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The politics of race in the District of Columbia

DCblogger's picture

Atrios pointed to this truly pitiful article from the Washington Post about why Capital Bikeshare was an issue in last year's Mayoral election. Clue, it does not have anything to do with bicycling.

Adrian Fenty was the only city council member who voted against the deal for the baseball stadium. He ran as a reform candidate and carried every single precinct.

Imagine that you live in the Fort Chaplin apartments. They are moldy and vermin infested. The mice are so bad, they live in the stoves. One of my friends tried to make a stew and found mice had crawled into it. The mold is so bad that people have to throw away their clothes. Living in Fort Chaplin makes you sick, literally sick. You can call every relevant DC agency and nothing happens. You can go to court and get a judgment and nothing happens.

Why? I can't be sure, but rumor has it that it is scheduled to be converted to condos. Fort Chaplin is right next to a subway station, and is probably considered much too good a location for a poor people. If they are planning to raze the whole complex they won't be interested in maintaining it and are just interested in squeezing the last dollar out of it.

So once again imagine that you live in the Fort Chaplin apartments. You vote for Fenty because he voted against the stadium deal. And then he gets in power. He closes your child's school and sells it to one of his cronies. He fires your child's favorite teachers. He makes all number of cuts that impact your life in a very negative way. And he does nothing about your moldy, vermin infested apartment.

So you take your child down to the local library so your child has a clean healthy place to study, and what do you see? Bike stands for Capitol Bikeshare. Nobody you know asked for bikeshare. And you understand those bikes were not meant for you, they are for the new people that are beginning to gentrify your neighborhood.

Which brings me to BD Blue's post about Walmart. Local groups have been organizing against Walmart; but our politicians are useless. It has been documents that Walmart stores destroy more jobs than they create. Anyone who has watched the redevelopment of H street knows that our city council could not care less about small businesses.

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pmj6's picture
Submitted by pmj6 on

...but the main one is that there is a "race divide" when it comes to biking. It's a class divide. Middle--class people tend to bike, poor people tend not to, irrespective of their skin pigmentation. The black women depicted in the article aren't exactly poor. Evidently "let them have bike lanes" is the 21st century version of "let them eat cake."

Submitted by jawbone on

people bike. There have been several killed biking home late at night from their jobs. No bike lanes, few sidewalks.

Maybe it's a class issue in DC, but not here. The middle and upper classes ride very expensive bikes in full regalia; the less well off just ride bikes to get around more quickly and further than walking or taking the busses, with their tendency to not stick to schedules.

DCblogger's picture
Submitted by DCblogger on

I presently live in one of the poorest most crime ridden neighborhoods in DC. I see cyclists all the time, especially children. But it is rare to see anyone using bikeshare.

but the main point is that Fenty (and Gray who is ever worse) keep giving neighborhoods things they did not ask for and not preforming services people desperately need.

also Gray is selling the city to corporations, literally

Submitted by brucedixon on

in the new century. I got off the subway somewhere and went to drop something in a public sidewalk wastebasket. I saw a sticker on top of the wastebasket proclaiming it a

Submitted by brucedixon on

to housing the gentrifiers want, or housing sitting on land the gentrifiers want is an old tactic calculated to empty the place out. It's what they did in Cabrini, Horner Homes and other public housing projects in Chicago. For years you could not get a window fixed, a door hung, a busted pipe or broken railing fixed. I saw electrical cabinets left unlocked and uninsulated, so that water would run into them when it rained and short out several floors at a time. This went on for years. Conditions were made so deliberately unlivable that anyone with options was compelled to find their way out.

Police would hold off answering calls for days at a time, then wade in with pretty much indiscriminate force and brutality claiming they were pursuing wrongdoers. You turn the place into hell to make the tenants leave.

Eventually the management could say that wait a minute, this building is only 50 or 60 percent occupied anyway.... it's not viable, we might as well demolish it....

It sounds like those DC folks are reading out of the same book.

okanogen's picture
Submitted by okanogen on

This group of mostly Hmong and Somali business people worked very hard against this tactic.

We can learn alot from our immigrant friends, unladed by the bullshit.

nihil obstet's picture
Submitted by nihil obstet on

They haven't grown up marinated in the blame-yourself-for-failure American individualism. I know it's a generalization, but they appear more open to unionism and other forms of solidarity and more perceptive about means of oppression. This was true in the early 20th c. The New Deal was helped along by many children of immigrants.

Aeryl's picture
Submitted by Aeryl on

A local shipyard, that pays OK for the work, with good bennies and union rep, decided they didn't like the union, and developed a "brilliant" scheme to get rid of it.

They decided, that instead of hiring new local people, they would spend the money immigrating Cuban refugees, and because "Cubans hate socialism" they would then do a vote, and get rid of the union.

It was like the Underpants Gnome theory of capitalism, and worked just about as well. There were already a great many Spanish speaking employees at the yard, who then explained to the new employees just what a loss of union representation would mean, less money, less compensated overtime, no holidays or benefits, and the vote to dissolve the union failed by a staggering margin.

I thought it was a sickening example of the vampirism exhibited by our capitalists, to lure these people here with the promise of the "American Dream" and then manipulate them to snatch the ability away.

okanogen's picture
Submitted by okanogen on

I hate that I've been commenting using a new browser, and it insists on reinserting my screen name in every box.


Joe's picture
Submitted by Joe on

As of April 2011, there were a total of 279,725 bike rentals from capital bike share. Every time someone rents a bike instead of driving... the average health of the citizens increases, the polution in the air (and associated costs) decreases, the traffic on the road (and associated costs) decreases, the parking availibility increases (decreasing costs), the damage done to the roads (and associated costs) decreases... and on and on and on. The benefits to all DC residents far outweigh the costs. And not just for the people riding the actual bikes. Lots of things are a bad deal for the poor. This program isn't.

data above from here:

DCblogger's picture
Submitted by DCblogger on

with the wealthy and middle class. bicycling is popular with everyone.

what I was trying to say is that the anger does not involve the merits of bikeshare, or the merits of dog parks, something that I personally am all for but was also a big issue in the last election.

It was that these services were offered while schools were shut down, teachers fired, public employees laid off, and many other cuts that had a horrific effect upon disadvantaged neighborhoods.