A New Twist on the Same Old Argument

So, last week the Washington Post ran THIS article.  And yesterday Prince of Petworth raised it for discussion.

I couldn’t help but groan in both instances. First of all, the original article is yet another round of “Those damn white kids are taking over my city!” Now, I dislike spoiled, entitled rich kids of any race or ethnicity as much as the next person–my issue with this line is that I’m always getting lumped in with them. The tendency of people who don’t know me is to assume that I’m “white”–this is problematic on a number of levels, and a discussion I’ll save for another time. Also, you know the part where I just moved to North Petworth for cheap rent?  Yeah, I have a master’s degree, I’m “white”, and I’ve been priced out of most of the “cool” parts of DC too!  So I get really annoyed when “old timers” here in DC assume I’m just another rich white hipster.

Also, I totally understand that there is a fine line between honoring the past, and appropriating it for your own purposes. I have issues with using the past to make money (in a for-profit sense) in general, but have mostly just come to accept that it happens and there’s nothing I can do about it. But I think that the article’s argument doesn’t give a good justification for these uses falling on the side of appropriation, beyond the tired old “oldtimes > newcomers”. *sigh*

Also, as a historian, I take a lot of issue with the glorification of the past, whether it’s dreaming of the “good old days” of 1950s white suburbia, the antebellum south, or DC the Chocolate City. We still have a shit-ton of issues as a society (and as a city) today, but the tendency among many people to look back at the “better days” of whatever past is their chosen “ideal” drives me batty.

And the Prince of Petworth piece adds a new level of ridiculousness!  Now instead of just being “oldtimers” (generally African American) vs. newcomers (generally white),  it’s now also “first wave” gentrifiers vs. more recent transplants. No matter how you dice it, the assumption that I am not capable of loving and respecting the city of DC because I’ve only lived here for 6 years is beyond insulting and infuriating.  Yes, a lot of “white” professional 20-somethings don’t  see DC as a permanent home–to many it’s just a stepping stone on their career ladder before they move on to another place.  But for people like me, DC IS HOME. I’m sorry I wasn’t born here.  I’m sorry I was only born in the 1980s.  I’m sorry that I didn’t move here until 2006.  But all of that is beyond my control!  Looking down on me because I didn’t live in DC during the “good old days” of the 1980s or whatever (because now we’re apparently wishing DC still had “soul” like it did in the 1980s o_O) is completely insane.

Okay, I’m done with this rant, I promise. And eventually I might even go back to posting about decorating my apartment! 😛

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One comment

  1. Honestly, this goes on everywhere. In a city like DC, the history of the place & the issues of race make it a bit more fraught, but really, those articles could be people in town here complaining about the “art types that MoCA brought in”. Heck, my folks have lived in this city my whole life, but just lacking the family network & historic connections that most “natives” had made me very keenly aware that here is a place we adopted.

    So, what I’m saying is, bugger what folk think- if you’re there for the long hall, and keen on the history, stay & do it. What grumpy folk say can’t stop you, and in another ten years, there’ll be a whole crop of new folk who think of you as an old hand, & you maybe wonder about them.

    Anyway, cheers.

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