Via DC Blogs who got it via Petworth News, one Petworth blogger ponders values and change. It is a long piece asking by what right does one seek to change a neighborhood? I don’t believe I’ve ever really examined this question in terms of right. Mr. Don’t-talk-to-anyone-SUV guy changes the neighborhood just by living in it. Does he have a right to change the neighborhood, by adding to the small contigent of people who pretend to ignore you? Does he have the right to add one more SUV to the street? Yes, simply because he has a right to live here. And even if he doesn’t want to acknowledge it, he is part of the neighborhood.
There is active change in its small amounts. There is calling the cops for violations that in the past were tolerated. There is advocating for a business or challenging another. There is also changing a neighborhood simply by renting or buying or convincing someone to let you live with them in the hood. In the past 5-6 years, a lot of people with dogs, who walk their dogs (instead of just chaining them up in the backyard or letting them roam free on the streets), who moved into the neighborhood, in their own way changed the neighborhood. They added some sort of doggie element that wasn’t there before. Was it their right? It was their right to move in, and have a dog (provided their landlord/SO okay’d it). Doing right by their dog, they have to walk it and by walking the dog, they are bound to meet up with other dog owners. Somehow this all leads to doggie drama. But I digress.
My point is whatever it is that makes you, YOU, you bring when you come into a neighborhood, and thus change that neighborhood. If you happen to be white or Latino and you move in (which is your right since the Fair Housing Act) you add to the non-black population, and decrease the percentage of African Americans in the neighborhood, particularly if the number of blacks isn’t growing faster than that of the non-blacks. Same thing if you are gay, a non-car person, a dog owner, a college educated person, a vegetarian, a lawyer, a bitter barren spinster librarian, whatever, and there are enough folks like you, you add an element. If that element is different than was was there, then expect change. When there are enough citizens in a given geographic location united in thought and/or deed, change will occur.
I don’t see it as a matter of rights, and change is natural. The early 20th century censuses show that TC was a different neighborhood, with different people. The mix of people who lived here in 1910 don’t live here now. What was once a racially mixed neighborhood with black laborers*, white and European immigrant tradesmen, shopkeepers, and government clerks, became a predominately black neighborhood, which is changing into something else. Whomever happens to be here gets to make the rules and the values of the loudest, most active, most numerous citizens tend to carry the day.
*the overwhelming number of AfrAm TC residents who were laborers or servants in 1910 is really, really depressing.