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PoP Ed. – Victimized by Fear by Joe Mills

by Prince Of Petworth April 23, 2013 at 1:30 pm 109 Comments


Joe Mills is a 12 Year Petworth Resident.

Joe is also a neighbor of mine. PoP-Ed. posts may be submitted via email to princeofpetworth(at)gmail please include PoP-Ed. in the subject line.

I moved into Washington DC onto Capitol Hill in ‘88. Moved into Petworth in ‘01 after living in DuPont, Adams Morgan, Mt Plesant and Columbia Heights over the years.

Needless to say I’ve witnessed one or two changes in the city in general and in these neighborhoods in particular.

Closing of Pennsylvania Ave in front of the White House. Opening of G St NW in front of Martin Luther King Jr. library. Barricades and fortifications for the creation of a military base type of enclosure around Capitol Hill. Construction cranes touching the sky all over town. Reaching up out of gigantic deep holes in the ground that spanned the entire city block. Target and TGI Fridays following the lead of Starbucks, and now Wal-Mart finally pushing into the city. Attempting to unleash a massive blow to independent business. I saw these changes but didn’t understand them. At least not until I saw young white girls pushing baby strollers down 14th St where street escorts used make themselves available for Johnny day and night. In this moment I knew why my rent went unchanged for 10 years, then suddenly quadrupled.

What I did not see or predict is what happened to me on April 15, 2013.

Continues after the jump.

In all this time I have never even had a harsh word from anyone because I was standing outside of a home longer than someone was comfortable with. Something I have done all over this city since moving into the city. On the 15th of April I was both threatened and attacked for doing so. Now I’m an artist and a lover of architecture. All my years in DC I’ve enjoyed walking around different neighborhoods looking at houses. I’ve stood outside of many homes, either drawing them or checking out some detail. Many people have art in their yard, or flowers or herb bushes that I take time to enjoy.

Of-course more than a few things bother me about this incident. First is that it happened in my neighborhood where I’ve lived for the past 12 yrs. This very same home I have stood in front of many times before over the years. Fred Sanford has nothing on these guys. Secondly, the concerned outraged neighbor who caught up to me a block and a half away. Jumping out of his car. Yelling obscenities and waving a bat at me, was another black man.

It was 7 pm and we were a few blocks from the Metro Station so there were lots of people around who just like me was wondering, what in the hell kinda craziness is going on here? It took me more than a couple of minutes to figure out why this guy is yelling and acting like he wants to knock my brains out, but once I did I quickly realized that as far as he was concerned there was only one way to interpret my behavior and I needed to get a beat down because he had never seen me before and his neighbors were white. Yes, those were the reasons he gave for chasing me down and attacking me. He had never seen me before, and the house I was looking at belonged to white folks.

Not being one to be intimidated by anyone for any reason, things escalated very quickly, but a police officer soon arrived causing this misguided self appointed neighborhood guardian to put his bat away and the episode ended after I gave my statement to the police and the officer bid me good day. I went off down Randolph St fuming at how insane it was that I had to deal with that noise. Nothing I said to this man in any attempt to deescalate the situation mattered. He was determined that some how, some way not only was I wrong for looking at this house for a couple of minutes and I had to be a bad guy because I did so.

As I was heading on down the road I couldn’t help but realize that I too now had become victimized by the atmosphere of the times we live in. An atmosphere of fear not only manufactured by the actions of a Federal government which lives in my town, but also radiates out from the many changes taking place in my very own neighborhood. Compared to others victims like Skip Gates in Connecticut, Trevon Martin in Florida, and the Muslim man who was detained as a person of interest while his home was searched because of his injuries due to the tragic event that happened recently in Boston. I’m one of the fortunate ones.

  • anonymous

    You had me at Fred Sanford!! Sorry that happened to you, man.

    • If I saw someone standing outside of my house being a DC resident for over 20 years, I’d instantly review which utilities I haven’t brought up to date yet. Then I’d consider if there are any windows uncovered allowing insight into the pawn-able items in my house, then next I’d probably ask the person what they were doing there based on how they’re dressed if no “For Sale” sign is outside of it. Then I’d wonder if it was someone from POP or House Beautiful taking a picture of my house for a feature… lol. If it was my neighbor’s house, then that’s their own problem.

      DC houses are close together, it’s important at times to not pay too much attention to people’s houses because some residents are running meth labs or grow shops in them, I guess.

  • gilla

    Feel bad for the guy. Kinda sounds like the person attacking him (or threatening to) was mentally ill.

  • Sorry that happened to you – that really sucks to be physically threatened or assaulted.

    Why not blame the one a-hole who chased you, rather than the “atmosphere of the times we live in”? That sounds like a bit of a stretch / generalization.

    • Farnsworth

      Because the guy’s reason for attacking him wouldn’t have been valid ten or twenty years ago.

      • So gentrification (that is what we’re dancing around here) and the crazy assaulting dude are both parts of the problem. I only see one thing that needs to be fixed – and that’s the crazy assaulting dude.

        But the conclusion of the article is that the “atmosphere of the times we live in” is what caused the problem. That’s just not right.

        • Farnsworth

          It means now he’s a threat where before he would have been some guy. He’s rabble now there’s a gentry to create such a thing. For illustration, imagine stopping a stranger for a street photo and stopping the President for the same thing; you’re a threat in the latter.

          • Anonymous

            “It means now he’s a threat where before he would have been some guy. He’s rabble now there’s a gentry to create such a thing.”


            The bigger problem is that the “gentry” can’t even recognize their place of privilege.

          • MattGonzoDCMD

            You have to have a couple screws loose or be Joe Pesci to act like the dude with the bat.

            I’m guaranteed to see a few replies telling me how wrong and insensitive I am, but what we have here is a one-off, bizarre incident that can’t be and shouldn’t be tied to gentrification.

            I understand how gentrification can be a topic of controversy, but it’s getting a little crazy how it be a scapegoat or boogeyman for so many things.

          • parkviewj

            Matt and Anon, While we have no clue whether the dude was mentally ill, I tend to think he’s not. It’s racial stereotyping and people do it all the time either overtly or subtly (looks, glares, and tone of voice). You have to have screws loose not to think race did not play a huge factor in this incident. I trust the source on this one and hope people can calm down a little bit.

            I don’t think either of you are insensitive and I don’t judge you because of your conclusions but I do think you are wrong.

      • Anonymous

        thank you

        • DC CapHill

          Did nobody notice that the author said he was chased down by a fellow black man? How is a “gentry”, as it was soooooooo eloquently put, at fault here, again? A black man lingered and gazed at a house, and another black man, also his “neighbor” apparently, chased him down with a bat, over a “white gentrifies” house being glared at? And the white neighbor whose house is actually was did…..what, exactly?

          Either this is the craziest case of Stockholm syndrome, ever, the facts are wrong, or all of you just misidentified what happened.

          Sorry, but something isn’t adding up here. If that was the author’s neighborhood, does he not know his neighbors? Did he not identify that he was from the same block/’hood? Vice versa, did the attacker not recognize a member of his own community?

          Anybody, ANYBODY that chases someone down with a bat has a screw loose, unless this was in direct response to a violent attack/self-defense.

          I’m sorry anybody in 2013 is stereotyped, but there are plenty of bag eggs in this city, and ultimately, unless I completely missed the point of this blog post, this was essentially black on black crime.

          • Anonymous

            Did you bother to read all of the comments before commenting? It would answer your initial question.

        • Sarah

          Next time you walk down the street in Petworth or any mixed-race neighborhood, try to do your own assessment of how people like Joe are treated. Seriously, take a look at how some (not all; but I see a lot) of new Petworth residents ignore people like. Just walk by without acknowledging his presence.

          This didn’t used to be the way in general. People would exchange pleasantries or at least nod/smile at each other. Some new residents are afraid of people like him. Why? I don’t know- maybe they’ve had incidences in the past that prejudice them, maybe they are racist, maybe they are so busy on their iPhones that they don’t acknowledge his presence or look down on him.

          You’re all gonna ignore this comment..but please, try to scan and see how people treat others they don’t know and you might get an idea as to why people are not happy with how things are. Not saying its an excuse for violence, but it pert rubs some.

          • DC CapHill

            Read every single dumbass comment on this post, and NONE of it explained what happened any better than the original author did, and it’s still a black on black crime, no matter what you are trying to claim instigated the “climate” in this City.

            There are plenty of “long time residents” that were/are doing good in our City, all the while fostering their little badass grandchildren that are out causing the majority of the problems. You can’t have it both ways. Police your own. We all know what causes/who commits crime in this City, and elsewhere. You can use whatever turn of phrase you want to, to describe that situation, and it boils down to the same veiled racism. Poor, economically challenged, disenfranchised, blah blah blah.

            The fact remains, verbally and/or physically, the “gentrys” did absolutely NOTHING in this scenario, but somehow they’ve “created a climate” of fear and exclusion, that’s being carried out, in a wonton nature, by vigilante black neighbors, apparently.

            Suffice is to say, it’s like bullying/getting bullied. Nobody can MAKE you feel a certain way, unless you allow them to. So because Joe is a black man in DC, and he feels white people made his fellow citizens/neighbors/fellow black men “fear” his loitering, doesn’t mean it’s true.

          • Anonymous

            Read the 7th & 6th from the bottom main entries (Anonymous 4:24 & Anonymous 4:28); both indicate that it was a black on black confrontation. There are a couple of others scattered but those are the easiest to find.

          • DC CapHill

            I did read them, all, and we’re in agreement on who was involved. And that makes it all the more ridiculous that people are once again jumping the “gentrifiers” bandwagon, just because they happen to be the property owners.

            I somewhat agree with the person that said people don’t nod and say hello anymore, but you never know now if that will end badly, or not. Mostly, it’s fine, sometimes it’s an issue. So, your choice is; Say hello and deal, or don’t say shit/keep your head down, and get labeled a racist.

            And let’s face facts here, for the “I chill on my porch” folks. Old school “porching” culture/community is LONG gone in DC. Sorry, but that hasn’t been relevant for quite some time now, thus breaking down the “community,” thus leading to people moving out/others moving in, leading to God knows who living in your ‘hood. Sorry, you can romanticize old DC all you want to, but shit really is better now, overall.

          • Anonymous

            Stop being stubborn – not everybody is jumping the gentrifiers bandwagon, not everybody is romanticizing when DC was a wasteland. On the whole, you are correct that the gentrifier issue is a red herring. But. You are not the only one so to think.

          • Anonymous

            Agree that many new residents don’t greet others on the street. One of the biggest and most pleasant surprises for me when I moved to DC 11 years ago was how people did that. But, it ain’t racial; many people from other areas don’t greet anyone on the street, ever.

            Seems to me the climate of fear around here has more to do with this:


            And the people that ought to be afraid are like the guy, I’m sure a “gentrifier”, who got beaten so badly on T street in Ledroit Park this afternoon (at 1PM!) by 3 black kids that his nose was broken and the windshield of the car they were pounding him against broke.

  • Thor

    i think if someone was staring at my house for longer than a minute would worry me too but chasing with a bat after the guy is crazy as well.

  • Anonymous

    I hate to say this, but the more people pay for housing, the more privacy and “exclusivity” they expect. Look at places like Potomac and Great Falls – they certainly believe that hedges & fences make the best neighbors. People figure that if they are carrying a $600K mortgage, its not their responsibilty to worry about neighborhood problems or find ways to fix them (until it personally affects them).

    I’m reminded of that thread on PoP’ville a few months back about the young ruffians in LeDroit Park. One longtime resident volunteered to setup a meeting at Boundary Stone to discuss among neighbors how to help these kids and provide mentoring. But no one committed to attending. Folks assume that these issues preexisted their arrival and there’s definitely a mindset of “I’m paying too much to deal with this sh#t.”

    Expect more of these frictions as people raised in the suburbs attempt to settle in the city.

    • The source of the friction is definitely the people moving from the suburbs, and not the violent criminals assaulting people. Makes complete sense.

      It’s true that people moving from the ‘burbs have different mindsets than people who have spent their entire lives in the city. But tolerance of crime, particularly assaults (since you brought up the LeDroit stuff), isn’t acceptable.

    • Anonymous

      From personal experience, I disagree that people who pay more for housing are less concerned about their neighborhood’s problems / less likely to help fix them. That’s sort of the opposite of what gentrifyers, which are who we are talking about, do.

      And that suggestion to meet at Boundary Stone to discuss the ruffian incidents in Bloomingdale / Ledroit was made in the comments section of a city-wide blog. Is it really a surprise that no one (that you or I know of) showed up? Maybe if the organize posted something to the local list serv. he or she would get some interest.

      • saf

        I’ll be the counterpoint to your point. IME, the newer folks on my block are NOT the type to get involved in the community. The older folks have worked hard for a long time, to improve and maintain the community. Many of the newer folks aren’t even interested in knowing who they live next door to, let alone getting involved in neighborhood stuff.

        Not all, not at all, but many.

        • Anonymous

          That’s exactly my experience, as well. There are certainly new people who are civic minded, but the vast majority see their house or apartment as a private sanctuary away from the rest of the world; it’s not part of a wider community. I think expensive housing further adds to notion that the home is an exclusive enclave.

        • Anon

          This is one of the dumbest comments I’ve ever read on this site. I live in Bloomingdale and see the new folks working hard in the neighborhood everyday, talking with their neighbors, volunteering and fighting for the community. In fact, my street is mix of new and old timers, and we celebrate birthdays together, fix up each other’s yards, etc.

          Get your head out of your @ss.

          • Anonymous

            she’s specifically talking about her block.

          • saf

            I’m glad your block is like that. Mine is not.

          • saf

            Oh, and i should add – your description would have been accurate on my block in the 80s and early 90s. It’s the second wave that’s been less engaged.

            The third wave is starting to arrive. We’ll see how it goes. And you might remember this conversation 20 years from now.

        • I hate to say that I don’t feel very invested or committed to getting to know my neighbors in Columbia Heights. I know that every year I’m going to move into a new apartment on a different block or potentially a different neighborhood in order to improve my living situation or escape my rent being jacked up. I haven’t found a place in DC yet that I would feel happy about resigning a lease for. When a lot of people are on the move so often, it’s hard to feel a sense of community, which I do feel sad about.

  • lackadaisi

    That is horrible that that happened to you. Very uncool. It is also very uncool of you to be essentially blaming the “young white women pushing baby strollers down 14th street” for an attack by an obviously unhinged person.

    • Walker, DC Ranger

      Maybe the fear he was talking about was the fear of Longtime Residents of losing “their” city?

      • Farnsworth

        “the fear of Longtime Residents of losing “their” city?”
        It’s interesting the way strawmen get “memed” for maximum efficiency in dismissing others. The guy wrote a whole story about how the arrival of “more important people” suddenly changed his own status where he lived for most of his life, and illustrated how so, and you get “longtime resident complaining about ‘losing his city'”. Intentionally vague in meaning while definitely filled with entitlement; it’s nothing anyone would say because it doesn’t make sense, but “others” barely make sense anyway so it serves your purpose.

        • parkviewj

          +1 Thanks for standing up for Joe.

        • notpostingtooquickly


        • Walker, DC Ranger

          I don’t give a crap how long he’s lived here, if he wants to blame another black guy for going crazy at him on gentrification aka white folks, then I can point out that inconsistency.

          Again, his story is: black guy tried to assault me with a bat because he was defending some white people’s property, so gentrification is the problem.

          No, the problem is a crazy guy, and it’s total bullshit that newcomers are some kind of boogeyman.

          • I find the old residents losing “their” city concept worrisome. I’m a gentrifier, I guess. My neighbor has a decimated house with many people living in it. When I had my facade painted, I offered to paint hers and she told me “hell no!” My house was a former crack lab and many neighbors welcomed me and my partner and the improvements to the house and the block (we pick up after those that litter and mow the older couple’s grass) I have trouble with people that want to “claim” a neighborhood yet feel it’s ok to live in terrible conditions and don’t respect their neighborhood by keeping trash on their front porches, questionable visitors and weed infested lawns.

  • Loz

    “I too now had become victimized by the atmosphere of the times we live in.” – The problem I have with statements like this is that we actually live in very safe times. Yes, there is still crime in DC and shit does happen, but overall the city is safer now than it has been since WWII. In fact the world as a whole is safer now than it has been in decades. I know you wouldn’t think it from reading the news, but statistics point to the fact that last year fewer people were killed in the world as a result of violence than in many years. So I wish people would stop characterizing the present as somehow more violent than the past – it just isn’t so.

    • He was referring to the atmosphere of fear, not of crime. He said nothing about the actual safety of certain areas or changes in level of safety; he attributes the incident to “An atmosphere of fear” in the last paragraph, referring to perception.

      • Loz

        I guess my issue is that he’s feeding this perception of a more violent world. Some scholars (e.g. Professor Steven Pinker at Harvard) argue that the world has never been safer and point to the fact that a person is less likely to die from violence today than at any other time in the history of our species. Why can’t we spread more news about the safety of the world – oh right, because that doesn’t sell.

  • Anon X

    Ohhh… here we go. This is just going to invite everyone confusing anecdote for data.

    • Anonymous

      I am eagerly anticipating the waves of butthurt combined with bourgeois-bohemian guilt.

      • anon

        I think this needs to be a category for some posts on PoP

  • Warhammer

    Yeah… I’ve lived in DC for 10 years, and, if you had been standing in front of my house, I would have acted similarly.

    I guess maybe 12 years ago it was ok to stand out in front of someones home staring at it.

  • Boris S. Wort

    Without hearing the other guy’s story, I don’t want to comment about who was right or wrong. I do know, however, that Joe’s hair is totally freakin’ AWESOME. Is that shallow of me? Yes, but that doesn’t make Joe’s hair any less awesome.

    • Anonymous

      I think so too!

    • Anonymous


    • Agree!!

      • Kip

        This! Thank you emmaleigh504 for explaining to others how people are judged based on who they are (Emma noted that she is a white girl).

        Some of you gotta re-read her post. If she came on your porch, you’d assume she was working for GreenPeace or something helpful. :)

        Thanks Emma!

    • Anonymous

      It may have been what got him in trouble this time, though. Unfortunately people make snap judgments based on appearances. I have wild hair too and people respond better to me in professional situations if I have it neatly pulled back. I couldn’t understand why I kept going on job interviews and not getting hired, but once I started containing my curls I got several offers.

  • Joel

    I can sympathize, but the writer here misses a point he/she made in this very article. Some of these neighborhoods used to be covered with prostitutes, so is the situation worse than before? Probably not.

    • Anonymous


  • Anonymous

    It’s a bad scene the guy with the bat caused, but I don’t see how your situation can be drawn to Trayvon, Gates, or Boston guy. It wasn’t your race that separated you from the guy with the bat, it was the fact that you were staring at a house that isn’t yours. The crazy guy didn’t suspect you because of your race generally, he said that was how he knew you didn’t live at the house that you were staring at. People who burglarize houses case them first very often. He was protective of his neighbors.
    Of course, he could have simply gone outside and been more civil about asking you what you were doing. There’s no excuse for waiving a bat at someone. But your race was noted as telling that it wasn’t your house, not that because of your race you are automatically a criminal. If there’s someone staring at my neighbor’s house for a couple minutes and I know they don’t live there, no matter what their race I’m going to be suspicious. Not going to wave a bat at them, but still.
    This situation happened because you were staring at a house that isn’t yours for an unusual amount of time, and the neighbor went way overboard, and over reacted. That’s very different than Trayvon.

    • Farnsworth

      Good illustration of class expectations; would you be receptive at all to any stranger interrogating you on the street for for standing somewhere to make sure you weren’t doing something bad? I know a black should expect to justify his existence to strangers often but would you too?

      • Anonymous

        “Would you be receptive at all to any stranger interrogating you on the street for standing somewhere to make sure you weren’t doing something bad?”
        –No. I wouldn’t be receptive to that, but that isn’t what happened here. It wasn’t any stranger, it was a neighbor. And it wasn’t for “standing somewhere” it was for staring at a house for a couple of minutes. The guy with the bat was very much in the wrong, but it wasn’t the same as those other bad situations.

        “I know a black should expect to justify his existence to strangers often but would you too?”
        He doesn’t have to justify his existence because he’s black, he has to justify his existence because he’s staring at a house that isn’t his for a couple of minutes. Nobody should have to justify their existence just because of their race.

        I’m not defending the overreacting neighbor, I’m just saying the overreacting neighbor was wrong for different reasons than the poeple in Trayvon, Gates, Boston situations.

      • Anonymous

        Your comparison doesn’t line up. Yes, I, as a white person, would EXPECT to justify my existence (or really just explain what I was doing — let’s not get too carried away here) in Joe’s situation, just like any other person, including black people. Whether or not such justification is right or wrong is a different question, but I’d come out with the same answer for both white and black people. Your comments are always skewed like this, Farny. So frustrating.

        • Farnsworth

          Standing while looking usually isn’t considered doing anything, which is why answering an interrogation for “doing” those things is tantamount to justifying your existence in public. And I wish I thought of how ironic these comments are in light of them taking place on a blog dedicated to, among other things, admiring private houses. How often is Dan Silverman cleared by concerned citizens while gathering content for this blog?

          • Exactly. PoP not only looks at private houses, he photographs them, sometimes from several angles.

            I’m a white lady and I love houses, so I too stop and stare at houses and gardens for several minutes at a time. Sometimes I walk all the way around a house to look at it from all angles, which totally looks like I’m casing the place. I’ve even been known to look in a window if I can see in from the sidewalk. I am never questioned as to what I’m doing, never. Instead I get told to leave a neighborhood because it’s not safe.

          • Anonymous

            I don’t care if you’re an 80 year old white lady with a nun outfit. If you are looking into my window I’ll want to know why.

          • And you can ask, but NO ONE ever does. I really I just want to see what color your walls are, nothing else.

          • Anonymous

            Yeah exactly. Maybe we’ll have a nice conversation about colors or design or whatever. But my initial suspicion wasn’t wrong. Because I am not a crazy person with a bat, I’ll ask nicely, you’ll answer nicely, and that’s that. All I’m saying is the guy wasn’t wrong to be suspicious, he was wrong in how he reacted to that suspicion.

          • And what I’m saying is that because I’m white and a lady no one is suspicious of me. I’m not scary so people just ignore me or try to protect me.

          • Anonymous

            You’re using a negative to prove a positive. Just because nobody has asked you what you were doing in a friendly manner, waived a bat at you, or anything in between, does not mean that nobody is ever suspicious of that activity unless the person is non-white. If someone, anyone, is looking at my house for a couple of minutes or looking at it from different angles, or looking into my windows, I have a right to be suspicious of that person and at least strike up a conversation with them in a civilized manner to make sure everything’s on the up and up.

          • Anonymous

            True, lingering and checking out a house could be perceived by some bystanders as suspicious behavior. But I think Farnsworth and Emmaleigh are both making the larger point–which I agree with–that there’s often a different threshold for when behavior crosses the line into being “suspicious” depending on whether the person is white or black (or Latino). Not always, but in a number of cases. Of course, there are demographic and appearance-based nuances to this: for example, a white dude who looks disheveled and dirty and potentially homeless might prompt more suspicion hanging out in front of a house; a clean-cut, professionally-dressed black person’s similar behavior may be perceived as less suspicious. People probably feel less “threatened” by an elderly person’s behavior or presence than by a teenager’s. And so on. But race is very often the underlying, defining, and persistent factor (even if the bias is subconcious and unintentional).

        • malcolm

          Seeing that you are alive, to write this and comparing it to Trayvon is a bit of a stretch. Clearly chasing a guy with a bat is considered harsh neighborhood watch tactics though. I would recommend not challenging bat swinging crazies in the future. Dude probably thought you were casing out the house and didnt want his broken into. Checking out someones house is like looking at someones girl. You can probably steal a few glances but when you start staring people start getting upset.

          • Anonymous

            “Checking out someones house is like looking at someones girl. You can probably steal a few glances but when you start staring people start getting upset.”

            Ha, so true. If you need someone to be mad at, be mad at the punks that are cruising the neighborhood for packages to steal and houses to break into. They’re the reason for your neighbor’s paranoia.

          • Anonymous

            Yeah, except for the small difference that a house is property that you own, and a woman is not.

      • Anonymous

        Justify my EXISTENCE? Don’t be stupid.
        Justify my ACTIONS? Yes, of course. Especially if my actions are frightening someone.

        Would the writer like for the baseball guy to justify his actions? You betcher ass he would.

      • Anonymous

        This crazy neighbor would be a welcome addition to my block. Don’t stop and stare at a house and then claim you are appreciating the architecture to a crazy guy with a bat. That excuse probably sounded sarcastic to the crazy guy.

        If you don’t want to get your ass kicked, don’t walk into somebody elses neighborhood and stare at their houses. Does anyone think it’s wise to walk through the projects and start staring at the houses there? I take major detours to avoid getting my ass beat for walking through the wrong neighborhood. The same rule applies in this situation, and has been the rule of thumb for the past 200 years in DC.

    • anon

      <—– agree with above. This isolated incident cannot be compared to events such as Boston. Not appropriate.

      The guy with the bat probably has some mental illness that may be being ignored. May be you can find him some help or someone who can.

  • Brandon

    Thank you for sharing but, respectfully, this has nothing to do with race. Regardless of your ethnic background if you stare at someone’s house for a long period of time in the middle of the day for no reason, you look like you are casing that house and that makes people uncomfortable. The fact that you’ve done this in the past is immaterial to this isolated incident.

    The issue here is a perception about rising housing costs viewed through the prism of race. Your rent went unchanged for 10 years presumably when there was no market for the space and then quadrupled “overnight”. That’s not racism, it’s economics. If we want to have a discussion about affordable housing as a public good and the balance between rent control and gentrification, that’s a substantive conversation to have but it has nothing to do with race. Redlining in the 50s and 60s, yes, that was racism; market forces in 2013, not racism.

    Last point in this comically long post, why are we always looking back with rose tinted glasses on the days when hookers and drug dealers ran DC and we were the murder capital of the world? I get that a person who lived through those times doesn’t want o see others coming in pricing them out and making money off the city’s renaissance but those weren’t great times for the city.

    I’ve rambled long enough, just get sick to the back teeth of intellectual laziness and immediate harkening to race when it isn’t the real issue.

    • SS3345

      Couldn’t have said it better myself, Brandon.

    • BS I never get asked what I’m doing when I’m doing everything but climbing through a window to look at a house from every angle. I never get asked anything. I know there is a lot of stuff I can get away with because I’m a white chick and thus nonthreatening.

      • Moon

        People, people, people! What about going out side asking the person staring at the house, “can I help you” I have done that. Had a guy sleeping in a car in front of my house, went up introduced myself, told him if he was going to live in front of my house, I should know his name. He was polite, had to call the cops to get rid of him, but at least I knew his name. Start with the simple and get to the complicated.

      • Well, maybe its because you’re a “chick,” not because you’re white. Presumptions are FLYING in this thread!

        My nightmare neighborhood person is an older white guy. Horrible dude who has done horrible things to me and my property. So anytime I see him lurking around outside, I’m on hyper alert. And if I see drug dealing or fighting, I’m on alert. Otherwise, I’m chilling on my front porch and saying hi to folks.

      • Anonymous

        sound like joe has gotten away with it hundreds of times too. maybe he was only a black male this last time.

      • Mn

        Everytime race and gentrification comes up in this blog people go crazy, especially white liberals.

        • Anonymous

          oh well. people still gottat talk it through. crazy, liberal, white, or otherwise.
          but thanks for the general insult.

      • I love houses too and stop and look at how beautiful many are. Sometimes I take pictures. I’m a Hispanic male and no one has ever stopped me; in fact they have come out and started to chat with me. I dress relatively well and have a well groomed dog. I think this is about people’s perception of safety and not race. His hair my be “awesome” but lets face the stereotype.

        • Anonymous

          “In fact they have come out and started to chat with me.”

          Yes, this is what people normally do when someone’s staring at their house. The guy with the bat is just crazy, or maybe he’s been burned a few times and just couldn’t take it anymore. If multiple people started acting this way I’d wonder if it has to do with Joe’s race, but this was clearly an abnormality. I can understand why he’d feel shitty after it happen but he shouldn’t take one unreasonable person’s actions personally.

    • Marcus Aurelius

      “Yes, those were the reasons he gave for chasing me down and attacking me. He had never seen me before, and the house I was looking at belonged to white folks.”

      Maybe race isn’t the “real issue” to you, but it sure sounds like race was the real issue to the guy with the baseball bat.
      I don’t see the OP as romanticizing the good ol’ days when hookers roamed the streets and crack was everywhere. That’s the standard – and lazy – interpretation offered anytime someone who has been in the area for more than five minutes talks about how not everything has changed for the better. “So what if the new people look at you as if you’re a criminal. At least there are a few hot new bars to go to.”
      The OP is talking about changes he has seen happening to the city and neighborhood he lives in. One of those changes is some people – not every person – but some people viewing him with suspicion when he’s been in the community longer than they have. It’s not hard to see why someone in his position would find that upsetting. Race isn’t the only issue. But to pretend that there isn’t a racial element to this is disingenuous, particularly for anyone who has spent five seconds reading any post in this forum on crime.

      • Brandon

        Since you chose the alias, I’ll point out in Meditations your namesake poignantly wrote, ‘If thou art pained by any external thing, it is not this that disturbs thee, but thy own judgment about it. And it is in thy power to wipe out this judgment now.’

        The irony is obvious here. It’s disingenuous to lurk outside someones house in a city where break-ins and crime are a reality and act flabbergasted when someone takes umbrage with the lurking only to use your perceptions that you were the victim of racism as a sign of the changing times.

        Last point, what do new bars have to do with anything and again, how are they a bad thing?

        • Farnsworth

          I can’t figure out what’s so hard to understand about this whole thing. He wasn’t viewed as undesirable and a threat before. Now he’s viewed as undesirable and a threat. And are you really confused about his “new bars” comment?

          • Brandon

            Got it.

          • Anonymous

            Your arguments are too nuanced for me. Please try to reduce them to something simpler that I might understand.

        • Marcus Aurelius

          The OP is disingenuous for being surprised that something he has done for 25 years (he says he moved to Capitol Hill in 1988) is all of a sudden viewed as indicative of criminal behavior? Really?

          And it’s not as simple as just wiping out someone else’s judgment of you. Someone else’s erroneous judgment about you can get you killed.

    • Anonymous

      The “economics” argument has become a proxy for class and race-based discrimination; this is exactly a page out of the Atwater’s Southern Strategy (which he went on to disavow on his deathbed and apologize for the social & economic harm he did to the black community).

      White gentrifiers have the economic and political clout to make affordable housing for longtime, primarily Af-Am residents a priority. But they don’t because their the removal of traditional residents is what’s making these areas appealing to a wider subset of the region’s white population and driving up the prices. Talking about “economics” and “the market” is just political doublespeak for white = good & safe, black = bad & unsafe. This is exactly the Southern Strategy. And I say these things as an economist!

      • Brandon

        Not that it matters but I am black. My family has lived in DC since the early 80s. Our roots are in North Philly on my Mom’s side and Long Branch/Asbury Park on my Dad’s via Jacksonville, FL and Russellville, AL. My Grandfather owned and refurbished a good deal of houses and business on Georgia Ave, U St., and in SE. Racism and its effects have impacted my family for generations. Its a real thing, the legacy of which is evident today.

        The points you make are valid and accurate. They have nothing to do with the post though. The writer feels uncomfortable in his home because of changes in the neighborhood and newcomers who make him feel like an outsider. That’s completely valid and anyone with empathy can understand his point. It isn’t institutional racism per se that is making him feel this way. If we go back far enough to the discrimination in the GI Bill and treatment of black and white vet after WWII, redlining in loan discrimination, and other macro issues, I guess the roots are there, but today, this isn’t the problem. The problem is a lack of communication between the writer and his neighbors.

        My objection is when you bring race into it as the main cause, you get a story with 70 comments when really, this is a simple issue that could have been better handled.

        • Anonymous

          +1000 from a white guy (not that it matters) who thinks this is a bad example of the racism that still exists.

    • Anonymous

      I totally agree with you but like to add it’s equally bad for a rich guy to walk through a poor neighborhood and start staring at houses.

  • Anonymous

    first of all — even if the behavior had been overtly suspicious (not obvious but possible), the appropriate reaction is calling the police and letting them sort it out. They likely would have interviewed him and it would have ended there. I just don’t get why people feel compelled to take confrontational positions and escalate something where no real threat exists.

    A few times I’ve asked people camped on my steps or my neighbors steps to move along. It’s not public space and they had no business being there. I asked politely got courteous replies before the person moved along. Of course that’s not the same as admiring from the public sidewalk. Seems like that covers a lot of PoP postings.

    • saf

      I was just thinking, “Gee wonder how often this happens to PoP?” Probably not so often.

  • Anonymous

    Wait, so this is the ONE time in 12 years that anything like this has happened and it has to be because of the changing City? C’mon. There are crazy jerks everywhere. Mr. Mills probably just stumbled onto one. Not that what he’s saying isn’t in some respects true or unfortunate, but I don’t think this incident is a good example of it.

    • C


  • Anonymous

    Sounds like a model citizen for neighborhood watch efforts. Kudos.

  • I don’t think you should take what happened with some nutjob and generalize it to how things are now in Petworth.

    There are crazy people everywhere.

  • manimal

    damn that’s crazy. i’m sorry you had a run it with that kind of threat of violence joe!

  • anony

    Mountain, meet mole hill.

  • Anonymous

    i’m not sure why so many are saying that joe is suggesting racism. the dude that accosted him was black. he’s saying that there is a air of fear and suspicion that he felt was the cause of being accosted.

    • Anonymous

      It’s the comparison to the other situations that got national headlines and are more clearly results of at least some level of racism.

      • Anonymous

        sure, but the zimmerman travyvon issue can ALSO be looked at as a hypersensitive neighborhood watch nutjob that was just looking to vent his anger on someone.

        just because the incident included zimmermans racists rants and fears, doesn’t mean that it can only be looked at that way.

  • Anonymous

    I realize the syntax is a bit tortured, but as I read it the man wielding the bat is black, and the reference to white people is only as an easily identifying characteristic of the owners, i.e. the bat wielding man didn’t per se know the owners but knows they are white thus eliminating Joe as the owner. Unless there is some unspoken Uncle Tom accusation, I’m not sure where there is racism in this episode.

    • Anonymous

      me either.

  • Anonymous

    It sucks a lot and no one deserves that treatment, but it someone (anyone) stood outside my house looking at it for a long period of time, I would be scared that person was trying to figure out a way to break in now or later. I would not have chased down the person with a bat, but I may have called the cops about an unknown person who is observing my house and taking notes.

  • Q-Street

    I don’t get it. The world is filled with a-holes and crazy people and sometimes rent goes up too. It’s life.

    I recently got yelled at by a crazy white guy about being a mexican and ruining the country, apparently for the crime of being outside painting my windows. I am not a victim. Dude was just bonkers.

    I also was called a cracker by a little kid outside Seaton elementary… It was adorable.

  • Sorry you had to go through that Joe–are you the same Joe Mills that acts and is/was a bike courier? I think we did a show years ago. Anyway I’ve lived in Bloomingdale since it was supposedly sketchy in 93 until the present. I have seen similar changes. But the misbehavior is usually acted out by bored teenagers. Sorry some dumbass adult had to set a paranoid example for the rest of the community.

  • Clearly this guy should have just pulled out his phone, taken a photo, and uploaded it to Instagram. Then he would have fit right in with the rest of the neighborhood.

  • Ralph

    I hate to say it, but if you are not Hispanic or black (or any minority for that matter), or a white person who’s lived in pre-gentrification times in NW, these neighborhoods have changed so much that you are already mistrusted and misjudged. You will probably not know what its like unless you lived through it or have friends/family who tell you how they feel. Sorry to say it, but its all around.

    • D

      Know thyself and treat others as human beings with the same basic desires and hopes. If you do, you will probably be more trusting. You may learn from that person and teach them something as well.


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