For decades Washington D.C. was unofficially known as the Chocolate City, named after the Parliament Funkadelic song of the same name. D.C. was for years known as a majority Black city whose cultural foundation owed a lot to the African-American community, and its Black political leaders (e.g. Marion Barry) ensured Black issues were of primary importance. Today, the news has broken that, after a 51-year run, Washington is no longer majority Black. It’s the end of an era, and it’s something you should care about.
Experts believe D.C.’s Black population slipped below 50 percent sometime in February, though the population slide has been happening for far longer than that. With the economy flagging and government jobs drying up, many African-Americans, who are disproportionately employed in the public sector, were faced with financial crises. White and wealthy gentrifiers had been moving into the city and jacking up the prices on everything from housing to food. Ultimately, Black families who’d been in the city for decades were forced to move.
“We’re going to stop this trend—gentrification,” Barry, now a city councilmember, said back in March. “We can’t displace old-time Washingtonian.” Alas, he wasn’t able to stem the tide.
Though D.C.’s new white residents have certainly contributed a lot to the city’s economic growth, that poorer Blacks are being forced to the suburbs of Maryland and Virginia is difficult for a number of reasons. Not only is it sad to see an important Black regional icon deteriorate because of poverty, but many Black-owned businesses are in danger of closing, too. They simply can’t afford the city anymore.
Outside of all that, the Black flight from the nation’s capital is very telling when it comes to who’s running the American government. The president is Black, but the contractors and lobbyists and Hill staffers and everyone else living in D.C. for their government jobs? They’re white, and there’s a lot more of them than there is of Obama.
(Photo: Andy Dunaway/USAF via Getty Images)