An American Girl in Washington

On Gentrification

Posted in All about moi, Just another day in DC, Politics- as I see it by AGinDC on 17 March 2011

First of all, I’d like to give a shout-out to intelligent journalism.  That ish is rarer than a dodo bird these days and I am thrilled that Washington City Paper is home to a writer such as this.  Amen!

Second, now that I live in Columbia Heights (I didn’t feel this way in Adams Morgan) I am constantly aware of being a black girl in Prada flats and a trench coat waltzing by the city’s original residents and wondering where I fit in.  I’ve spent all of my life being the black girl who fits in better in Club Monaco than FUBU (that’s what a Seattle upbringing will do to you) and living in South Louisiana for two years taught me the values of code switching more thoroughly than ever before.  But never have I lived in a city that is changing as quickly, and as starkly, as DC, and never have I seen politics and policy play out so clearly on every street corner.

This has also affected my dating life.

As a black girl who attended a Top 25 private undergrad and a Top 10 law school, dating a brother is hard.  There were three black men in my law school class.  One was straight.  Times was hard.  In fact, I was just laughing with my equally well-educated black girlfriends today because a young man who tried, unsuccessfully, to court me this winter sent me an evite with a completely made up word in it.  And he has two degrees in… wait for it… EDUCATION!  Of course I forwarded it right away and we all had a good laugh, before realizing that this is why we’re single.  Being a complete anomaly is a challenge, to say the least, and whether I date black men with high school diplomas (that didn’t work out so well) to black men with multiple degrees who still can’t grasp the basic concept of proofreading (he didn’t even get a chance), the fact is that my friends and I spend 90% of our time single.  And not just single, not dating.  At all.  We had a long conversation at our all female, all lawyers, all from T14s book club a few weeks ago about how we’re not even meeting anyone to give a chance.

That’s how bad.

And yet every day now I walk past scores of black men, young and old, who are being drowned out by the Target and the Starbucks and the rent that young professionals still need roommates to afford.  And everyday I walk by and have to remind myself to see them.  Because we may look the same, but our experiences are so different, and the author of this piece is right, it’s about class much more than it’s about race, that I have to remind myself on a constant basis that not everyone in this town goes to Buddha Bar for their birthdays.

I know that makes me sound like an awful person, but it’s true.

I often get down on my life, lament at how I’ve never done anything or been anywhere and that I’m so pathetic compared to everyone else.  My mother constantly has to remind me that I have spent most of my life in a bubble where everyone I know is exactly like me, and that if I bothered to look around I would remember how privileged I am.  She has to say this even after I’ve done Teach For America.  If anyone should know at this point, I should.  And I do, when I’m consciously thinking about it.  But that’s not the problem.  I know Japan is having a major energy crisis when I turn on the news, but I don’t think about that nuclear reactor when I turn on the light.  The fact is, it’s easy for us to get so wrapped up in our own lives and struggles and fears and ambitions that we forget at times how lucky we are.  And there’s nothing wrong with that.  People have to live their lives.  But when you’re in a city like DC, in a neighborhood like Columbia Heights, where every day you’re living on top of people who can’t attain the life that’s all around them, you really need to think about it a little more.

Or at least, I do.

Thanks WCP, for letting me know that I’m not the only one.



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  1. […] few months ago I wrote about an amazing article that very well summed up my feelings on being a young black professional who is […]

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