Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Milk Chocolate City

Interesting op-ed about my hometown. I agree with the ultimate conclusion.

From the NYT...
This is the rage, long simmering just beneath the surface, that is bubbling over now that Washington, the once-majority-black city immortalized in George Clinton’s 1975 funk classic “Chocolate City,” has lost its black majority. But even before the data corroborated that demographic milestone last year, Washington’s makeover had created something of an identity crisis. 
Ever since Washington was carved from two slaveholding states in 1791, it has been a special place for black Americans. Lincoln freed the slaves in Washington about nine months before the Emancipation Proclamation, prompting blacks from the region to flock here. It was the birthplace of Duke Ellington and home to other artists like Zora Neale Hurston and Sterling Allen Brown, who later fueled the Harlem Renaissance. By 1957, blacks had become the majority of the city’s residents, exceeding numbers in any major city in the United States. Ever since Walter E. Washington was appointed mayor by Lyndon B. Johnson in 1967, the city has been led by black politicians and shaped by black institutions. This has fostered a sense of black privilege, swagger and, yes, the hubris that comes with leadership. 
My own initiation in the ways of Chocolate City came nearly 20 years ago when, after growing up black in nearly all-white environments, I arrived in Washington as a freshman at historically black Howard University. The Washington I encountered then was a strange, alternate universe: I saw black schools taught by black teachers and run by black principals reporting to black superintendents. Black restaurants. Black hospitals run by black doctors and staff members. Black suburbs. Black judges ordering black police officers to deliver black suspects to black jail wardens. And of course a black-owned music industry, go-go.  In Washington, we were not “minorities,” with the whiff of inferiority that label carries; we were “normal.” For the first time in my life, I felt at home. 
Some days, walking the streets of Washington, a seemingly colder place where people don’t always exchange greetings, I feel nostalgic for the days of black privilege that George Clinton crooned about. But given the warmth of many of my new neighbors of many races, I would like to see the transformation around me as racial progress. The change in attitudes that caused a generation of whites to release their fears and return to the urban centers their parents fled a generation ago is the same change in attitudes that allowed millions of white Americans, in the quiet sanctity of the voting booth, to vote for a black man named Barack Hussein Obama.

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