Her Ladyship

Notes from the gutter.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

The drug-free zone

I live in Adams-Morgan, which I understand used to be quite sketchy years ago but now settles for being gritty in spots. Apparently my particular location is one of them, despite the preponderance of signs proclaiming the hood to be a "drug-free zone". (I have the same reaction to that as I do to Takoma Park, DC's version of Berkeley, saying that they're a nuclear weapons free zone: is there any place that officially *isn't*?)

Knock wood, though, I've never been bothered by anyone, and I have bars on my windows, so I feel pretty secure in my living quarters. But of course at times it gets tiring having the street thugs congregate in your neighborhood, especially when they have yet another shouting match at 2am.

So I read with great interest the Washington City Paper's cover story for the Dec. 3-9, 2004, issue: "The Stoop at 1701 Euclid." http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/cover/cover.html. This is the house that always has about 30 people gathered outside and cars idling in front of it and has earned the moniker "24/7 party house." In fact, I often use it in giving directions to my place. While I've never officially seen drugs change hands on the corner, I'm very careful not to take a good hard look either. Recently the po-lice have been keeping a vigilant watch on things, shifting the fellas in their puffy jackets further down 17th street.

I wasn't aware that the corner was a family residence; I had been told by someone that it was a half-way house (there are some in the vicinity, as well as some public housing). So I did learn something from the City Paper's article. However, like many of their pieces, I thought that they were pushing an agenda. Their take was that people in the neighborhood want the family out because of pure and simple racism. While I'm sure that could be a possibility, I think it glosses over some real concerns about the corner. I'm glad to know that the family in question makes an effort to keep their lives separate from the goings-on outside. But the City Paper goes further and implies that activists are trying to get the family out mostly because of sheer spite. The one person they quote extensively on the matter is an anonymous person who talks about how some African-Americans only talk to their kids by screaming at them, and adds that Latinos aren't that clean either. Way to skew the story there, hard-hitting City Paper journalist!

I think a better take would have been to talk more about how the neighborhood has changed in the past five years and to contrast the new residents against the old, using the family at 1701 Euclid Street as the case in point. Gentrification and class conflict is going to be an increasingly important story, particularly if DC's real estate market keeps shooting through the roof and bringing in new blood to rub elbows with long-time residents. But by combining a report on genuine safety concerns about drug dealing with an illustration of possible racism on the part of neighborhood activists, you muddy up both stories and lose whatever power the pen is supposed to wield in these matters.


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