Lots of people have (for example, G.L. Piggy) have written about the unbearable whitening of DC.
In my DC census tract, the white population increased by over 400% between 2000 and 2010. In the late ’90s, in my census tract, gun shots were a common sound. Now most loud noises are made by construction crews rehabbing the old houses. Wealthy people are even beginning to send their kids to the public schools – at least for elementary school.
Obviously this process creates tension. It’s fine to acknowledge this tension, but I’m tired of hearing people discuss the issue in moral terms and making it sound mixed. In moral terms, gentrification has been unquestionably good. I find it appalling that people are willing to balance hurt feelings on one side against fewer murders, less corrupt politics and increased wealth on the other side. There really is no moral ambiguity here. Here’s the Washington Post:
The loss of blacks comes at a time when the city is experiencing a rebound, reversing a 60-year-long slide in population and adding almost 20,000 new residents between 2000 and 2010.
Are these phenomenon related? Don’t expect the Post to consider the possibility.
Of course, from my perspective, the best part about the whole issue is that the gentrifiers are super-SWPLs. They’re displacing blacks and they feel really bad about it, but the new bar around the corner that serves $9 super micro-brews from that small town in Belgium is really good.
Here is Marion Barry in the same Post article:
“We’re going to stop this trend — gentrification,” said D.C. Council member Marion Barry (D-Ward 8). “We can’t displace old-time Washingtonians.”
“The key to keeping this city black is jobs, jobs, jobs for black people so they can have a better quality of life in neighborhoods in the city,” he added. “I believe in integration, but I don’t believe in the apartheid we have in Ward 8. You don’t see corner stores in Ward 3. You don’t see the liquor stores.”
Ward 8 – which elected Barry as its councilman and therefore deserves all the bad things it gets – is the area of DC across the Anacostia River that is virtually completely black and still very poor. Is Barry suggesting that black jobs are the ones working in "corner stores" and "liquor stores?" I’m not sure. You never really what Barry is saying.
Here’s Matthew Yglesias on the same phenomenon:
This is, I think, a mistake. The labor market in the Washington, DC Metropolitan Statistical Area is among the strongest in the entire country. Obviously more employment opportunities would be welcome, but lack of employment opportunities isn’t really a characteristic of this city.
He goes on to suggest that what DC needs is more housing. Obviously Yglesias doesn’t spend much time in Ward 8. If you go here and look at the population changes in Ward 8, you’ll find that the Ward lost population (significantly) in the last decade. Frankly, the Ward has plenty of housing. The problem is that no one who can afford to live elsewhere wants to live in Ward 8.
On jobs, I think both Barry and Yglesias are correct. DC has plenty of jobs, but they’re not "jobs for black people".
There are two factors at work here: 1) the Post article quotes a demographer from Howard University saying, "You have this unusually large college educated population [i.e. white people]. And then you have a population that is largely black, with high school degrees or less;" and 2) the jobs available in DC have requirements that favor the former group (i.e. the college educated).
Even the growth in government lately, has been in areas that require college degrees – and not just any college degree. The hiring that I have done at my agency is geared toward people with scientific or mathematical backgrounds. If we have a choice between someone who double majored in African-American studies and Economics or someone who double majored in Physics and Economics, we’re picking the latter.
Of course, it’s true that blacks are over-represented in government jobs, but they’re also concentrated in obsolete agencies – as we’ve recently seen – administrative positions (I’m pretty sure there is some of cartel of obese, middle-aged black women that controls all administrative positions in the federal government), and positions specifically reserved by Congress for diversity hires.
Basically, the SWPLs can’t have it both ways. On one hand they want government run by experts and they want a hiring process that results in experts being hired. On the other hand, they want minorities employed. They’ve squared the circle by hiring experts to do the work (I work with six or seven agencies on a regular basis and our meetings are always all white or white and Asian) and hiring blacks to do make-work. As government positions require more technical expertise – and all the new ones do – they end up requiring that white people occupy the positions. An ironic consequence of government by expert, no? Perhaps I’m the only one laughing at the phenomenon, but I’m doing enough laughing for everyone.