125 Comment

  • I enjoy anti-white agitprop as much as the next guy but a bit surprised to see something this overt in a metro station. The city would have needed to approve the design, right?

  • How could this mural be approved by the city? I am fine with controversial art but not in public spaces. This is overtly racist.

  • I don’t think it’s anti-white or racist. I really like it. I do wish I could read the middle though.

    • “We’re here, we’re clear. Like, get used to it.” With a hand holding a starbucks? Yeah. it’s really racist. I’m pretty thick skinned, and this is insulting.

      • The gun under the bleeding black hand isn’t racist the other way?

        • I don’t see a gun and I don’t see bleeding. I see melted chocolate and a broken chocolate bar. I don’t get that, and I don’t get “We’re here, we’re clear” either.

          I’d probably be more interested if I could buy a vowel or something.

          • The melted chocolate is in the shape of the district. Seems to pretty obviously represent Chocolate City…

            If you think there’s such a thing as racism against white people you have a lot of learning to do.

          • Because I’m white I drink starbucks, talk like a valley girl and and am ruining their city? Yes, that’s racist.

          • Well people would argue that racism is a systematic thing, whereas everyone can be prejudice. By that definition, since whites are the majority nationally, black people can’t by definition be racist.

            It is sort of a lefty academic argument. Not sure that I totally agree. You could argue that whites can be prejudice (nervous around young black teens when walking home from the metro at night) without supporting a system of racial oppression. By contract, in certain institutions/place African-Americans can be in the majority and work to systematically favor black people.

            As to the actually painting, the controversy seems silly. Yeah, it is almost certainly true this would be a major controversy if the alleged offense ran the other way. It would go viral via twitter, blogged about on Huff Post, civil right organizations would send out press releases and ultimately it would have to be taken down. But, so what?? Is a modest double standard really the biggest deal, when there are actually far more serious issues facing our city and society, including actually racism that harms people?

          • “Well people would argue that racism is a systematic thing, whereas everyone can be prejudice.”

            I don’t know anyone who would argue that. Racism is simply the belief that one ‘race’ (a scientifically dubious term) is somehow superior or inferior to other races.

            Incidentally, there is a tremendous amount of racism within the black community between lighter and darker-skinned black people.

          • Please enlighten us on how there is no racism towards white people.

          • It’s possible to be prejudiced against white people, certainly, but racism is a systematic oppression people based on their skin color. It is impossible to be racist against white people because the system is design for their benefit.

          • “racism is a systematic oppression people based on their skin color”

            No, that’s discrimination. Racism does not require action but is instead a belief system.

            Racism is “the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races.”

          • If you think hating another race isn’t racism, you have a lot of learning to do. Even if said race has all the advantages in this society, it is still racism.

          • racism is all about power dynamics. it’s not about personal feelings. bigotry is the word your looking for.

          • White dc native here. I expirenced a lot of racism from blacks. To say black people cannot be racist is showing not only your bias but your ignorance.

          • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6CmzT4OV-w0

            Louis CK will explain the difference between prejudice and racism, as M pointed out at 10:37 am.

          • Scrillin

            You may not see the gun, but it’s definitely there.

            I think it’s a commentary on how Chocolate City is melting away, replaced by yuppies who go to Starbucks, etc.

            The gun is falling away as well, which is showing how it’s for better and worse that his change has occurred.

          • OK, I now see what could be a gun. It could also be the Starship Enterprise for all I know. I doubt I will make a special trip, but I’d kinda like to see this whole thing in person.

          • The gun is upside-down on the right, directly under the melting chocolate bar, like a Glock-style handgun. The “clear,” the “like, …” and the white hand indicate white yuppie gentrifiers to me.

          • It’s not a Glock. It looks like a Desert Eagle, a $1600 handgun that probably very few people in this city have ever seen.

          • I think they (DC’s black population) mean that we are here and clear as in we are in the clear. AKA…Slavery isn’t a thing anymore, when I run away, dogs aren’t hunting me down to take me back to a plantation…ect…ect…And that melted chocolate is probably symbolic that our Chocolate City is made of the blood of the black people who lived and died here. Idk…just an idea. But it’s art, not everyone as to get it. I just see that and what I think it’s getting at. Also, are you sure you don’t see the gun? You can’t see it in the close up, but it’s totally there on the first picture.

          • To me it says white newcomers represent vapid commercialism and are unapologetically driving out the city’s African American culture and tradition.

          • “To me it says white newcomers represent vapid commercialism and are unapologetically driving out the city’s African American culture and tradition.”

            I bet the District’s white majority said the same thing in the 1950s about all the black people moving in and changing the history and culture of the city.

            And I bet they sounded just as ridiculous.

          • How privileged am I? I didn’t see the gun. Until I looked for it, I saw the edge of a laptop. 🙂

          • Starbucks over gang and drug gun violence? I think thats probably better for everyone, right?

          • This is why we need more social science majors. If the defensive white people commenting did their research, they’d know racism dependent on structural inequities. You can be racially prejudiced against white people, but not racist. There’s a distinction, and it’s an important one. (I’m a white guy FWIW)

            A good, nuanced post explaining these distinctions: http://everydayfeminism.com/2014/07/8-things-white-people-race/

          • jim_ed

            Yes, because if there is one thing this city is desperately lacking, it’s critical theory majors arguing over semantics.

          • Jim_ed, LOL!

          • Semantics for you, pal. Reality for people of color. But hey, if it makes you sleep better at night to pretend there’s no difference between something systemic and something one-off, then by all means, keep those ears shut tight and that worldview narrow.

          • jim_ed

            Thanks for automatically assigning white identity to me without knowing otherwise. That’s terrific. It’s also not correct. But other than that, are you really that dense to realize that most people use racism and prejudice interchangeably in every day usage? That doesn’t mean people don’t understand system or institutional racism, it just means that being a scold about the semantics of what word people use is worthless pedantry. But hey, if it makes you feel far more enlightened than the rest of us to pretend that you’re making some deep point rather than dissecting vocabulary, keep it up.

          • But aren’t you dissecting vocabulary, too, by scolding him about the word he used to describe you? Words have meaning, and just because someone is ignorant about the right word to use doesn’t mean that the other word/concept isn’t intended/appropriate..

          • Jim_ed +100. I’d buy you a beer any day.

          • jim_ed

            Nicky: You’re absolutely correct that words have meanings and that we should try to better understand them for correct use. That said, I would argue that this is not the time and place for that lesson, and that using the classic internet derp move of #WellActually ends up just becoming a boilerplate strawman argument against the core issue here, which is that some people (and not surprisingly, lots of PoPvillers) take offense to the seeming portrayal of white Brookland/DC residents in this mural.
            In the context of this discussion, I’m not sure it matters if people use racist/bigoted/discriminatory/prejudice to describe their feelings, because we all are smart enough (benefit of the doubt here, bear with me) to understand what they mean. Now whether you or I or anyone else can sympathize with these feelings or roll our eyes at it is irrelevant, the fact remains that this mural bothers people, and to tell people that they can’t experience racism (because they’ve used the wrong word to describe feeling prejudice) is a cheap way to invalidate how people feel about it.

          • And critical theory aside, the concept structural racism is backed up by decades of rigorous (and often quantitative) evidence. A good summary here: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/04/upshot/the-measuring-sticks-of-racial-bias-.html

          • Nobody is arguing that structural racism doesn’t exist. However, you are arguing that that is the only definition of racism, which it is not. It is one way to define racism, but not even the most prominent definition of the word.

          • Just laughed at my desk +!

          • Most people use the words “racist” and “prejudiced” interchangeably. Academics might not like it, but that’s the reality.

          • Too funny, M. Too funny.

          • Academics should be fine with it, because the word is being used correctly. However some have taken another meaning to the word, taken it as the only meaning in order to make a semantic point and sound intellectual, and it caught on in the blogosphere. Look up the definition of racism, and every source you can find will show it’s not an inappropriate use of the word.

          • So in Chocolate City wouldn’t the structural powers that be, be Chocolate? So there could be racism towards white people within that context?

          • Please, your rationalism and logic are not welcome here. Black folks in a predominantly Black city, with generations of Black leadership, can’t possibly be “racist” towards White folks! It’s just impossible!

            Folks, if anyone in any mileau feels or directs antagonism towards a person based upon perceived racial identity, that is the textbook definition of racism.

          • bosco, you might think that. but “Chocolate City” is also a city where until the late 1990’s banks wouldn’t give out loans to get mortgages in black neighborhoods. and in the 2000’s dc got whiter and whiter. it’s not always about the ethnicity of a city’s mayor that creates the power structure. and certainly not in a city where we barely have home rule. how diverse is congress looking these days?

  • subtle!

  • There is a lot going on here. The pinky out on the coffee mug is hilarious.
    What’s up with the security camera and eyeballs on the left?
    I’m in a good mood and will interpret this as there is a bridge between what the city was and what many fear the city is becoming and needs to be made on a foundation of love, hence the repetitiveness at the bottom.
    I like it, very thought provoking.

  • Cheap and not very clever or subtle. There would be outrage if this was done from a different perspective.

  • Chocolate city is dying because of white Starbucks-drinkers? I also see an upside-down gun, Chinua Achebe’s novel “Things Fall Apart,” and an American flag as “for sale” sign. Pretty clear anti-gentrification message, in my opinion.

    • Scrillin

      Yeah, I’m surprised it’s so difficult for folks to get all the symbolism.

    • Yes – it took this long for anyone to see the novel – “Things fall apart” in the mural. But that book I actually found a frustrating, annoying and not at all compelling or well-written novel but still recognize it as a seminal work of sorts, because there wasn’t anything better (or at all) at the time dealing with African colonization, and because the title captures attention with reference to Yeat’s exquisite poem “The Second Coming.”

      And the whole pinky-out tea drinking trope is so drastically tiresome.

  • This mural is divisive and negative. There are ways to acknowledge change without insulting people.

  • I saw this when it first when up – pretty eyeroll-inducing in a neighborhood that has been either majority-white or integrated for most of its history.

  • So is that pinky finger supposed to represent something more specific than just a white coffee drinker? Because that seems like it could be stereotypical… Also are those supposed to be joints behind the book?

    Slate had a piece recently on how gentrification (as typically defined) is much much rarer than commonly understood. It’s sources seemed to indicate that gentrification is not such a bad thing. I’m not sure I agree entirely, but it was interesting: http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2015/01/the_gentrification_myth_it_s_rare_and_not_as_bad_for_the_poor_as_people.html

  • I’m just gonna assume that “We’re here. We’re clear. Like, get used to it.” is a statement about Scientologists drinking too much Starbucks and ruining the city.

  • was the bike parked there deliberately to add to the massage, or did like someone just need a place to park their bike?

  • Pretty sure African-Americans enjoy Starbucks as much as the next person.

  • Why not ask the artist? (It’s from Rajan Sedalia of Artjar.) https://twitter.com/isitmodern/status/509424701106823168

  • booooorrrrinnnnggg

  • To me, it seems as though the black hand and chocolate might be saying that the black folk let Chocolate City slip through there hands with the gun violence and opened the door for the gentrifiers.
    As what some might call a gentrifier, I’m not sure I like the images on the left. I will say, when I bought my house, I paid my former owner about 5 times what he paid for it. I’m sure more money than he ever imagined and 17 years ago, my house was still in an area with some abandoned houses on the block.

  • If you think that there is no racial divide in this country (especially in terms of income and education levels), you really aren’t paying attention.

  • I haven’t been to see the mural in person, but I think that just because there are symbols of race doesn’t necessarily mean it’s racist. There’s context that we don’t know about (Who’s the artist? What’s in the middle? Is it original text or an allusion/quotation? Who’s the commissioned it? etc.) Other questions–What’s the deal with the sunflower on the right? Perhaps the writing is a bridge between two stereotypes–Starbuck-gentrifying-defiant white folks and violent, drowning black folks? There is a banner of love at the bottom spanning the divide, for example. “Piss Christ” and Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons are two examples of art controversies which pop into my head where people’s immediate reactions did not take any context or subtlety into account.

    • If you have to know who made it and what the artist’s intent was in order to interpret it “correctly”… that’s a problem. Works of art should be able to stand on their own.

      • Not to interpret it correctly, but to understand it better. And I never said anything about artist’s intent. I really don’t care about his intent, but the effect. And I can understand more complexly something I know more about (like context, allusions, history of symbols). Don’t you think someone who knows the novel “Things Fall Apart” will understand the painting differently (and probably better) than someone who doesn’t? Or the phrase “Chocolate City”?

      • C’mon, Textdoc. Context matters, especially when the subject matter is overtly political.

        • Context definitely matters. Works of art are all contextually related to something; it’s silly to think otherwise.

        • Sure, if we know additional information like who the artist is, what it’s “supposed” to mean, etc., etc., that affects how we perceive the art.
          But this isn’t in a museum with a little card beside it telling us that information. It’s out in public space for anyone walking by to see. And people who walk by — most of whom are not reading PoPville — will form their opinions of it based on what they see in front of them, not based on external information.

          • just because the average viewer won’t dig deeper does not mean that works of art should stand on their own.

            “Art necessarily presupposes knowledge” – John Stuart Mill

          • “But this isn’t in a museum with a little card beside it telling us that information. It’s out in public space for anyone walking by to see. And people who walk by — most of whom are not reading PoPville — will form their opinions of it based on what they see in front of them, not based on external information.”

            …because they are reacting to the context.

      • “Works of art should be able to stand on their own.”

        but they don’t.
        art is made within a context. always.
        that’s why its part of “culture”.

  • Clearly this person is longing for the “good old days” when guns and crack and corruption made large parts of the city pretty much uninhabitable. DC became the butt of a joke to the rest of the country and it’s image still hasn’t fully recovered all these years later. By all means lets go back to those days.

  • It appears that it is a community mural. The images are likely based on input from a number of people. From the writing I can see ex. “Life is hard but every lesson is a blessing – Crystal” the people involved got the chance to make a statement. It appears that they are very positive statements and not at all directed at any one particular group. I don’t see any racism in this. The visual is of a coffee cup with a security camera attached to it. It is held by a pale hand. I think it’s quite clever and says a lot. I think the people offended by it are projecting. It is not at all clear who made this mural or what their ethnicity is, but it seems like it bothers some that people of color might have the opportunity to express their opinions about the community.

    Those aren’t joints BTW-it is a sunflower. Looking at the lower right hand corner to see who the artist and sponsoring group would probably answer all of your questions.

  • I’m white but I’m not from California so I don’t speak like a valley girl and I’ve been to starbucks maybe twice in my life, am I still allowed to be outraged by this?

  • for me…(and interpreting art is always a very personal thing) this isn’t so much about black and white as about native and new… and its hard as a native to watch while the new folks, who often don’t know or understand the history of the place that they want to be part of, inadvertently destroy the thing they came for.

    • Exactly. See the poster above who just wants to “put the chocolate city thing to bed already (with expletives).”

      I’m white and a long time DC resident, but not a native Washingtonian. I’ve lived here 15 years and witnessed a lot of change–much of it positive but some of it not. I do feel bittersweet about a lot of the change because my neighborhood and places I have a lot of memories have lost some great establishments and some great community members. And I’m a white, wealthy yuppie so I love a coffee shop and a $15 cocktail as much as the next person. But it’s also an inevitable part of community that those who are around the longest will experience some mixed emotions at sudden and drastic change. I love the new DC, but there are things I miss dearly about the old DC as well, and there are things we have retained I dislike. And there are things I’m afraid we may lose. That’s life when you’re engaged in the community in which you live. And in DC these emotions are hastily racialized because race and class and race and old/new are so inherently linked due to the history of our city. To me that’s what this mural speaks to (though I can’t read the text so maybe I’m totally off base not knowing what it says).

  • you mad bro?

  • is so full of nonsense I don’t know where to start

  • Non-local short-term residents are offended that the people they wish they didn’t have to see on their commute have the gall to make art or — gasp — have a perspective, story at 11.

    • Something I’ve personally witnessed – massive gentrification forcefully driving “real” residents out from their homes, not making the city any safer, and destroying everything of good cultural value, story at 11!

      • It’s almost as though you think that’s relevant to the point being made.

      • Or – “massive gentrification” paying a half a million dollars to a “real” elderly resident who has a crumbling old house that she – or her well-meaning- but ineffective – family/neighbors/church etc. has not had the will to keep repaired over the years.

    • To have a perspective is one thing, but this is a (seemingly) permanent installation in a metro station. Free speech is great, and even divisive or inflammatory speech is often necessary, but public art is inherently government sanctioned speech, and generally should not be openly hostile to a certain demographic of a population, racial or otherwise.

      FWIW by all indications the artist is neither black, nor originally from DC. It’s hard to imagine your average native black Washingtonian regarding this guy as anything other than just another hipster gentrifier. I did expect him to be black, but would have bet anything based on the mural that he was a transplant himself.

  • I like it. I went to CUA, been living in DC for about 15 years and I’m white. I see the piece (particularly the starbucks and melting chocolate) as a clear representation of how polarized many are about discussing change in this city. Your either flipping houses or your being displaced. It seems that the messages between the pictures is where we actually need to be in order to deal with these issues effectively and create communities built on notions of justice and understanding. Have you been to the corner of 7th and Michigan lately? Its a god damn capitalist zoo erected by what seems to be the same developers who are responsible for developments in other parts of the city. I support development to some degree, but some of the development has come at loss of community identity and hasn’t improved the lives of many people in those communities. We have a lot of dirt swept under rugs in this city, and I think this piece engages that idea effectively. Look, your talking about it.

  • Alright sociology majors:

    if white people can’t experience racism because racism is structural, then what is the difference between racism and structural racism or systemic racism?

    Not trying to be cute, but that would seem to make those terms redundant.

    • They would argue that you could experience bigotry as a white person, but not racism. I believe that in social justice activism circles, racism is exclusively used to mean bigotry + the institutional power to oppress the people you dislike. While that definition is widely accepted in activist circles, it has not been disseminated or accepted as widely among the general population. So it is confusing in discussions like this, because people are using the same terms, but are not on the same page about the meanings.

      • Ok, so basically it just comes down to the idea that there is no standard definitions of racism.

        The people who believe that whites can’t experience racism would believe that “structural racism” is redundant.

        People who believe that racism as a dislike/discrimination toward other racial groups, would argue that blacks are far more likely to face “structural racism” while whites are more likely to face individual racism (outside of fairly rare circumstances like maybe applying to work at a majority black firm).

        • There is a standard definition, but there are also people on the receiving end of racism who want to expand the definition in order to discuss the issue in more detail than is generally done. In situations like this, I find it useful to consider that history is written by the winners and that oppressed people are not generally the ones setting the “standard definition” of things.

          And not to nitpick, but the problem with the people who believe in racism as a dislike or discrimination that happens on an individual level is that they don’t always understand or want to admit that structural racism exists. They tend to try to find reasons why an issue isn’t attributable to structural racism, but is just a problem with that particular individual.

    • 1. Individual Discrimination

      Individual discrimination consists of overt acts by individuals that harm other individuals or their property. This type of action is usually publicly decried.


      A homeowner refusing to sell to Jews
      A taxi driver refusing to pick up Black fares
      An employer who pays lower wages to Mexicans

      2. Institutional Discrimination

      Institutional discrimination refers to those “processes which, intentionally, or not, result in the continued exclusion of a subordinate group [and… activities and practices which are intended to protect the advantages of the dominant group and/or maintain or widen the unequal position of a subordinate group.”

      Some times individuals and groups discriminate whether they are bigots or not. These individuals and groups operate within a social milieu that ensures racial dominance. The social milieu includes laws, customs, religious beliefs, and the stable arrangements and practices through which things get done in society. The major sectors of society — the system of law and the administration of justice, the economic system, the formal educational structure, and health care are all possible discriminators. Thus, the term institutional discrimination is a useful one.

      The institutions of society have great power to reward and penalize. They reward by providing career opportunities for some people and foreclosing them for others. They reward as well by the way social goods and services are distributed by deciding who receives training and skills, medical care, formal education, political influence, moral support and self-respect, productive employment, fair treatment by the law, decent housing, self-confidence, and the promise of a secure future for self and children (see Eitzen, 2000:226).


  • I Dont Get It

    I don’t like it because I think it is ugly but admittedly I don’t *get* art like this.

    • Agreed. Though I get the message, overall, it’s an aesthetically ugly mural. I feel like the chocolate bar melting out of the person’s hand is the strongest artistic aspect of the piece. It could easily convey the same message on its own. Though, the fact that it was created by someone who is neither African American nor a DC native rubs me the wrong way.

  • It’s issues like these that make me leery of publicly-financed art in general. I live in Brookland, and think the mural is both evocative and well-done, but having it in a public building, especially if financed by taxpayer dollars seems like the wrong thing to be doing. There’s just far too much that’s divisive about art, and putting something that’s especially divisive(like, in this case), that clearly pits one city group against another does nothing to foster community, let alone bridge the gaps in a city so divided. The same piece on, say, a private building would be one thing, but in a metro station is another.

  • I wonder if the yellow and green represents Mayor Bowser, they are her campaign colors and are on the side that appears to be discussing the future of the community. Maybe this is less about racial divides and more about where the community was and where it is going, for better or worse. There is another thread on POPville today about the Franklin School and its future development which may be more what this is about. See paradise, put up a Starbucks.

  • No black racism… Lol. That’s rich. This mural is odd. Looks for all the world to be saying blacks would rather kill themselves than live in an effeminate white Washington. Which I’m sure would delight white racists to no end.

  • “This is why we need more social science majors.”

    So true. There is a desperate lack of good wait staff in this city.

  • Wish the text in the center were more visible because I see the image of a city divided by stereotypes. And as with all stereotypes, they’re inaccurate of reality but there’s enough truth there to make them offensive to anyone in the targeted group.
    For anyone who is offended by this view of white newcomers, there’s an equally offensive view of blacks who have lived in the city for a long time. Is this the way we’re going to let our city be defined? Or is it defined by what’s on that scroll in the middle?
    I like the provocation here. The “Love” at the bottom looks like barbed wired, which is profoundly on point to me. Because there very much is a divide; both love the city, but it’s hard to see how they will ever be united.

    • You pointed out another fundamental flaw in this piece. Murals should be designed to be read at reasonably far distances. Your interpretation is probably what the artist intended, but I’m afraid it’ll be lost on viewers unless they’re standing right next to it. Kind of a shame.

      • But what catches your attention from afar is going to draw you in for a closer look. Unless you stop at your first impression and turn away in disgust – precisely what happens with all the little issues that touch on race and class in this city.
        And in most of these 100+ comments.

  • this mural seems to bring out some pretty nasty feelings in people, huh?

  • The message of the mural is clear: people with brown skin are made of candy.

  • This mural should be taken down. Whatever point it is trying to make, it fails. It’s just offensive.

  • I think it’s boring. The whole thing reminds me of something a 17 year old stoner would sketch on a notebook during detention.

  • Dumb conversation, dumb mural. The wanna be ethiopian writing being the dumbest part of the mural, for sure.

  • Ashcroft much? It’s art, and it’s working

  • Perhaps, if we were persistent and diligent, we could purge any discrimination from our legal system. Imagine that! Equal treatment under the law and all are rendered equal.

  • I’m a Starbucks-loving, Ugg boot-wearing valley girl, and a Brookland homeowner since 2007. As long as my property values keep going up, my disgruntled fellow citizens can paint whatever they want about me.

  • Like our or not, some people have this feeling because the new neighbors are at times not friendly, live in a cocoon, and don’t get involved in their community. If you were black and see all this change, why not voice your feeling? Seriously, you are offended but others are offended by some newcomers actions.

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