What Trump’s Election Means For “Chocolate City,” And How #newDC Moves Ahead



Marcus K. Dowling

The election of Donald Trump as America’s President re-validated America’s original ideals. It re-birthed a nation where white men are in control, women are empowered in matters of the home and family (but not over their bodies), black people are three-fifths of a person. Furthermore, it created a space where the rules and regulations for these social orders that have been repealed some 208 years later, to be rather easily reinstated. When coupling¬†Trump’s election with what’s already happening in the Nation’s Capital, it was also the night when “Chocolate City” died.

#newDC is super-officially here, and it, again, is a VASTLY different place than #oldDC. Learning how to navigate its streets with awareness of who these people are and their manifest destiny over what we as long-term or native DC residents once felt that we owned is INCREDIBLY important and is incredibly important in assessing where we go from here. It’s a stunning change, but actually one of MANY stunning changes that must be studied in the city’s history.

DC started as a sleepy southern town that housed government. Black flight changed that, as the sheer amount of land and space available for African-Americans who were likely unable to afford moves even further north created blue-collar communities where black people worked in an area largely under conservative control influenced by the last vestiges of the Jim Crow South.

ali barry

“Chocolate City’s” rise via Mayor Marion Barry is even more stunning when you consider where the Nation’s Capital was. The city had federally appointed old white guys as mayors and commissioners for 165 years until 1967, when Lyndon Johnson appointed African-American Walter Washington as mayor of a re-organized Nation’s Capital. By 1975, Johnson granted then nearly 70% black, and largely unemployed, lower, and working middle class DC the the right to vote for their own mayor. In 1979, these residents elected literally one of their own, a Mississippi-born DC transplant named Marion Barry, as their leader.

While Barry was leader, he was running the city simultaneously to Ronald Reagan being America’s President and crafting socio-economic policies that almost uniformally affected industrialized and privileged white people moreso than African-Americans, or, well, anyone not an industrialized and privileged white person. This bizarre dichotomy gave birth to punk rock, as a mix of progressive-minded white kids from upper NW, and jazz and rock loving black kids from far Northeast met in Penn Quarter, or, basically anywhere they could, and played loud and abrasive music for people mad as hell at the idea that conservative policies dominated the United States.

ZERO of the conditions for what once allowed for “stunning change” in DC exist in Washington, DC at-present. Thus, the stunning changes that *could* develop in #newDC will be influenced by the past, but bear no historical precedent in what those changes physically look like in the present and future.

If you thought progressive gentrifiers were “the bad guys,” you haven’t seen anything until people globally pilloried as “bad [specifically] white people” come to #newDC to do the work of “Making America Great Again.” Of course, do expect the perverse comedy of “good white people” and “bad white people” fighting each other on land largely once occupied by “black people.” Yes, there’s no mention of Asians, Africans, or Latinos, but that’s because in #newDC, this is the newly dominant blue-collar working class, the people whose entrepreneurial spirit, if they choose to stay, will be buoyed by the likely immense spike in disposable income coming into the city.

As for the “Chocolate” in “Chocolate City?” Well, let’s expect that by the year 2020, that folks that look like me will comprise 25% of the city’s population. That’s not quite the “talented tenth” that I once mentioned as being the black people who will remain in #newDC, but it’s totally on the way there, and could be the percentage of African-Americans in the city when DC likely hits one million residents by 2040.

If you’re not in the number of “bad guy” gentrifiers, “bad white people,” or folks who were already in socioeconomic control in #oldDC, here’s a quick list of things to remember about #newDC and creating stunning, yet sustainable change.

  1. Follow the laws. The new conservative order of the city is all about making fewer of them, but doubling down on the consequences.
  2. Cross social, political, and economic lines as much as possible. Yes, that’s going to require abiding by each other’s unique social conventions in order to do so, but the imbalance in the system is now real and visible, and requires both sides to act in accord to those ideas and ideals. But, if we’re not seen, we don’t exist. Marching down streets works. Sitting in a coffee shop, attending a musical, or going to condo open houses en masse works even better.
  3. Do realize that as a modern city, DC’s amazingly back at its 1967 “square one” again. Imagine what Marion Barry could’ve done better as a leader? Imagine how go-go and punk shows could’ve been run smoother? Think of how mambo sauce and half-smokes could’ve become something that crossed over to the city-in-full? Be the change you expect from your city.

“Chocolate City” and everything it represented to everyone, died yesterday. This is #newDC. #newDC can be anything we want it to be. Let’s make it the most incredible city that it stunningly deserves to become.

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