact in my gentrifying area – we do house parties and gatherings together. We know each other’s names, look out for one another, and I don’t think any of us pay attention to skin color. Maybe the white people don’t talk to you because they don’t like *you* and your friends and it has nothing to do with your “race.”

    You and your people were born into a community. People who make more money wanted to move into an urban environment (probably partly because of wanting to live in a diverse neighborhood and not subject their families to suburban hell) and purchased homes. The ‘birthright’ people in your area failed to make enough to hold onto their homes – that is THEIR fault, not the fault of those who are moving in. Look in the mirror.

    Someone will probably be buying up your house in the not-too-distant future, and you can only blame yourself and the decisions that you made in life so stop hating and maybe try to learn from the people who are more well off than yourself in order to build a real community.

  • My 90 year old black next door neighbor, with whom I have spent many hours on the porch relaxing in discussion and who tops BJ by far in credibility, has cronicled in our conversations the years of dereliction and decrepitude that were the late 80s and 90s in Petworth. She also recounted a neighborhood of the 50s and 60s, when she lived here and prior to BJ’s birth I would guess, when Petworth was very diverse with all colors and religions sharing the community in harmony. BJ is bitter and full of it, he needs to get a life and get a porch and he’ll find plenty of people who will share it if he improves that attitude. Besides, if BJ really wants to know, this neighborhood was built and inhabited by “white” people long before and far longer than the fantasy “all black” utopia described in his posting. Throughout its whole history, Petworth has never been “all black” period, so factually he’s also way off (check the census).

  • I’d be mad too if I was having a black party that got busted up by the cops while two doors down there were a hundred hipsters making a racket around a keg of PBR. How is it racist to say white people move in and are treated better while the natives are persecuted for doing the same things. All while the feeling of community and family is stripped away in the name of home equity. You all are truely off your rockers.

  • Is he stoned in that picture?

  • I am a white person who doesn’t talk with my black neighbors. I’m not racist, I’m just shy and like to keep to myself.

    • saf

      That’s fine. You still should be able to manage a polite greeting. You don’t need to be best friends, you just need to be civil. Without neighborliness and civility, we lose our communities.

  • You own the house, not the neighborhood. Thus you have no control over what happens outside of your house; good or bad.

  • Ahhh, how I pine for the days of racial segregation. Yet, I revere Martin Luther King, Jr. and pretend to respect all that he stood for.

    I see no paradox here.

    I think we ought to have separate neighborhoods, separate schools, separate water fountains, etc. Don’t even get me started on the Woolworth’s lunch counter. Oh, and universities. Thank god we still have Howard.

    This is progress. In fact, I’m going to call myself a progressive! What says progress better than segregation?

  • Riiggghhhhttttt… White people are the problem. Lets go back to that way it was before… crack houses, murders, poverty, and despicable city in general.

  • i dont have a stoop/porch! i wish i did

  • I moved to Truxton Circle because I can’t afford to live in a nicer part of DC. Why should I pay $1400-$2000 a month when I can pay $1000? BJ doesn’t seem to get that not all white people are affluent. Go to any part of America that isn’t a major city and you will see white people in trailer parkers, working at McDonalds etc. Don’t connect class and race.

  • You old codgers sound hilarious railing against these faceless “hipsters”. Ol’ BJ would just as soon call you a “cracker” if you got on his bad side.

  • I used to live in South Boston, and what B.J. is saying here could have easily come out of the mouths of the white second- and third- generation Irish-Americans that I knew growing up. Just change a few words around and you have some old racist crank sitting at Old Colony, Old Harbor or Castle Island reminiscing about the days before schools and public housing were desegregated.

    Oh, and B.J, go fuck yourself. I’ll buy where I goddamn please. The neighborhoods that you claim for yourself were once racially mixed and some — gasp — were predominantly white. Just because they happened to be predominantly black when you were growing up doesn’t mean you own their future.

  • if you have to say that you’re not being racist that many times…you’re being racist.

  • bfinpetworth

    I love living in Petworth! It feels real. The people are real. Good and bad. Before we moved to Petworth we lived in a high priced apartment in Columbia Heights in a building with a bunch of mostly white 20-somethings and it was HELL! Thoughtless, entitled little sh**s whose mommmy and daddy were footing the bill and didn’t care a bit whether someone needed to sleep at 4 am on a worknight or bother to clean up their own puke in the elevator or their dog’s poop in the hallway. The people in Petworth are sooooooo much better. White and black, gay, straight, young, old – in every way a much better quality of life. The crime is a bummer but we just stay off the streets late at night. As my mother always said – nothing good happens after midnight!

    I’m sorry BJ feels the way he does. I hope that if any people recognize him from the neighborhood, they stop and talk to him. It does wonders for both parties. Lets get beyond this racist crap and move forward with creating a positive community!

    • bfinpetworth

      And another thing: We have central air but we still sit on our front porch (and would even more if there weren’t so many darned mosquitoes! Whats up with that!?). One of the reasons we chose Petworth was because almost every house has a front porch and that bodes well for a community. We have met many neighbors by just sitting there and saying hi as folks walk by. Even the younger groups of guys who might be taken as hoodlums are freindly if you make an effort. There are a few that won’t respond and we just accept that they don’t want to engage. That’s their right.

      • “We have central air but we still sit on our front porch (and would even more if there weren’t so many darned mosquitoes! Whats up with that!?)”

        That’s an interesting comment and probably something that has changed in the neighborhood aside from gentrification. In the last 10 years the native mosquitoes have been replaced with Asian tiger mosquitoes that can breed in 1/4 teaspoon of water and are out all day and night. They are way more aggressive than the native mosquitoes. I’m pretty miserable outside if I don’t have bug spray on, and I don’t like to use that stuff if I can avoid it. Plus if you go back to the 50s-70s there was probably a lot of spraying for mosquitoes and DDT people wouldn’t really tolerate today. I’m not saying mosquitoes killed the porch culture of Petworth but I think they might have something to do with it.

      • Now you are stereotyping Columbia Heights people. I am thirty and work a full time job, going to bed at 11 every weeknight.

        I stoop sit as well.

  • This post (and subsequent comments) sting because they expose how naive I am.

  • I’ve seen what BJ describes, in some part, in my new, uber-gentrified neighborhood on the Capitol Riverfront. The whole area is new apartment and condo buildings filled with young people – mostly white young people – who have as little contact with one another as possible.

    I’m new in DC, but I used to be part of real communities where I knew my neighbors. We’d hang out on our porches and talk, drink beers, enjoy the weather. We;d say hi on the sidewalks and in the halls. We knew pets’ and kids’ names.

    Any attempt at this on the Riverfront doesn’t seem to work. Nobody wants to branch out. People want to go home and watch TV or talk to their existing friends. Nobody even responds to my hellos. I miss that.

    Is it us as white people? As young people? Former suburbanites? Whatever it is, we don’t know how to appreciate our neighbors and in the end, that will make where we live just a place and not a real neighborhood.

    • I think you hit the nail on the head with “former suburbanites.” People who grew up with large (or maybe just large-ish) parcels with fences and driveways never had to interact with their neighbors on a daily basis. I grew up in a close-in suburb with really small houses that were still detached. My relationships with neighbors ever since has been closer than my friends who grew up in the exurbs but not as close as native city people.

      It doesn’t mean that all newcomers are standoffish, but it does require a change of habit.

    • You live in those big buildings on the RiverFront and expect to know your neighbors? Move to real, human-scaled neighborhood neighborhood in the city, not Rosslyn-lite

      • I had to make a pretty quick move at the time. But I agree, it isn’t a real neighborhood. I’ve lived in big buildings with a lot of young people that have had a sense of community…but not there. Not yet anyway.

        • saf

          There’s still some community down there. (I work with a few neighborhood groups from SW, and I go to church in that neighborhood, so I am speaking from personal experience.)

          Check out a SWNA meeting for starters. Maybe, if you’re a church type person, visit one of the neighborhood churches.

  • He is a racist, no doubt. Not surprising.

    I do notice that a lot of people say they can understand why he is, but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s a huge racist. Most people are, though.

  • Is it ok for the white people in Loudon and Fairfax County to complain about the Latinos moving in?
    Don’t see much difference between them and BJ in my opinion.

  • I, for one, am shocked this is getting so many comments, and Door of the day (bonus sweet transom) is hardly getting any

  • Amen to the man for speaking what a lot of people are thinking but not willing to say. If it’s racist, it’s racist. If not, not. Either way, it’s reality and it should be out in the open, not kept hush hush, dust under the rug.

    • I’m not sure I understand this reasoning. If some bigot doesn’t like the fact that I moved into his neighborhood, why should I legitimize his bigoted feelings by talking it out. I’ve done absolutely nothing wrong and won’t be made to feel like it by some jackass who thinks he’s entitled to something he’s not. Some things are just non-negotiable, and one of them is my freedom to live wherever I can afford. He can choose to be civil — at which point he’ll be treated civilly, or he can be a whiny brat about it. His choice, not mine.

      • So we should just ignore the bigots and not try to engage them to create understanding? We should ignore misconceptions that blacks have about whites, and vice versa, because we are all entitled? We should be content to glibly toss out the label of “racist” or “bigot” or “” and accept dissonance rather than attempt to bridge the gap to harmony? I wonder if this approach will lead to peace between Israel and Palestine. I wonder if this approach ever led to anything but increased tension and conflict. Me thinks not.

        • Nations and individuals are very different things, so your analogy about the Middle East is irrelevant. If you think that the violence between Israelis and Palestinians boils down to personal race or class animosity, then you are sorely mistaken.

          And yes, someone who thinks that I shouldn’t be in the neighborhood because of my race IS a bigot, regardless of whether you think the term is over-applied or not. Even over-applied words fit from time to time.

          And yes, we should ignore them. Do you really think that knowing one or two white neighbors that he finds acceptable will change his mind in the long term? That’s incredibly naive. In my neighborhood we have a mix of races and longevity of tenure. As a general (but not absolute) rule, the black families tend to have been there longer than the white families, and I can tell you that the families that get along (both black and white) just roll their collective eyes at the black versions of Archie Bunker on the block, as everyone knows that they won’t change.

          Really, I have no interest in changing his mind. Just as long as he doesn’t say anything to me or my family, we’ll get along just fine. Otherwise, we have a problem of his own making.

          • Well, I respect your opinion, but I still disagree on most counts. Having been a race relations facilitator in the past, I can tell you that engagement, even with the seemingly most intractable characters, is the best first step. You never succeed if you don’t try. Yes, I have encountered many people whose polar opinions cannot be changed, but some can, and that has made the effort worthwhile.

  • One person’s perception is not always reality.

  • The conversation goes to race and people go crazy. I moved to Capitol Hill ten years ago and found the black people on the block figured I was a gentrifer and wasn’t “one of them” and the whites figured I was “one of them” and should be avoided at all cost. The whites would share information on the local listserv, invite each other for coffee etc and couldn’t understand why blacks didn’t come when they made an effort to include them. Well, most of the black folks on the street were old and didn’t have a computer.

  • haha as soon as I saw PoP’s editor’s note that he likes hanging out on his porch with his neighbors I knew this was going to be a doozy!

    seriously though… when you have to say “I’m not trying to sound racist but…” then you are in trouble.

  • Kudos to PoP to posting a different viewpoint. I don’t understand the comments that seem to insinuate that gentrification is “saving” neighborhoods from crackheads and murder. Who’s racist now?

    What I took from this is the value of getting to know your neighbors and respecting the history of where you live. Or, if you choose not to, don’t expect your neighbors to care much about you. There’s no right or wrong here, just how it is.

    We attend neighborhood meetings whenever we can. We get to know who lives in what house. You don’t like that the music is loud? Try *talking* to them before calling the police. Do we have nonsense happening on our block? Sure…but it’s almost always someone from outside the neighborhood.

    “Getting to know your neighborhood” is not an overnight process. It took us about a year to get to know everyone on the block. People on my street take great pride that they’ve lived there for 40+ years. With that length of time under their belts I can see why someone new in the neighborhood is not a big deal.

    Thanks for the food for thought, PoP.

  • BJ is not a racist. Here’s my own personal opinion as to why.

    Look at the area surrounding Howard University. Ledroit/Shaw, Bloomingdale, Petworth, Columbia Heights, These are all areas that have seen some “gentrification”. But before the “gentrifiers”, it was the Howard Univ students that drew the ire of long time residents. Mainly for the same reasons that BJ has voiced above about the white people he sees moving in around him. HU students came from other places and were content to bring their former way of life w/ them and they made no secrets about it. In addition HU students were there on a short term basis (another thing they made crystal clear).

    Rewind to 1999, and I bet you he made these same arguments about the Howard students living in his neighborhood. If everyone that moved in close to BJ kissed his butt and called him King he would have no problems w/ anybody. So you can call him what you want, but I dont think racist is the word.

  • Things change. You either change with them, or you become bitter and resentful.

  • On the lighter side, check out the sweet pube shot on the original article!

  • So, yes, this is racist. But I think in all the defensiveness surrounding that (correct) observation, an important point is lost: No matter what color your skin is, you should talk to and interact with your neighbors. Don’t just move into a neighborhood and keep to yourself — if you want that kind of livestyle move to the less-dense parts of the country — isolation is not a luxury we can grant you in a city.

    Talking to and being friendly with your neighbors is what makes a community. It’s what creates understanding and establishes standards of behavior that (through compromise) allow folks to live together without calling the police over things like noisy parties and hanging out on stoops, whether it’s with a boombox or a guitar or a collection of bikes or a barbecue or a basketball game or whatever it is you have going on in your life.

  • Stormfront must have found this page on google or something.

  • Not everyone moving into the ‘hood is a hipster (whatever that means). I am a 40 + African American woman, a graduate of Howard U. and Catholic U. I am a professional and I have been living in the DC area for 25+ years. I just moved back into the District last year when I found a house that I love in Park View — a place that I would not have considered 10, even 5 years ago.

    Now, PoP is free to post whatever he likes, and I like that he posts interesting commentaries like this. As someone else stated, if this were boring crap nobody would read it.

    I do not agree with B.J. I think his views are based on the fact that his neighborhood is the only thing he knew growing up, and he thought that was the best way to live. Fortunately or unfortunately, neighborhoods do change (Georgetown was all black at the beginning of the 20th century). Fortunately for him, he has an opportunity to meet new people, people who can teach him something and they in turn can learn from him. What it all comes down to is that we are all people. I enjoy being able to learn something from someone who has different experiences than I do. BJ better get on board or move on down the road as others have said.

    • Precisely. From what I understand, Georgetown was largely black until some time in the ’40s. Columbia Heights was predominantly white until then, too. Anacostia was a mostly white area of the city until the 50’s. So if B.J.’s neighbors were all black when he was growing up, that doesn’t mean that he (or his parents or grandparents) weren’t the newcomers at one time in recent history.

      My kids are natives of our neighborhood (we’re white). They’ve lived in one house their whole lives. Does this mean that they have a greater claim to the neighborhood than a black family who moves in now? Of course not. If years down the road one of them were to post an article bemoaning how all these black families were moving in and changing the nature of the nice, diverse neighborhood we once had I’d be dismayed, to say the least.

      Why is it any different for this guy?

      • The Georgetown bit isn’t exactly true. Georgetown was integrated until the 1940s. Those big houses housed white families and their staff lived in basement apartments and apartments along the waterfront. All the waterfront (stinky, smelly, swampy) housing was cheapest and most integrated, especially the bad side of the tracks in Southwest. DC in the 40s faced a housing crisis which screwed the people with the least opportunity.

        Mt Pleasant was Whites Only until 1948. As in SEGREGATED. Parts of Columbia Heights were SEGREGATED. Many neighborhoods in DC were segregated. LeDroit Park was F*CKING GATED and no black people were ALLOWED INSIDE THE GATE!

        White people built these neighborhoods and controlled them and then, via the force of law, segregated them. All the African-American families in Northwest are newcomers. It’s not something to gloat about, but it’s very true.

  • I get the offense taken to the racist POV of BJ’s testimony but I’m totally dismayed by the nature of that offense on display here–and especially all the eff-yous to PoP for posting it. I think he’s provided an invaluable service in more ways than one to this always-changing, ever-expanding community of people across neighborhoods most of you would never even consider if you hadn’t been exposed to them on this blog. Step back, take a deep breath and grow up a little bit.

    My husband and I have lived in Petworth for six years now and as the demographics have evolved I’ve also noticed that long-time residents are friendly if you are, while newcomers keep to themselves as young urbanites typically do. The dynamic on these streets is different from more dense and transient residential areas but more than that, there’s an equitable level of fear of the unknown on both sides of old-timer/newcomer divide.

    If you can’t see the value in gathering some insight into the views of people on the other side of that divide then you’re probably better suited for the more homogenous environs of upper NW or the VA suburbs. Those who choose life in the city because they appreciate diversity can help foster community by listening, striving for empathy and reaching out across that divide to people who don’t share the same background but now share stomping grounds.

    It’s not always going to work because an asshole is an asshole (and that asshole might be YOU) but it’s gotta start somewhere.

  • I’m going to make a point of reaching out to my neighbors; I’m definitely someone that isolates myself from a potentially wonderful community. That’s what I choose to take away from this post and comments.

  • It is a difficult situation.
    BJ prefers his childhood life, because it was “comfortable” to him and his neighbors. They dealt with the below standard living conditions, but it sounds like they were happy. It is not about working 16 hour days to afford the AC system or a renovated house, they valued the slower pace and that is desirable to some.
    The new folks moving in come with expectations and different experiences. With good intentions, they want to change their surroundings to make it comfortable to them, but that does disrupt the existing ‘comfortable life’ BJ and his neighbors were leading.
    Time changes, nothing stays the same forever, so it is a difficult situation. I completely understand where BJ is coming from (not the racist sounding part), but I am also one of those people who like to see convenience neighborhoods such as Columbia Heights be used to their best, by growing/changing to accommodate the growing population.

  • So, I may be too far down on the list for anyone to read this comment, but here are my thoughts.

    Yes, BJ’s comments are openly racist and bother me. And it’s a shame that he elected to write his opinion using such venomous, racially-loaded language…because he does actually have a point that would have been nice to discuss. What are the effects of gentrification on the original neighborhood residents? As with anything, there are positives (many, in my opinion) and also negatives to weigh. What obligation do we have to preserve a neighborhood’s existing culture? Do dog parks and bike lanes improve a community, or overwrite it? That would have been a much more productive conversation than BJ’s blacks vs whites diatribe and the responses he’s evoked.

    But what perhaps I find most disturbing is that what BJ expresses here isn’t as uncommon as we’d all like to think. As one comment points out, he’s just expressing an opinion that other people may be too afraid to say. And that is what’s unnerving here.

    As the most recent mayoral primaries showed, DC is still an incredibly racially charged city–on both sides of the river. For every BJ out there, there are 5 more just like him who feel this way (in varying degrees) but would never publicly admit it. And yes, that goes for both blacks and whites.

    We all claim to want equality, diversity, etc but keep coming back to these poisonous thoughts about ethnicity, identity and community. I hope that one day we when we discuss making DC a better place to live, the conversation doesn’t have to revolve around race.

    • Ah, but in many cases they’re not the “original neighborhood residents.” The demographic makeup of DC’s neighborhoods changed dramatically last century, making anybody’s claim to be an “original neighborhood resident” bogus for the most part.

      Who’s claim is right? I for sure don’t know, which is why it’s better to not make such historically specious claims.

      • Sorry, “whose” not “who’s.” I should know better.

      • Yes, but there’s certainly a big difference between someone who’s lived in the neighborhood for most of his life (decades, as has BJ) versus someone who’s moved in within the last real estate boom (2 years? 4 years?).
        Taking your argument to the extreme (strictly to make a point) would mean that only a native American could call himself an “original neighborhood resident.”

        • Yeah, I was thinking as I typed that the logical extreme leads to an untenable position. Really what I’m talking about is neighborhoods as they are currently established, so no need to go back to the region’s original population. (They did get totally hosed, though.)

          Your point is well taken, but many of these changes are fairly recent — really within one or two generations. The major demographic changes that people talk about here (Georgetown, Anacostia, etc) are of such recent vintage that many people currently alive can remember a very different scenario. I’m not saying that all change is good, only that a 40-odd year old guy claiming that the natural order of things has been ruined is woefully uninformed, not to mention selfish and — in his case — bigoted.

          I understand one person’s desire to keep the neighborhood as he or she knows it. However, taken

    • I agree with the hope you express in your last sentence, but I am not as pessimistic about the current situation. I don’t agree that “DC is still an incredibly racially charged city.” I wouldn’t base my view of race relations in DC on what this one J.C. person had to say. Yes, there was a primary election last week that split largely along racial lines. But I don’t think that’s evidence of entrenched racial animosity, just as I wouldn’t say that the mayoral primary of 2006, with similar voting patterns by race, would justify the conclusion that “DC is a city that has increadible racial harmony.”
      I would find it interesting to see some hard data on racial attitudes in this city (compared with other cities), but until then, I don’t think I would agree with such broad statements.

  • I moved here from Pittsburgh, a very integrated city where racism doesn’t even seem to exist. The biggest culture shock to me upon moving to dc was this ‘us vs. them’ mentality between black & white.
    Taking race out of the question, I understand Danny’s complaints about the changing tone of his neighborhood. I do wonder how friendly he has been to these ‘white people’ who move in. Due to race tensions, they probably are nervous moving into the neighborhood and if all of the residents sit on their stoops and just stare at them walking by without trying to be friendly, it makes sense to me that they would hybernate indoors.
    I live in a condo building downtown for 4 yeras now and it’s the same problem, people are NOT friendly in this city. Often I say ‘hello’ or ‘have a nice day’ to someone else in the elevator and they barely will even respond, let alone make eye contact. Not sure what thats about but I doubt it’s a white thing, as I’m white myself.
    Maybe we should all just start being more neighborly and hopefully these race walls will begin to fall.

    • I totally agree with you on the friendliness quotient here in DC. I have the same experience: I am half latino, but white-looking and very often get the cold shoulder when I say hello to people on the street or on metro. Totally frustrating.
      I’m from New Orleans, which is very integrated, very friendly, very open and just an incredibly easy place to find yourself in a half-hour conversation with a stranger, even when you both have somewhere to go.

      I’m under no delusion, however, that racism doesn’t exist there. It’s everywhere that humans are. And it can come from any person who has a skin tone.

      Your assertion that Pittsburgh is racism-free reminds me of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s statement (to the UN?) that there are no homosexuals in Iran. The crowd laughed and so do I.

  • I am white, but am not bothered by BJ’s story even though he’s clearly a bigot. He view on his changing neighborhood sounds incredibly simplistic and naive.

    It does remind me that I need to be more outgoing with my neighbors. I do talk to a lot of people, but I’m not someone with a booming “hello” and can be a little hesitant talking to strangers – especially since I’m a woman and the hispanic men made in my neighborhood normally make lewd comments and kissy noises…The black men are more polite, but sometimes VERY forward and/or trying to stop me in conversation…which is fine, but I’m usually walking my dog and he gets bored after a while and is straining at the leash to go pee.

    Once an older black woman told me that I should let him be friendly to black people because “how is he going to protect the house?” WTF?

  • Whoops, that should have said: Once an older black woman told me that I *shouldn’t* let him be friendly to black people because “how is he going to protect the house?” WTF?

  • ArchitectDesign, I’m from Pittsburgh as well – Racism doesn’t seem to exist in Pittsburgh until you realize that 30% of the population is black and lives in basically entirely black neighborhoods (save for maybe a few integrated neighborhoods like Friendship, Mt. Oliver, and some white enclaves in Northside). Part of the difference in race relations in Pittsburgh as opposed to DC is demographic as well as cultural. DC has been majority black for a long time, whereas Pittsburgh’s black population, at one point 5th largest in the country, is now diminishing fast due to aging and flight. I guess I can understand how you’d think racism didn’t seem to exist, but that’s only because it’s so entrenched in Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh’s police force is also notoriously racist, and has made quite a few headlines for their brutality towards black people.

    I will second the other Pittsburghers’ comments about how unfriendly the people in general are here in DC. I can see that much of this has to do with class and race resentment, however, and a lot of rich, college educated white people are definitely moving in to a lot of traditionally working class black (and, in the case of petworth, traditionally jewish)neighborhoods. Yeah, it feels a little like an invasion, and yeah, probably because there’s a lot of money coming in that many who grew up in the neighborhood suspect they won’t see the benefits of.

    Pittsburghers, imagine if every lawyer working downtown just suddenly up and moved to Homewood.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/walkingsf/sets/72157624812674967/with/4981417821/

    here is an instructive mapping of cities by race, as based on the 2000 census numbers.

  • PoP,

    Stop the presses, I have to give you a lot of credit for posting this. While some may accuse you of fishing for pageviews, I don’t really care what your motivation was. I think this is a great item and I think it’s a huge eye-opener to read some of these comments.

    I don’t exactly think this is a black versus white matter, but race certainly does play a big part here. In order to understand anything about what’s going on in DC now, there’s a whole lot of context that must be understood.

    Is there resentment? Of course. There’s just as much resentment among blacks as there is entitlement among whites. How would you feel if your neighborhood had sat ignored for decades, only to see improvements once a bunch of out-of-towners arrived and opened their wallets? What, neighborhoods don’t deserve to have nice things until people show up to drive up property values?

    Accusing B.J. of racism is so laughable. I won’t for a minute pretend what it was like to grow up as a black man in the District. I can imagine it, though. I mean good god, the city festered for decades and just a few generations ago B.J. wouldn’t have been allowed to use the same bathroom as me. This younger generation may have read about racism and civil rights in a history book, but it’s certainly not history. Especially not in D.C.

    It’s a matter of attitude and to a point a matter of money. It doesn’t help you make a case saying “I deserve to live here because it’s the only place I can afford.” Well shit, how do you think that makes your neighbors feel? Oh, this was the least bad neighborhood I can afford to live in until I make more money and leave before my kids reach school age.

    Realize this, no matter what you may think your life has been like, you have absolutely no idea what your neighbors have experienced. If you are a young professional moving to this neighborhood you are very lucky to have the means to do so, and you should never forget that. I know I always tried to remember that.

    There will always be some resentment, and the best any of us can do is be open to everyone else. But the matter of fact is that this is a very difficult thing for a lot of people to deal with. You can’t simply expect people to ‘get over it’ or ‘deal with it.’

    • I’m glad you’re keeping an open mind and doing everything you can to understand people who are different than you. I mean that sincerely. But I think your idealism is clouding your vision.

      “Accusing B.J. of racism is so laughable. I won’t for a minute pretend what it was like to grow up as a black man in the District….just a few generations ago B.J. wouldn’t have been allowed to use the same bathroom as me.”

      History, however disgusting, doesn’t excuse racist or bigoted attitudes, from any sector. It sounds like what you’re dancing around is that because black people have suffered injustice, they by definition cannot be racist. (And by extension, it’s fair game on Whitey).

      I have no patience for this stance. Hate is hate, no matter what color skin the hate-monger has. If you suffer from liberal guilt, find a better way to work through it than using it to excuse the rotten behavior and attitudes of people like BJ.

      • I don’t exactly think racism is the right term, though.

        I don’t excuse racism, but I do try to understand where these attitudes come from. I think it has far more to do with class than with race, and I don’t think BJ would be any happier about some rich black yuppies moving in.

        • I agree it should be examined as an issue class versus one of race. My neighborhood is very mixed and I definitely get a sense there are quite a few very successful black families living alongside the house all of us neighbors suspect to be the drug house on the block.

          But, you do hinge a large part of your argument on the deep-dig you do to conjure up civil right injustices and how we should look at BJ’s argument through that prism.

          Not only that, but BJ himself makes this about race from the get-go. To him, things have gotten worse because of the “white people moving in” not “the upper class moving in”. I think he’d be just peachy keen happy if it were black yuppies.

        • “I don’t think BJ would be any happier about some rich black yuppies moving in.”

          no way to prove it, but I couldn’t disagree with you more

      • Well said.

        And also a lot nicer than I think I would have been.

    • You sound like one of the idiots that tries to sensitively educate people that are different from them.

    • The way well-fed progressive whites implore understanding and respect for black ignorance while at the same time love to post amusing photos of tea partiers with misspelled placards is sickening.

      If I see you on the street you can be sure I won’t say “hello”.

      • its funny because i think in a lot of ways the rage and despair felt by someone like BJ and the tea partiers are not that much different. it’s directed towards different perceived enemies but the idea is the same, resistance towards change and the feeling that you are being marginalized and squeezed.

        you’ll never get anywhere towards a solution by mocking anyone. there are huge problems both in this city and nationwide and a lot of people feel that they are being ignored.

        so, not sure what you are even getting at here. somewhere BJ has a point that is worth discussing, as do some of the tea party people. obviously we all probably have different thoughts on how to resolve those matters.

        • You’re entirely sure what I’m getting at but intent on being obtuse because you have to maintain the party line about “accepting” and “understanding” any anti-social behavior a member of the black underclass throws at you instead of calling ignorance what it is. His opinions are laughable and infantile. These things would be no less so if he were a fat pink guy holding a sign saying “Obama is a mooslim.”

          You bristle at the equivalency because you’ve been taught, upon fear of excommunication from the latte-sipping class, that pronouncements of hate and profound stupidity are acceptable from certain people.

  • “I have seen this place change in a way that I don’t like. Let me talk at you for a minute about it. My neighborhood used to be all white. A black person would never, and I mean never, come passing through.” Wait. What?

  • Did anyone see the play ‘Clybourne Park’, at the Woolly Mammoth this spring?

    Neighborhood change is tough for everyone, no way around it.

  • Not at all surprised to see almost 240 posts on this topic. Nothing gets ’em going in DC like race.

  • Could you imagine what the conversation would be if 90% of the replies weren’t coming from yuppies from small towns who call themselves Washingtonians but hardly know DC outside Adams Morgan, CH, and Dupont Circle.

  • I just scaled down the row and didnt read any of it because I would like to comment on this before chickening out. I believe what BJ said is from his heart and he truly wants a neighborhood again – not so much as his old neighborhood back. The statement is a cultural statment of where he comes from and what he observes. I think he is strong for putting it out there whether I relate to it or not.

  • This is the curse of DC. This town is the coldest, most unfriendly place I’ve ever lived.

    When I first moved here, as a single 30-something white guy, I tried to engage coworkers to go out for drinks, see a movie, whatever. Virtually none of the younger people wanted anything to do with me. But it wasn’t just me – people literally had no idea what the name of the person who worked in the cube five feet from their desk was. It was the strangest work environment I’d ever had.

    Until, that is, I got my next job in DC. There it was even worse. People would almost never speak to anyone except the people who worked on their specific project. I bumped into coworkers outside of work or on the Metro and would say hello, and they would look at me as if I were a bad one-night stand from college. It was really hilarious, albeit extremely sad and bizarre. The only person I spoke with regularly was this one hilarious guy from NJ, who hated DC and ended up leaving. Since I quit, I’ve ended up socializing a few times with one of the women at that office (who’s no longer there), and she’s opened up to me a lot, and we both laugh about the personality defects of our former coworkers. Of course, it took about six months before she and I started to actually become friendly when I worked there.

    After four years, I remain completely puzzled as to why why people in this town are so frigid and uptight. I’m from Chicago, which is not exactly a ragingly friendly town, but it’s better than this. I’ve lived for years in NY, which despite its reputation is an immensely friendly city, and I went to school in Massachusetts – this DC attitude is definitely not an East Coast thing. It’s a DC phenomenon, and I hate it.

    • As someone who recently moved here your post spoke to me. I’m in a bit of a different situation, having many friends from school here who also recently transplanted. But aside from them — everyone is perfectly friendly in the most perfunctory manner I’ve ever experienced. It’s a political town, and apparently that means you have to keep everyone at arm’s distance.

      It’s awful.

    • ++++ on the coldness of DC folk.
      I’m sure everybody here is sick of me saying it, so I’m glad you did.

      I gotta disagree with you on one thing, though. Chicago is a totally friendly and cool town (at least the times I’ve visited, never having lived there). I had a blast. Did some shots with Marie at the Rip Tide lounge. Reminded me of Ms. Gertie at the Mayfair in New Orleans. Gertie (70+ years old) picked me on my ass once! Awesome.

      • I have a different perspective on Chicago, as someone who’s from there. I find that it’s become less friendly, as the native, more citified people all seem to be disappearing while they’re replaced with people from the rural Midwest. I think a lot of the transplants don’t know what it’s like to live in a city so they think they have to cultivate a cold exterior. Or perhaps they’re all Midwestern frat douchebags.

        Once I was in a coffee place in Chicago and heard a guy lamenting, “You have to be drunk to meet anybody in this town!” There is this weird, American Gothic sort of thing going on there a lot these days. I’ve had guys totally checking me out at a bar or Starbucks or whatever, and (being a Nyer at heart) I’ll go up and introduce myself; it freaks people the fuck out.

    • Have you tried not working in a law firm?

      I find nearly everyone I encounter to be friendly and outgoing. I have a lot of friends who are natives and transplants a like. In fact, except on this blog, I rarely hear of anyone who is unhappy here.

      Maybe you need to examine yourself to see if you have things that may be contributing to your unhappiness?

      • LMAO – nice try. I’m not a lawyer, have never been, and never will be.

        And if you rarely hear of anyone who is unhappy in DC, then you’re either oblivious or don’t try very hard. In my DC grad school, I knew several people who got the hell out of DC every weekend because they hated it. In fact, I knew one woman who spent her last semester living in NY and coming down only for the days when she had classes.

        Just because you enjoy the place, don’t cast aspersion on others for not sharing your opinions. Perhaps you’ve had a different experience?

      • saf

        My experience is also – I meet lots of people, most of whom are friendly, and I am always baffled by stories like this one.

  • It’s been a tough couple of weeks for race relations. I’m sick to death of it.

    I mean really, the DC we live in right now is the most diverse place and closest to harmonious about it that I’ve lived in EVER. I’m not so delusional to believe that there aren’t jackasses on the fringe who hate that, but I was feeling SO fortunate to live here now, as this evolution is happening.

    No matter what Gray does (and I wish him every success though I voted for Fenty) it feels like we’ve already been set back about 20 years thanks to all the truly nasty racist crap that’s been flying about in the last few weeks. It is so depressing and my resentment grows with every bit of intolerance expressed, whether it’s “Go Home Whitey” or “Be Grateful We’re Here, You Stupid Blacks.”

    Just sick.

    • DC isn’t diverse AT ALL. It’s a duoculture of rich, predominately white people and extremely poor blacks. Dallas, Texas is more “diverse” culturally and economically than DC. Get a fucking grip.

      • THANK YOU for saying this!! Anybody who’s lived in a real city (e.g., Chicago, NY, San Francisco – hell, even Miami or LA) knows this. DC is not diverse at all, and I find it extremely grating when all these holier-than-thou, 28-year-old Dept. of Commerce employees from Nebraska congratulate themselves constantly for living in such a mecca of diversity.

  • I just wanna comment for commenting sakes. This post sucks. Way to keep it negative people.

  • Regardless of what this “BJ” has to say, I love the diversity of my neighborhood. I talk with everyone as much as I can walking about and wave at people driving by if they are looking over at me. I’m from Boston and I do agree that I have seen a lot more bigotry action here in DC, and its usually being sent in my general direction. Some people have a major chip on their shoulders. I am “obviously” part of gentrification, and it seems that I’m destroying the neighborhood with my hard earned money by living life with my family and friends, paying my taxes, and investing in my home. In any case, I refuse to lower myself to anyone like B.J. and don’t feed into his thinking. The city is changing and people like BJ will just end up alone and bitter since he can’t seem to deal with life changing around him.

    p.s. – I can’t wait for Rustik Tavern to open…Daddy, make time go faster!

    • Ditto. I love my diverse neighborhood and I do say hi to and talk to neighbors of all races. And, people like BJ should probably figure out that most of the white people that moved to Col Hts. and Petworth did so because they wanted a neighborhood and they DON’T hate blacks people. It is pretty offensive to see all the comments implying that I only bought here to flip and move out.

      In BJs defense, it took me a little while to learn that saying hi first is a good way to knock the chip of someone’s shoulder (maybe even BJ). Some of my fellow white folks still look at me like crazy b/c honestly, saying hi to everyone you see is not a culture I grew up with. But b/c folks were friendly, I learned. If BJ was my neighbor we’d probably still be glowering at each other and complaining about how the other race is so unfriendly. If he wants a neighborhood with friendly neighbors he has to to at least 50% of the work.

      I have lots of black neighbors that I am very friendly with. We talk about our kids, or my kids love them for being the friendly retired folks who dote on them (just like the retired white folks in the suburb where I grew up).

      I have two black neighbors that I don’t know at all — one refuses to speak to any white people — I really did not even know he was there until others on the block complained. Another has never returned a wave or a smile. Best I can tell, both are 40-50 something single black men with reasonably professional jobs. I have never seen either of them on their front stoop or in their back yard. Maybe one is BJ — siting in his house stewing about all the white people while a bunch of us of various races are chatting in the alley, on the corner, on the stoop.

  • B.J.’s question should have been, “Why didn’t any of my cook out friends call the cops when I got shot 4 times? Are you kidding me. That ain’t right”

  • BJ’s right — people should have enough respect to spend their whole lives residing in the same neighborhood they were born in.

  • A cynical reaction to BJ might be, “Get a job, hippy.”

    How would you feel if your neighborhood had sat ignored for decades, only to see improvements once a bunch of out-of-towners arrived and opened their wallets?

    Well, based on the statements of some neighborhoods during the last mayoral primary, improvements are to be held in suspect because they are seen as preparations for attracting (white) out-of-towners. So improvements only happen when the residents agitate for them, and that only happens when the out-of-towners come in and overwhelm those who don’t want the improvements.

    I would have thought BJ’s reaction would have been, “I’m so glad my neighborhood isn’t the kind of place where I would get shot 4 times.”

    Anyway, DC isn’t small town America– people move to DC to get away from small-town America. It so happens that I like my neighbors, but it also happens that I work long hours, don’t come home until late, and my “community” is my friends who live dispersed through the city. What separates BJ from me is that my sense of self-worth isn’t tied up in hanging out with my neighbors. At the same time, what gets me is that the members of the “community” that are trying to shut down or stymie the opening of new restaurants and cafes are the same people who complain about the lack of friendly neighbors who don’t hang out in the neighborhood.

    On a darker note, this is the downside of diversity: when people living different lifestyles with different outlooks are living right next to each other, they have different expectations and start to lose trust in each other. It’s obviously not important to me to have people say “hi” to me on the street, as I am used to everyone doing their own thing and minding their own business, but for BJ it’s very important.

  • Oh, and by the way — I’m a white yupster living on U Street. All the barber shops around here cater to black customers, but what do I care, I just want a haircut right?

    The other day when I walked into the barbershop, the employees and customers (about 15 people people total, all black) were crackin’ up, making racial jokes at me, calling me “white bread” and “Eminem.” It was a real turn off. Based on my limited knowledge of urban barbershops (based on the movies Barbershop and Barbershop 2), some good-natured ribbing is part of the barbershop experience, as I understand it.

    But this wasn’t good natured and it wasn’t particularly funny or clever. If a black guy came into my office and I called him “dark meat” and “Denzel,” I’d probably be fired (and get my ass kicked).

    So let’s call a spade and spade and just admit that everyone is allowed to be racist against whites without consequences, and white simply people have to indulge this behavior, tolerate it, laugh it off, and pretend it’s some sort of legitimate criticism.

    Don’t tell me about being a good neighbor. I tried to give a locally owned black business $30 for my haircut, and they made an asshole out of me.

    (PS I am now going to C Alan Barber Salon, which has an awesome staff and good prices)

    (PSS I am not not some lilly-white uptight prick. I just don’t like being f*cked with at the end of a long day)

    • I go to a black barber shop (never seen a white, asian, latino, native american, inuit, Polynesian, or other person so I think my characterization of it as “black” is fair) in my neighborhood and I like all of the employees and they like me. The other patrons may occasionally give me a second glance, but everyone is respectful and courteous. In fact, I have a feeling that if someone were rude to me unprovoked and with no reason, it wouldnt be looked favorably upon…

    • I recently had a similar experience at a nail salon. Except instead of saying anything to me, kids took pictures. Humiliating.

  • Previous post is riddle with typos. But I was too enthusiastic for my grammar check.

  • So years ago we were looking into having our basement done up with a French drain, ended up not doing it, but this is about the dude that came and gave us an estimate. He was an older guy, early 70’s I’d say. He looked around the basement and proceeded to talk to me about the house, when we bought it and the neighborhood, etc. He tells me he grew up in this neighborhood, Petworth, near Grant Circle, way back in the day and his family was from here, as a matter of fact his local synagogue was right around the corner from our house, at the corner of Shepherd and 8th (now 7th Day Adventist).
    “Yeah, it was a good hard working neighborhood back then…before they moved in.”
    Now I am white, so is my wife, and we knew immediately what he was driving at with “they” and why he thought it was OK to use the race angle as a way to sell us some construction work we ultimately did not need (or could afford).
    As a matter of fact he then told me that since “we were good people” he was going to give a discount and that it was good to see “the neighborhood get cleaned up”. The guy was pretty odious and frankly it was nice to get him out of the house. But here’s the thing, what if I was a rabid anti-Semitic nut job with swastika underwear? Or maybe he found out I have black folks in my family? And that gets me to BJ. BJ sees the changes hitting “his” neighborhood and he blames the white folks. Well, the white folks blamed the Jews for changing the neighborhood and then the Jews blamed the blacks for changing their neighborhood and, well, you see were this is going. This neighborhood is no ones and every ones and BJ, I am sorry that you see it changing in ways that you don’t like, but cut whitey some slack. We are only trying to make our mortgage, take care of our kids, stay safe and happy and just get by. BJ may think ever white dude he sees is loaded but I can tell you some of us aren’t. Hey, maybe some of us don’t like to party like you do or the same kind of music you like and as for the police…they are often a dubious bunch I grant you, but I suppose folks call the cops because they have been told to do just that. Anyway, that’s their job…you might not like them but they are going nowhere. I don’t understand this amorphous concept of “neighborhood”. A neighborhood is were people live, play and work and ultimately die – sometime they get along with people, sometimes they don’t. Why is we, BJ included, have this idea that we all can get along? Hell, we don’t, even BJ got shot four times back in the day. Neighborhoods change, good and bad, violently or smoothly but they change. If they don’t, then end up ghost towns.

  • Hi, I am a white person. I have moved around while looking for jobs and a place to settle so I can raise a family. I was always raised on the premise that you do what is necessary to get ahead in life, and if that means leaving your hometown or the “hood” I grew up in, then that is what I had to do. Man, would I love to live near my parents, but the good job is just not available there.

    So I got an education and job opportunities brought me to Columbia Heights. The problem is. Some people really don’t like me here. I’m not really sure why. Mostly because of my race, I suppose. Or maybe I just smell funny.

    Sometimes because of their prejudice, they perceive me as unneighborly from afar, though I say hi to folks all the time, even talk with my neighbors when they are outside working in their yards. I don’t take it personally when they don’t reciprocate, or simply say hi back without more.

    I’ve now been living in Columbia Heights for four years, an not one single neighbor, long term or new, has come by to introduce themselves. Not one plate of cookies or brownies. However, I didn’t take it personally. I just chalked it up to the poisoned politics of idiots like Courtland Milloy or B.J. here. Well, they are entitled to their own opinion. Even if it is idiotic.

    I never really understood why I haven’t been fully accepted. I guess its my race. However, I’ve learned to live with the prejudice and not let it get me down because I know that most people around here judge me for who I am, not who I appear to be.

    For you long-term residents, I’m not so bad. You should get to know me. I’ll be that damned young white twit with a dog walking down the street saying hi to folks.

  • I have lived in the DC area most of my adult life. I grew up on the mean streets of West Sprinfield, lived in Arlington and Bethesda, then bought a house in Brookland near Ft Totten when I got married.

    While I find BJ’s comments racially twinged, his depiction of the quintessential DC white 20 to 40 something pretty dead on. We are a pretty unfriendly lot. We tend to be pretty selfish. We want instant gratification. Self reliance was a deisred trait when we and where we grew up. Now imagine how those traits come across in neighborhoods where people had do bad together to to get anything done in the one of the most disfunctional cities in the United States and everyone does know everyone else.

  • Here’s the thing: everyone wants to feel like they belong somewhere and the demographic change makes some feel like they no longer belong in the only place they’ve known. For all the strides forward we’ve made, it really wasn’t all that long ago when blacks had limited options on where they could live. For a variety of reasons that have nothing to do with any gentrifiers, that’s actually the current reality for a lot of people. Diminishing options makes people angry in the face of people who have plenty.

    My dad told me that when he went to Howard in the 50’s he made one trip south of U Street/Florida Avenue in all the four years that he lived in DC. (He didn’t need to, but that’s not the point here) Thirty years later when I got to Howard, I moved freely throughout the city but I can easily recall episodes in certain parts of town where I felt . . . less than welcomed. I got a little chill just a couple of years ago at Neiman Marcus and have just decided I don’t need anything from that store.

    Actually, I’m laughing about the time I got the cold shoulder from one of those snooty furniture places along 14th Street when it first opened. Laughing because their ridiculous prices were unsustainable and they’re closed now but also because I have options. It’s the people with limited options who have the greatest beef and I think that needs to be understood before some of you crouch down and make that ginormous leap over to the assumption that *some* people just don’t want improvement. Gimme a break, that’s unadulterated bullshit. What *some* people don’t want is to feel like they no longer belong, like the improvements are not meant for them, like the neighborhood would really like for them to just move on and “make way for change.”

    I’m not justifying the racism–and make no mistake, BJ is as racist as some of the anonymous jerks on here–but maybe some of the “they hate us because we own our house/have jobs/work hard” rhetoric can come down a notch if you look at it from another angle. Because while there’s a little bit of truth in every stereotype, I get a lump in my throat when people make that little bit their whole argument.

  • Dear BJ:
    May I point out that the reason that the police do not show up for the white kids having parties till 4am is that they are not called. Actually, when I was living across from CHV for ten years – I was the only one who called the police on the white kids having parties until 4AM.

    I would have appreciated it if you had called the police as well. They come for multiple people complaining, not just for one. (And yes, those snots did keep waking up my kids & me.)

    PS: The reason that they show up for any group of kids hanging out is: They don’t know which ones are the dealers giving kids dum-dum lollypops to watch out for the po-po, and which ones are just folks having cookouts. In the case of CHV, I think the response was often inappropriate. Personally, the only time I called the police on anyone other than the white kids was when there was shooting.

    You have 2 choices: Go to the white kids parties & drink / ask them to keep it down, or call the police on them & get some neighbors to do the same – leaving names….

  • I wonder how the Powhattan and Anacostia Tribe feel about their neighborhood changing….

  • in the words of navin r johnson “Lord loves a workin’ man; don’t trust whitey; see a doctor and get rid of it. “

  • Racist? Seriously?
    If the most “racist” things someone ever says about you are that you are not neighborly, don’t have a sense of community, and get treated better by the police, consider yourself luckin’ fucky.
    What BJ said is not in the same universe as the regular screeds in this forum that accompany every post about a crime or a whiff of new low income housing.

  • This thread R.I.P.

  • One of the more absurd posts I’ve seen on this blog.

  • Yeah, about as myopic (lacking tolerance or understanding) as calling PoP an “asshole” for posting this thread. You need a pair too little girl.

  • Dont worry B.J.

    After 8 years, this white guy and family are moving out.

    Hope you are back to getting shot without that pesky police presence again in no time.

  • I’m a white guy. Didn’t talk to my neighbors when I lived in a white neighborhood. Don’t really care to talk to anyone in my new neighborhood either, regardless of their color. But, yeah, my new neighborhood is one that’s been predominantly black for the past four decades or so, I’d wager. Put simply, I own, in fee simple, the little plot that I bought, and I could care less what BJ in the black hood, or Biff in the white hood, thinks of me, or my presence there. All I know is that, in my new neighborhood, I was minding my own business on my back deck when some late-teenage kid from the house across the alley started yelling “boo” at me and telling me to go back inside. Shortly after, his friends joined in the attempted intimidation. BJ would be proud. I didn’t call the cops. I just thanked the Supreme Court that I now have a Mossberg 500 within easy reach.

  • I’m one of those ppl who don’t talk to neighbors really, I abhor people hanging out on stoops on my block. there are places to go other than your front doorstep, even when your poor. I don’t talk to many of my neighbors, even white neighbors, because living in a row house, we’re already too close for my liking. My house was also broken into 2 years after I moved into the neighborhood, while a person in the neighborhood I though I could trust was renovating my basement, so i think of it all as fair game. I don’t talk to people, because they talk to other people, and everyone knows someone with sticky fingers regardless of race… Also I prefer to keep friends in places that I can leave easily, if the need arises.

    BJ’s post would have held a lot more weight if he didn’t talk about being shot 4 times. If you come into DC thinking everyone was enjoying crime and shooting sprees, you may not be a racist, but you’re certainly being insensitive and rather ignorant.

    I’ve lived in DC for over 15 years, specifically in Petworth, knowing that Georgetown and Capitol Hill have been the so-called “rich areas” of the city through the years of decay we’ve dealt with since the King Riots. Georgetown and Capitol hill were where the social elite lived, they’ve always had stores without bullet proof glass, and with well preserved stone walkways, no broken glass on the streets, and working street lights.

    You can’t begin to imagine how “unwanted” and “disregarded” you feel when (in your own neighborhood) you pay the same taxes as everyone else but trash cleanup and city sidewalks don’t get fixed in a timely manner until white people move into your neighborhood. You can’t begin to express how downtrodden you feel after years of having to go to the suburbs to see a “clean” grocery store. You also can’t imagine what it must feel like to have money to buy a house, but to be told that you don’t qualify to live in a neighborhood because you don’t match the economic profile, when you actually do. Its happened to me. I probably couldn’t qualify for the house I own already right now even at the old price I paid (in DC now) because banks use a system called a “GI Tract”, which breaks down race and income, whereas a white family (that makes the same income as currently do alone) can.

    If you can’t see a problem with that, the history of the United states and race/opportunity issues, and the huge sense of loss of somewhere outside of Suitland Maryland where black people can choose anywhere they want to live, you’re way to sheltered to function and be happy in DC possibly ever in your lifetime. Why are black people angry? Its for a few damn good reasons beyond “the way it used to be”, its that we’re limited, regardless of success. Stores avoid our communities, and so do opportunities, and though its changed, gentrification reaffirms a state of things NOT CHANGING. We are not separate but equal. If you think we are, maybe you should move to Disneyland instead of DC. Mind you, Mickey Mouse is black.

    And I’ve never been shot, even though I’m a black male.

    • I’m white, and younger… I recently moved in and have faced some problems in the new community at Petworth… Your posting captures the disenchantment that I think both sides share. Maybe whites and blacks focusing on each other is the problem. This is about segregation on a variety of levels…whites moving into places that society hasn’t adequately “prepped” for them. Meanwhile…the norms of poorer neighborhoods devolve under the weight of neglect.

      I appreciate your thoughtful post.

  • The responses here are absolutely fascinating. I wish i had time to read through all of this.

    To sum it up: Black vs. White vs. Yuppies/Hipsters vs. Suspicious and Proud Native-Born vs. New Arrivals who don’t make eye contact vs Long-Time White residents.

    Sounds like typical human social behavior (i.e pretty normal.) I think we will all be just fine.

    Wouldn’t want to be anywhere else at the moment.

    Thanks for the unintended favor BJ.

  • Interesting story. I like your idea of neighborhood,it is just like a good, friendly neighborhood should be. Just a question – have you ever tried to socialize with the newcomers? They probably didn’t know anything about your traditions before they came. If so, it is very sad that people of different races cannot live together happily.

  • I’m a black DC native, and would technically be considered a “yuppie,” but BJ’s post holds some water on the racially charged interactions.

    Now, I’m only 23 and from what I recall, DC was a complete dump during the 90s, and I would never want to live in a place of such. Even though it improved in its safety and living conditions, most of the improvement has brought in some of the most uptight, pretentious, and covert racist non-blacks. Whenever I go to a Hispanic store, I almost always get awkward and half-assed service. Even walking by many yuppie whites, I constantly get snooty smirks and threatening stares from them. And let’s not talk about the racist Asian females who will do anything to impress whites by showing constant racism towards blacks. Yea, there are plenty of ghetto blacks who do their own part stir the tension, but at the least, they don’t eff with me (unlike the wanna ghetto poser pricks from PG County).

    And all of this prejudice from non-blacks is done while I’m essentially dressing in the same “yuppie attire.” So in conclusion: YES, THIS IS A RACE ISSUE, particularly in DC. Compared this to lily-white Northern VA where the prejudice I face from non-blacks is way less than what I face in DC. This city is horrible in race relations and the neighborliness that is very minimal can be at least partially credited to race!

    I’ll give a break to the whites who have been around here for several years when DC was just getting better. But those who came around here after the city became “trendy and chic” for the most part are cliquish, judgmental, and racist.

    At this point, I just want people to at least admit their prejudices. At least then you can have honesty as something you can claim.

  • *sees Neener*


  • Just watched a documentary on anacostianow.com (done by Al Jazeera!?) that made me think of this post and BJ and the comments. If you have a half hour watch this. Very enlightening, sad, inspiring…

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