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.