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Posted at 12:00 PM ET, 02/16/2011

A 'more vanilla' D.C. sparks debate

By Maggie Fazeli Fard

While D.C.'s suburbs in Virginia and Maryland have seen an influx of black, Hispanic and Asian residents, the District itself is getting wealthier and whiter, reports The Post's Capital Business.

As of 2009, the proportion of white residents in D.C. had risen to nearly a third; the city's share of black residents was down to 52.7. In 1970, blacks made up 71 percent of the city's population, according to census data.

"I forecast that by 2014, African Americans would no longer be the majority in the District," Benjamin Orr of Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program told Capital Business.

A report by Alex Kellogg on NPR's Morning Edition tried to find the human faces and the reasons behind these changing numbers.

Instead, Kellogg drew the ire of the blogosphere.

In the story, Kellogg says the "Chocolate City" is "becoming more vanilla." He suggests a reason for the demographic shift: Rising property values all over the city -- including in "virtually all-black and more often than not poor" neighborhoods like Anacostia -- that force old residents out, and  "gentrification" in the form of bars and restaurants that draw new (white) developers and residents in.

Not everyone shares Kellogg's opinion of why the demographics are changing. Blogger Tom Bridge of WeLoveD.C. called the NPR report a "quick and dirty race narrative" that gave "legitimacy to economic disaster porn."

Anacostia Now's David Garber, who was interviewed for Kellogg's story, called the piece "a dishonest portrayal of the changes that are happening in Anacostia." Garber criticizes Kellogg for using as examples one black man who "chose to buy a larger and more expensive house in PG County than one he was considering near Anacostia" and "one white person, me -- and I don't even live there anymore."

"But hold on. Pause. Are we really still getting worked up about skin color?" Garber asks.

What do you think?

Are you seeing a black exodus out of D.C.? Are black residents being pushed out of gentrified neighborhoods, or is this part of a more complex evolution of a city? Tell us your thoughts by taking to poll or telling us more in the comments below.

More on the 2010 Census:
Minorities are majority in Montgomery Co.
Wheaton's hispanic surge
Virginia's white population dwindles

By Maggie Fazeli Fard  | February 16, 2011; 12:00 PM ET
Categories:  Today's Buzzy Blogs  | Tags:  today's buzzy blogs  
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Posted by: fregameeate | February 16, 2011 12:17 PM | Report abuse

Why exactly does it matter how many blacks or whites are in a city? Why is this article suggesting "more whites" is a problem?

Posted by: jmh27 | February 16, 2011 1:23 PM | Report abuse

THE BIGGEST "Duh' moment in recent history....

Posted by: 4thFloor | February 16, 2011 1:32 PM | Report abuse

I could barely even get past the first sentence where it lists DC's "suburbs." Ugh. Maryland and Virginia have suburbs; they are not suburbs of DC. Sure it's anal, but it's accurate. As a SE resident, I do admit to sometimes marveling when I see white people in certain neighborhoods. But it's not that I think they don't belong there; it's actually nice to see people "willing" to move to a particular neighborhood based on its potential. Anacostia is one such area. Sure, it's changing. But not every corner has been affected yet. That people are willing, whether they are black or not, to move to a traditionally black area before it is "changed" is a move in the right direction. And if you pay close attention, you'll notice that many of my Hillcrest neighbors are white, older Americans who have had the houses for generations.

Posted by: 1moreandthen | February 16, 2011 1:53 PM | Report abuse

All places change. Populations shift. Hell, I don't understand Spanish, but that's what now prevails where I grew-up (Village Square at Conn. and Veirs Mill). Things change, but you always hope it's for the best. Some locations gain money, some lose money, which affects services, schools, roads, etc.

Posted by: jckdoors | February 16, 2011 2:10 PM | Report abuse

suburbs The usually residential region around a major city; the environs.

Read more:

Washington DC = major city. Outside area of Washington DC = Virginia and Maryland.

Posted by: BrokenClipboard | February 16, 2011 2:15 PM | Report abuse

Why is this newsworthy? Imagine that...people move around in a free country.

Posted by: BigDaddy651 | February 16, 2011 2:37 PM | Report abuse

another article designed to attract the us vs them readers who like to argue on line about race and class.

Posted by: ged0386 | February 16, 2011 3:33 PM | Report abuse

Never fear. We can solve this "problem" by allowing the violent crime rate and drug epidemic to return to late 1980s levels. Would all the complainers be happy if D.C. imploded like Detroit.

Posted by: buffysummers | February 16, 2011 4:14 PM | Report abuse

Hmmmm. I think that if slavery were legalized tomorrow, the reaction of most "new" residents in D.C. would be "that is disgusting and unfair and this isn't.... wait, it's legal? Well, get Alphonso off that corner and give him a pickax to replace his gun. At least they're all working now."

Posted by: washreg | February 16, 2011 4:28 PM | Report abuse

Now imagine that this article had been phrased as "Vanilla City Becoming More Chocolate Angers Residents." Would that be seen as racist? Oh that's right, anything white is evil and should be thoroughly distrusted. Way to go WaPo-bring out the ignorant masses of all races to chime in on your baloney article. Most of us are right now living where we can afford to live and crossing our fingers that we won't be targeted by a group of thugs from any color. These thugs include the generations we've all supported from their effing infancy if not their conception until the point they decide it would be fun to beat on us in the metro one night-because they were bored and disadvantaged or rich, spoiled and bored. It's a class and income level problem WaPo, not a racial issue.

Posted by: stopthemadness | February 16, 2011 4:38 PM | Report abuse

I agree with the majority of the posted comments. Not sure why this article aroused anger in anyone. I have lived in DC for only 10 years. Yet it was immediately apparent to me even then that there was a continuing demographic shift. This shift has recently begun to escalate. As an African-American, I moved to DC because of the rich historical contribution that Blacks have made to the city. As an American, I respect and acknowledge all our rights to travel and live any place we choose. I find no issue for anger in the changing dynamic of the District. We are all Americans, and we all must find a way to embrace change.

Posted by: PatentLaw | February 16, 2011 4:38 PM | Report abuse

As a resident of Alexandria, I most certainly consider myself living in a "DC suburb" rather then A Virginia one. NoVa is nothing like the rest of Va. DC>Richmond

How about Fudge Ripple City?

Posted by: janeway1 | February 16, 2011 5:18 PM | Report abuse

The latest headlines from the DC "blogosphere":

White Bobos Stomp Their Feet and Downplay DC's Gentrification and Black Flight

White Bobos Bristle at Demographic Truths, Insist They're Not "Racist Displacists"

White Bobos Whine and Then Transmit Boring Bobo Whines In Their Twitter Feeds

Posted by: FedUpInMoCo | February 16, 2011 6:15 PM | Report abuse



Probably not, but we'll include you among the idiots.


"could barely even get past the first sentence where it lists DC's "suburbs." Ugh. Maryland and Virginia have suburbs; they are not suburbs of DC. Sure it's anal, but it's accurate."

"Accurate"? To whom?

NONSENSE is more like it.

Posted by: ceefer66 | February 16, 2011 6:40 PM | Report abuse

DC is becoming whiter. Well duhh. I was born and raised in DC. In 1951 my family moved to a house at 16th and T st NW. We were the third Black family on the block. By 1961 there might have been three white families left on the block. Now there maybe four Black houses on the block. Most of the Blacks are professionals.

With the cost of housing and gas in the suburbs rising to sky high levels professionals, Black and white, have moved into DC. Most of the DC Black middle class moved to Prince Georges county over the past 10 years. As the elderly either die or move out of their homes more and more whites are buying houses that are cheap.

Posted by: Jimof1913 | February 16, 2011 6:52 PM | Report abuse

Because living in the suburbs sucks and more people are realizing that. Suburbs = BORING.

Posted by: Nixonin08 | February 16, 2011 9:49 PM | Report abuse

Anyone with eyes can see the accuracy of the NPR story. Who other than the two bloggers (and a third mentioned in one of the linked blogs) is actually debating this topic? Yawn.

Posted by: lynnindc | February 16, 2011 10:35 PM | Report abuse

What's wrong with the NPR article? Because he brought up race or? He is correct! I have seen it myself. There are incredibly large development projects springing up in the city that are indeed raising property values in poor areas. What developers call revitalization I call gentrification. Nationals Park is a huge example of this. National Harbor, even in Prince Georges County, is going to be a major factor in the gentrification of DC.

Posted by: sanjuan1227 | February 17, 2011 8:29 AM | Report abuse

White liberal yuppie bloggers getting peeved at NPR? Good Lord, could there be a less relevant "news" story?

Posted by: Swat02 | February 17, 2011 9:48 AM | Report abuse

For a person to say that that article is false and what does it matter how many blacks or whites live in the city is crazy. It matters when you are crafty and shaddy with your ways by forcing people out of their homes and neighborhoods because of their race and income.

Posted by: rachaadgunter | February 17, 2011 9:50 AM | Report abuse

This is the re-urbanization of America. Cities are our country's most valuable assets, people realize the prosperity they have to offer, and so they are abandoning the suburbs. It is obvious that the demographics in DC have changed, but it was only a few years ago that the net population stopped shrinking and began growing, meaning the number of generational residents leaving the city outpaced new residents coming into the city for years.
Inflated property values in the district are a huge problem compounded by the largess of the DCRA and other city agencies, but I take serious issue with seeing any economic development and simply calling it gentrification. In fact, it seems those atop their ivory towers have decided gentrification is an analogue or synonym for economic development. In reality, gentrification involves collusion between private equity holders and government authorities to 1) devalue and condemn property, 2) create incentives for developing the property, such as tax-breaks, and 3)inflate the property's value once it has been developed. "Organic" gentrification is a misnomer in a society operated on the principles of free enterprise. Economic development in Columbia Heights, for example, is not comparable to the urban renewal of the SW waterfront that occurred in the 1950's and 60's. Then, 20,000+ mostly African-American families saw their entire community destroyed and fractured, split up and relocated in separate communities. Now, the department stores new to the Heights are required by the city to employ residents from the community itself. Of the new apartments in the Heights, 30% of them are mandated to be affordable housing. That is not gentrification by any stretch of the imagination, it is simply a community improving economically. So where do we draw the line?
The truth is, far too many of us DC residents rent, and far too few own, the property in which we live. This is the real divide - what will lead to gentrification - is property ownership being consolidated into the hands of private interests outside the communities in which those properties exist. There needs to be a higher property tax rate for single family homes not occupied by their owners, and these hyperinflated property values need to be brought under control.

Posted by: smart-aleck | February 17, 2011 10:39 AM | Report abuse

So great! I speak this article daily-- kind of. I love Chocolate City-- but I would write an article entitled "Through the Eyes of a POOR Snowflake"--- yes, DC there are some white folks living below the poverty line. The cost of living in the DMV is all relative if you don't have a car and can't pay your bills anyway. Living in the District is "cheaper" because you can walk and straight up DC keeps its peoples down that want to stay down because the benefits are awesome! Best health insurance I have ever had! So while some flaming liberals want to say there is no race issue-- move along Becky and David because real talk there is a lot of deep rooted hate. Why people get bent out of shape about the phrases vanilla and chocolate is something else but I think more people just need to keep it real about what they are really angry about. We all have a lot more in common than we have differences.

Posted by: no1snowflake | February 17, 2011 12:22 PM | Report abuse

Race is the easy change to notice but I bet there is much more underlying some of these changes. I know of a block in NE where at least four of the houses have changed because long-time African-American owners passed away - there was no decision to leave the city or be 'forced out'. The new residents - regardless of race - are likely to be 'higher-revenue, lower-service-user' residents. How many new residents are paying higher property, income and sales taxes while not using schools, social services or calling 911 to go to the doctor? I think DC is a healthier city because of these changes. I'm not saying better - many of us live in the city for the very diversity that makes city living great - but the city has to be financially sustainable.

Posted by: OntheHill | February 17, 2011 12:50 PM | Report abuse

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