I live in Shaw. Am I wealthy?

| No Comments
4 bills and change

Considering that most of the Earth's residents live on less than $2 a day, I and almost every American in this country are living the life. We don't have to carry water for cooking and we could eat meat every week, maybe every day.

On the topic of gentrification there seemingly are only two groups of people to talk about, the wealthy and the poor. The focus is on how much the new rents are or how much it would cost to buy a newly renovated granite countertopped, glass tiled house or condo and how families in crisis or on the edge cannot afford those things. Nevermind, families in crisis couldn't afford those things when they were west of the park, or west of 16th St, now west of 9th St.

This Summer, the niece came for a short visit and in some effort to impress her, to prove how great our 1000 sq ft was, I mentioned that houses in the area were selling for about half a million dollars. I'm not sure how her little 13 year old brain processed that information but she exclaimed, "You paid 1/2 million for this house?!" No. I did not pay 1/2 a million for my house, not even a quarter of a million. I stop being able to afford the houses being sold around here about 3-4 years after moving in. I do wonder when people talk about houses (and maybe rents) are they thinking like the niece, thinking that all the current residents bought at the current prices and thus deem us rich?

The problem I find that the label wealthy does not fit, not for the story I tell about myself. By general American standards I am doing pretty well, by DC metro AMI, we're ok, a little under but not terrible. If we lived in my native central Florida, this same income would make us upper middle class, but not wealthy. I have co-workers who live out in MARCtrain, MD or VRE, VA who are higher levels and steps and consider themselves middling middle class or even 'struggling'.

I understand why the middling classes who wander into changing neighborhoods as ours get slapped with the label "wealthy", when they're not. Compared to the person or family in crisis, broken and floundering, the secure stand with feet planted on solid ground luxuriating in the wealth of stability. What wealth is the strong support system of family and friends which creates functional adults who have the audacity to bring their world view to the streets?

The label 'wealthy' seems to get slapped on too quickly, too readily, without much thought. Yes, comparing the new residents with older residents, the income and education differences are greater. Yet comparing the new residents with the income and abilities of older residents in other neighborhoods where the newbies maintain the status quo isn't done. The new comers of both places are the same, but where they resemble the people already there, there is no story, no cries of gentrification.

So am I wealthy? Depends who you're comparing me to. If you compare me to the person in Chevy Chase, no. To my contemporary in PG County, nope. To the neighbor on public assistance, yeah, maybe. To the refugee on the other side of the world scrambling for grains of rice, oh most definitely yes.

Leave a comment