10 May 2011

Don't Call My Neighborhood Ghetto

It cannot be said enough: I hate what my neighborhood can become after 5pm, when people come from Maryland, Virginia and other areas of D.C., to enjoy the offerings on H Street.  I say “can,” because on most nights all is well; on most nights I am able to find a parking spot, and I get a good night’s rest.  But there are times when I get frustrated by the lack of available parking or the fools who decide to have loud conversations at 2am as they make their way home from a night out.

Last week my frustration with the fools was raised to a whole new level when I watched from my living room window as a group of people tampered with a car they felt parked too close to theirs.  They pulled up the windshield wipers on the offending car and pushed in the rear view mirrors. I felt inclined to say something when it looked like they were going to take their tomfoolery a little too far.

Admittedly, this wasn’t my most shining moment: I immediately jumped to the defense of the parked car’s owner, and not that of the driver irritated with the parking job.  I yelled from my window a suggestion: that they not drive into the city if they were worried about their precious import.  In return, the driver was quick with the insults, first claiming that she lives in the city (then she should be used to the bumps and bruises a bumper receives, right?); then calling me names; and finally, saying that she would never come back to my ghetto neighborhood again.  That’s when I got really angry—she called my neighborhood “ghetto.”  After I told her never to come back to the ghetto, she sped off in her BMW and I closed my window and continued to stew in my anger.

My neighborhood is not without its faults. There have been shootings and more recently a violent mugging that was met with an increased police presence after the sun went down; but no matter what its faults, no neighborhood should be labeled “ghetto” because it is an offensive, racist comment, the utterance of which should leave the speaker ashamed of herself.  It is this kind of racism that continues to divide us more than the lines that separate our wards.

So, when you come to Capitol Hill to enjoy the food and drink offered at the many establishments along H Street, remember that we are one city filled with many different people, most of whom are trying to build relationships across racial, ethnic and social lines. And we don’t give a damn how many scratches you may get on our bumper.

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30 responses to “Don't Call My Neighborhood Ghetto”

  1. IMGoph says:

    Hell yeah, Kyra!

    Seriously, though, it irks me to no end to hear people say the same about my neighborhood as well. People who have no idea what Trinidad is like, but they’re quick to pass judgment based on what they might have read in the Post 3 years ago.

  2. T says:

    She can say what ever she wants about “your” neighborhood, although you should have called the police about her “tampering” with someone else’s personal property..

    The word ghetto is not racist, so that point you make is moot..

    And I live on the corner of 12th and F and I too like the neighborhood….. However, just passing the 7-11 some nights and dealing with the bums and litter surrouding it, or dealing with “Teenagers” who drop F and N bombs casually in public, or stealing from the aformentioned 7-11, or hasseling the nice Asian clerks with some classy racist language at the two stores on F street, or attempting to intiminate passer bys (I’ve been called all kinds of awful things walking off from work, luckily I just plug away home and let it roll of my shoulders) makes me disagree with your assessment of “your” neighborhood….oh and the empty lot that should of been made turned into a gas station (but the anti-business hill people blocked it and someone was killed there a week later) across from the Checkers that gets its window broken every year adds to the ghetto atmosphere. I’ve had stuff stolen from my car, heard gunshots, seen two obese “mothers” encourage their kids to fight at the play ground dropping N bombs the whole time, had a rock thrown at me while jogging past the school before Lincoln Park, had an attempted break in when I first moved in (someone started kicking my security door at 3 AM)..

    But I like the cheap rent and the neighborhood for the most part, but it does have ghetto qualites.. we need more gentrification.. and H street, with the exception of a few fine restaraunts, is quite ghetto..

    I love everything South of F street though.

    H street and near east needs more gentrification, and I don’t care if that’s racist in your eyes.

    /steps off soap box
    //lets self out

  3. Lisa J says:

    T, if it is to ghetto for your then why don’t you move? There are plenty of gentrified places where you can live where things aren’t “ghetto” and you don’t have to worry about dealing with people who you seem to have so much contempt for. Don’t be cheap and just live in one of those nice little enclaves, or continue to be cheap, get over it and stay where you are. But don’t sit there and hope for more poor people to be displaced from THEIR neighborhood where they were first so that your entitled middle-class self can be surrounded by the right class of people. I’m sure it is much easier for you to move than it is for them anyway.

  4. asw says:

    well, kyra, i don’t think the businesses on H street would agree with your assessment of maryland and virginia dwellers patronizing their establishments. they need all the business they can get! yeah, the loud and rude ppl suck, but you can always make sport of yelling back at them to STFU!

    as for T, wow. i live within spitting distance of your house and have witnessed almost none of the things you have noted here. you seem too delicate for the city and should probably move to MoCo, or something.

  5. DG says:

    I also live on Capitol Hill and have to agree with many of the comments left by “T”. Although the neighborhood has greatly improved over the years there still remains much room for improvement. Hopefully the neighborhood will continue to move forward over time. As residents of this community we can help by serving as positive role models.

    I do agree that the driver reacted inappropriately while trying to park their car. Even though I park my car on the street that does not mean that I welcome scratches and dents all over my front and rear bumpers from careless drivers. While I am realistic and know that my car will not remain untouched I would hope that other drivers are as courteous and respectful as I am while parking their cars.

  6. T says:

    Lisa J and ASW,

    Not delicate and not moving, just saying you can’t ignore reality. This site too often fails to look at serious problems on the hill and only focuses on cafes and eateries or dog parks.

    And I can’t stand people who make the leap to charges of racism. And the 7-11 should be closed. It only creates litter and obese people.

    Oh and metro bus fights, I left those of my list.

  7. EM says:

    Suburban dwellers will always find negative things to say about our neighborhoods. I live a block from Eastern Market, which no one can reasonably claim to be ghetto, but I’m always getting comments about how hard it must be to have such a small house (it’s 3 levels and there are only two of us) or how we must be doing all our shopping in Virginia because everything’s too expensive in the city. Even though both points are entirely untrue, most people get pretty worked up if I start to discredit their claims, so I no longer bother. Though I have to admit it’s hard not to get defensive when someone’s trash-talking a place you love so much.

  8. hlma says:

    while i agree that ghetto isn’t ever a great word to use, i also think the author of this post should think about what all the people from MD, VA and other parts of the city are doing to her property value…namely increasing it! rude people suck no matter where they’re from. as someone who lives in MD and frequents H St. (and this blog) often, this post makes me think the author is just as closed-minded as the people she rails against.

  9. MJ says:

    This writing is tinged with the very resentment that is poisoning parts of Capitol Hill. The neighborhood is changing and screaming out of your window at drunk idiots in BMWs isn’t going to solve anything. Everyone on the Hill seems to have earned a masters degree in complaining but failed their course on problem solving.

    Rather than airing your displeasure and chastizing someone for using the word ghetto, perhaps youshould be happy that the girl was leaving the neighborhood rather than coming home to the neighborhood. It was rude of her to say, but I really don’t see the point in writing about it. It accomplishes nothing and just makes you sound, well, angry.

  10. EM says:

    Agree with MJ. The fact that the person was messing with someone’s car should have been a bigger concern.

  11. beth b. says:

    @EM i lived across the street from Eastern Market (at the corner of 7th & independence) from 1998-2003 and brought a friend who lived in Wheaton there in….2008? Maybe? And SHE called it “the ghetto”.
    I think it was then when I realized, there’s just no getting through to some people.

    But as for T- i can’t say I disagree. I’ve had stuff stolen from my car too. Had stuff thrown at me. Had a [removed by editor] BRICK thrown through my passenger side window as I was driving down M st. SW once.

  12. b says:

    I’m with @MJ — yelling at someone from your window just sounds kind of like a “ghetto” response to me.

  13. b says:

    don’t be afraid of “snitching.” Next time call 911

  14. also says:

    A drunk angry person caught in the act of doing something childish and stupid is probably going to respond by saying something insensitive. It’s human nature, even if it’s not appropriate behavior. I wouldn’t take it personally.

  15. wdc says:

    Piling on, but agree with the others. You should have called the cops about the vandalism to your neighbor’s car and otherwise, you should get over it or do something constructive about it.

  16. ET says:


    She called your neighborhood a “ghetto” and yet her idea of “dealing” with a parking “offender” was to mess with the car?

  17. Jason says:

    I don’t begrudge the suburbanites from coming into our neighborhood to enjoy themselves, it’s just annoying how some seem to look down on those of us who do live in the city. The biggest complaint is that they don’t know how to parallel park. They’ll take up 2 spaces just becasue they are either clueless, or don’t want to get their bumper scratched. Sometimes, when you come home late at night and there are no spots for a 2-3 block radius, you have to “squeeze” into a tight spot. That doesn’t mean you are careless, just out of options.

  18. gk says:

    i grew up in north reston and people from south reston and other areas of fairfax county called my neighborhood ghetto all the time. yes, it’s absurd. people throw that word around without understanding what it really means. it happens. i agree with the others who say not to take it too personally.

  19. Rukasu says:

    So was the offender actually from VA or MD as her tags would have said or was she BSing when she said she lived in the city? Second, you live on H St., expect drunken 2AM tomfoolery.

    …last, please stop calling H St. “The Hill”

  20. Sebastian says:

    Does the above writer think that people who live near 8th St SE , or Wisconsin ave (in Georgetown) think should expect 2AM tomfoolery? How about Pennsyvania Ave SE?

  21. Rake says:

    The most important things anyone from VA or MD can do when visiting the district are the following:

    1. Visit locally owned establishments
    2. Spend Money
    3. Don’t act foolish
    4. Park responsibly
    5. Leave

    As I tell folks pretty often – don’t park in two parking spaces on our street – I don’t drive to Chantilly (if I could find it) and do that on your street. Nor do I visit Glen Burnie (again, if I could find it), and cause a ruckus late at night, leaving litter and vomit in my wake…

  22. Naomi says:

    I’ve noticed that some folks who have choosen the suburbs are *very* defensive about it, which might reflect some uncertainty in their own choice. At work, my colleagues are convinced that I live in a third world country (two blocks from EM). What I’ve chosen to do is say: “I love my neighborhood. There is millions of investment coming in on 7th and 8th St and I meet the most amazing people who work on the Hill or are from Europe, or do other important work in the city, each and every day. My favorite thing is the two block walk to the station and the metro that shuttles me the few stops to work in the morning. I love it!”

    They usually respond: “I hate the metro.” Then unsaid, “That’s why I drive for 1-2 hours a morning to get into the city from my faceless suburb.” — I’d be defensive trying to justify that too.

  23. Jen DeMayo says:

    Why can’t we call H Street the Hill? THIH covers it, as does the Hill Rag. Many H Street businesses are CHAMPS members and it’s within the MOTH boundaries.
    So the only thing it’s not is within the historic district? And only the Historic District is Capitol Hill?
    I think it’s clear that most of those with the power to name things have decided that H is the northern edge of the Hill. You may not like it but it is what it is.
    Why so stingy with the Hill name?

  24. b says:

    H St is the Hill — it’s just the ghetto part of it 😉

  25. sake says:

    Well, if the MOTH mafia considers H St. part of the Hill……

  26. Rukasu says:

    H St. is simply not on Capitol Hill, it is below it elevation-wise and off it. It is a unique neighborhood that shouldn’t be bunched up into “The Hill” just because the term “The Hill” keeps on expanding to fit real estate advertising needs.

    H St. is the Atlas District if anything, The H St. website never mentions “The Hill” once, and for good reason, let it have it’s own identity.

  27. Sorry @Rukasu – that’s just not true. The Atlas District is a relatively new term coined by Joe Englert and only refers to the easternmost blocks of H Street – meant to be the entertainment district in the original development plan.

    H Street is not separate from the Hill, and we all benefit from our neighborhood being united. This is why there is continually talk of incorporating H Street into the Capitol Hill BID – especially since CHAMPS is already successfully working with the businesses (and H Street Main Street – which I believe is the “H St. website” you mention) on the street. It isn’t driven by real estate advertising needs – it’s driven by its residents and business owners who (in my experience working with them individually and through CHAMPS) largely identify as being part of the Capitol Hill neighborhood.

  28. hill gentrifier says:

    @kyra – don’t want people to call your neighborhood ghetto? Simple answer for simple problems for simple people – move OUT o the ghetto! @T – you rock. If THIH has any sense, they’ll hire you to write a weekly column.

  29. Why all the 7-11 hate? says:

    Blaming the 7-11 for anything that goes on is ridiculous. I live at 10th and K and find having a 7-11 in the neighborhood very convenient. Isn’t that what city living is all about- what you want, when you need it, within walking distance!? C’mon people. Yes there are issues here. Yes, we all have our concerns. But let’s be realistic with the battles we choose. Closing establishments because people you are not crazy about may also frequent them is just dumb. (And- if you want to talk about nasty places- check out Rite Aid at 1pm on a Tuesday. Much worse than late night 7-11 ever gets…)

  30. Holly Bilski says:

    Right? I live in a snooty suburb of Sacramento, and if someone messes with a car that doesn’t belong to them that is parked outside my house, I’m yelling through the window at them. If they call my neighborhood “ghetto” because of the way that car is parked, I’m going to laugh my butt off. It doesn’t matter where you live; if you’re where you DON’T live, don’t act like an idiot.

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