This morning’s cover story on the Washington Post wasn’t Laurent Gbagbo’s struggles in Ivory Coast, or the month anniversary of the devastating tsunami in Japan, or even the recent spike in city-wide crime and homicides, it was a Marc Fisher feature on the demographic shift the city is undergoing and what that means for race relations in the city. The money quote, which Fisher later beats into a bloody pulp with the help of Marshall Brown (yes, Kwame Brown’s dad and political consultant), comes from Blair Ruble at the Comparative Urban Studies Program at the Woodrow Wilson Center:
“The census numbers create a symbolic moment, but the data overamplifies the change in the city,”
This morning, to look at Twitter is to look into the maw of the “myopic little twit” of Courtland Milloy. There’s a lot of people upset about Marshall Brown’s brutal words, which I’ll put below the cut. But is his frustration warranted? Or is he part of the problem?
“The new people believe more in their dogs than they do in people. They go into their little cafes, go out and throw their snowballs. This is not the District I knew. There’s no relationship with the black community; they don’t connect at church, they don’t go to the same cafes, they don’t volunteer in the neighborhood school, and a lot of longtime black residents feel threatened.” — Marshall Brown
I bristled when I read the article late last night, as a person who recently moved into a new neighborhood in the city, from across the river. As we’ve gotten involved in our community, I’ve had several older residents insinuate that as a new resident, I’m to know my place, be quiet, and let the elders run the council, instead of being an active participant in my neighborhood. One email forwarded to the Brookland listserve went as far as implying that new residents are morally equivalent to original white settlers of the colonies, and all of the baggage related to the deaths and displacement of first nations people.
Are new residents advocating for different priorities from older residents? Yes, they are. Does that mean they don’t share the concerns of the older residents? Absolutely not. And being vilified in the media certainly doesn’t help when we’re already going to neighborhood association meetings, to ANC meetings, to council meetings and other civic engagements.
It’s certainly understandable that someone with a waning power base may feel threatened by new residents, but to go and spit on those new residents isn’t going to win you any friends, nor will it make engagement with that community any easier.