Posts Tagged ‘hood’

Before

Before

After

After

So I went to Sequoia’s on the DC waterfront for my birthday a few weeks ago.  Well, let me restate that. Tried to go to Sequoia. After a lovey dinner at Bistro Fraincais (I highly recomend their early bird prix fixe special: 3 courses for $25), we strolled down there only to find that last call is now 9PM. Last year, it was 10PM. Back in the day, I think it was like 12PM. My friends and I all surmised the same thing: They’re really trying hard to get rid of the element. By the element, I’m referring to a name my friend Bianca calls a certain class of people. You know who I’m talking about. So we went over to Tony and Joe’s, which is right next to Sequoia, and where the element migrates once the Hennessy stops flowing at Sequoia. If you’re unfamiliar with sequoia, it’s a large seafood restaurant in Washington DC right on the harbor. What makes the place neat is that it’s large, has great views of the water, and has a huge outdoor area with tables and a bar and these nicely lit trees. If you live in Brooklyn, think a much more upscale Habana. But with fish, not corn.

All this brought me back to a conversation I had a few years ago when my Mom, my Dad, and his friend Chucky were all eating at Sequoia on what happened to be a Sunday evening. Chucky’s from Cape Cod and is one of the few black people I know who can pull off a Massachusetts accent without a hint of irony. You know, like BAH-ston. Cape CAHD. Things of that nature. We were eating my mom began discussing the influx of people who frankly, didn’t look like they belonged there. The Element. I explained to my Mom, who’s a rural sociologist by training , and naturally thinks of these patterns in nerd terms, that around 5 or 6, there’s a shift change in the consumer base. The upper class whites and blacks finishing up Sunday Brunch dates or an early dinner with the family close out their tabs and vacate to make room for lower class negroes from Prince George’s county and Ward 7 and 8, and their middle class hangers-on who ascribe to emulate their hip lower class values and sense of style. Chucky, who lives a stone’s throw away from Martha’s vineyard mentioned that the same thing had been happening recently there. The Mom, being the little fireplug that she is, argued that we shoudn’t let them drive us out, rather we should stand fast against the tide and rally forth. We should take back this beach from these trespassers! It was a stump speech worthy of Winston Churchill. I invited her to stay around in that case. To which she replied, “I don’t need to be around these ghetto people. Tennis is on. I’m going home.” Way to abandon your troops, Mom.

So I had pretty much forgotten about this whole shebang but for the fact that a couple of articles came out recently talking about the ever-widening class divide that seems to be gripping Black America. One in the Root, was about the over-representation of foreign blacks in Ivy League schools. The comments show the schism as people argue for the many reasons American blacks underperform.  One in New York Mag, written by the insufferable Toure, was actually directed at the exact same phenomena Chucky was talking about two years ago: The Element invading Martha’s Vineyard and the response by upper-crusty blacks wearing polo shirts and eating cucumber sandwiches. The response wasn’t positive. But the strategic response was very effective:

“A series of community meetings were convened. “No one said ‘Where all these loud niggers coming from?’ But that was the vibe from black and white Vineyarders.” In 1997, a solution was implemented that was simple and subtle enough to fix the problem while avoiding charges of racism: The ferry from Woods Hole changed its policy to eliminate standby passengers and to make reservations nontransferable. Party promoters could no longer buy tickets in bulk, and most students wouldn’t think to make a reservation months ahead of time. The parties moved elsewhere, and the Vineyard went back to business as usual.”

So why? Why did they come to OUR places with their unrefined manners, baggy clothes, rude conduct towards women and loud cursing? And better yet, why are we so perturbed by this? Are we threatened, embarassed, annoyed? Why can’t we just get along? Here are some ideas I’ve heard:

1. You all like to start shit: As part of your general chip on your shoulder and obsession with swag and being tough guys, an unacceptable percentage of you didn’t come to socialize, you came to fight. An unacceptable percentage of that percentage came with guns. Now while you all can beat each other in the streets and shoot at each other all day with somewhat limited repercussions, the same isn’t true for us. A felony assault charge for us would throw a serious wrench into most of our plans. Which when we invariably run into you leaves us with some unpalatable choices:

-Get Chumped

-Fight you and lose. You’re probably better at it than we are since you have so much practice. Also, your freinds will undoubtedly jump us, and since a couple of our friends are kind of punks, you’ll have the numbers advantage.

-Fight you and win. And get hauled off to jail, incurring bail costs, legal defense fees and a potentially career killing felony. Great

2. You make it harder for us. People associate us with you because of the fairly obvious phenotypical similarities. So when you show up with your retrograde behavior, let’s face it, it reflects badly on us. Next time WE show up to the same place, we’re going to be subject to a certain level of suspicion because last time YOU were there, three people got shot.

3. You’re a bad influence As much as we would like to make our brand of unthreatening academic high achievement “cool”, it appears that you all with your casual nonchalance, shiny watches, and rollicking swagger have won the culture wars up to this point. Which means that you’ve done a magnificent job of subverting OUR youth to your way of life. Witness the piss-poor academic performance of schools in even high-income black suburbs and the fact that we all dress like you. You are a fashionable bunch, I’ll grant you that. But your seductive negative influence on too many of US has got to stop.

4. You judge us. Not unlike how we judge you, so I can’t really blame you. It’s called cass warfare, not class one-side assault.Regarding the vineyard, one person in the article said:

“It’s this mecca where you can be yourself and be with people who have so much in common with you. No one has to feign some street cred when they’re playing tennis.” It’s a source of communion and of pride. “When you see a beautiful black family with their kids, it makes you feel really good about being black,”

You all, not so much. We don’t really feel good about being black around you all for two reasons. One, your version of blackness is wack. It’s an infantile celebration of violence, materialism, mysogyny, and general underperformance. Two, you make us feel that our version of blackness is inadequate. We know we should be confident in our version and believe in it, but it’s difficult. We want to feel conencted to “blackness”, not have it questioned or ridiculed because we don’t engage in the more self-destructive aspects of your culture. We realize we can be  a little tight-assed sometime. We’ll work on it.

So am I totally out of line here? Was this just a rant designed to up the arms race of class warfare/ Or are wroking towards something of a resolution? What are your thoughts? I’ve only covered one side of the argument. Part II will discuss what the upper class is doing oh so wrong.