DC’s Segregated Past

Interesting Sunday human interest piece from J. Freedom du Lac in the Post:

The old Holleywood tavern at Ninth and U streets NW, one of just eight bars in Washington listed as open to blacks in 1949, is now the indie-rock bar, DC9. Where the Brass Rail restaurant once served blacks who were excluded from most downtown eateries, there is now a day-care center for toddlers and infants. Green’s, a beauty parlor on 18th, south of U, is now a Peruvian restaurant.

Half a century after the edition of the Negro Motorist Green Book with those D.C. listings was published, playwright Calvin Alexander Ramsey stumbled upon the book, which was once a kind of Fodor’s Black America – a travel guide for African Americans road-tripping in an era of racial segregation.

The whole piece is interesting and worth reading, but it made me think primarily of the upcoming mayor’s race. DC was a Jim Crow city until quite recently and even after the Civil Rights Act passed the continuation of congressional control over the city was seen in that light—white people denying black people the right to govern themselves. The reality is that the new group of elites that took over in the mid-seventies didn’t do a very good job of running the city. But in the eyes of many, the efforts of the Williams and especially Fenty administrations to challenge that new elite’s privileges looks like an effort to reimpose white control over a city that was governed along white supremacist lines in the recent past.

I think this interpretation of events is basically nonsense but now that it’s taken hold I think no matter who wins the city’s going to be in for a tough ride going forward. We’re going to be hovering around the approximately fifty percent black level for a while in terms of the city’s demographics, which is just the right range for lots of people to start opportunistically casting whatever they’re upset about as a racial question.