Sunday, an obit in the paper edition of the Washington Post caught my eye because of the circumstances of the persons death. Courtney Mykytyn was standing on a curb, chatting with a neighbor, when another neighbor in a car accelerated in reverse, hitting and killing Mykytyn. I’m sensitive to drivers killing pedestrians and cyclists and even stupid people on scooters. [insert 1000 word rant about American car culture and climate change genuflecters who make no real change in their energy consumption habits. Did you know your drivers license is a license to kill?] It wasn’t until the near end of the obituary when I realized I had listened to her podcast.
Integrated Schools is a well produced podcast, but I found it super cringey. I know. I know. I am not the target audience. I’m a black mom and this is a podcast for lefty white parents talking to other lefty white parents about their whiteness and education. Knowing I’d probably write on this, I listened to some more podcasts to be fair. What I got out of that was an exposure to only what I can call a perverse white superiority that feeds on black and brown dysfunction. And it isn’t just for white people, Asians and bi-racial people can join in on struggling over their privilege too. Opposite of the Asian Parenting for College Success podcast. I listen to a lot of podcasts.
Listening to these podcasts I grew concerned about my own neighborhood and the in-boundary school of Seaton. The message I was hearing in these podcast to white parents was ‘don’t bring your A game.’ To which I am going to scream BRING YOUR A GAME! I wanted you to fight and try to #SaveShawMS (RIP Shaw Middle School). Was that effort lost because some parents were holding back? Why did I just sit in the background and not bring my A game? I’ve got a great excuse, because my kid is 2 and not enrolled in Seaton and thus not in a feeder for what would have been Shaw Middle School.
I also grew concerned about childless white neighbors and they deciding to hold back too as a way to confront their own whiteness. Nah, I need you to keep on the SaveMcMillian Park effort. This effort began before most of you got here. Former ANC and BACA president Jim Berry put me on some committee or panel a decade and a half ago to slow it down. Mayor Bowser is hellbent on getting the greenspace paved over and developed, historic districting/landmarking or whatever bedamned.
I listened to Integrated Schools podcast episode regarding gentrification and school segregation. There was one thing Ms. Mykytyn said regarding getting mugged that ticked me off. Listen friends, your whiteness is not a bulletproof shield. It does not protect you from stray bullets. It does not protect you from the mentally ill beating you, or raping and killing you. I want you to be safe. Get those damned headphones out of your ears. Be aware of your surroundings. Say ‘hello’ and ‘good morning’ to people you pass on the street.
Folks diversity is hard. There are no easy answers and there are many moving parts. Resist the urge to turn people into magic minorities. Resist the idea of not being and giving your best in service to your neighbors. There are so many stories I could tell about how the neighborhood was saved (or delayed an unwanted inevitable until the nab could handle it) by having a lawyer or journalist or some A type personality in the group. It wasn’t their whiteness but the skills they developed in their profession. Bradley Thomas & Teri Quinn brought their lawyer skills, not black lawyer skills but competent lawyer skills to the betterment of Bloomingdale and Truxton Circle. So not about color. Diversity is our strength when we are united in a goal, be it holding people (developers, city govt agencies, etc) accountable or reducing crime after a fatal shooting.
Lastly, on parenting, diversity, and gentrification let me share with you an observation. When I first moved into Shaw in the 00s it was not uncommon to see a Black mother yelling at her kids using profanity and verbally abusing her children. Humans are very social animals. We observe and watch each other. Sometime in the last 10 years I began noticing young and not so young black fathers in the neighborhood interacting with their kids in similar ways as hipster white dads. Several months ago I observed another black mother, walking down the sidewalk, fussing at her elementary aged son. She was mad. She was livid. But not a single curse word passed her lips. That’s improvement.